Building permanent and protected community assets can transform our future. So writes Ricardo Lopez, program officer at The Alaska Community Foundation, in this post about the Community Asset Building Initiative, which promotes growth of community endowments for community benefits.

Rasmuson Foundation launched the Community Asset Building Initiative in 2008 to encourage and support the creation of permanent community assets at the local level. In this guest blog, Ricardo Lopez, Program Officer at The Alaska Community Foundation, recounts the progress to date and draws parallels with a beloved Alaska institution.

Ricardo Lopez, Program Officer, The Alaska Community Foundation

Ricardo Lopez

Alaska is a fascinating mix of the old and the new.  Around the state, traditions of sharing – many steeped in centuries of history – coexist with new models for giving that are building community assets for generations to come.  While Alaska is young in terms of formal endowments, there is one example we all can understand – the Alaska Permanent Fund.

In 1976, Alaska voters approved a process to set aside a portion of oil revenues to create a permanently endowed fund to benefit current and future generations.  In 1977, the Alaska Permanent Fund was established with an initial investment of $734,000.  Now 37 years later, the Alaska Permanent Fund exceeds $42 billion.

I was born in Anchorage in 1976.  Somewhere in an old family photo album is a snapshot from 1982 of me and my three siblings – probably standing in our pajamas – proudly holding our first PFD checks for $1,000.  I am grateful that my parents had the foresight to put our annual dividend straight into a college savings account.  When my siblings and I graduated from high school, we each used our modest “nest egg” to help offset the cost of post-secondary education as we earned our degrees.  Like many Alaskans who benefitted from the Alaska Permanent Fund, I understand that building permanent and protected community assets can transform our future.

The Community Asset Building Initiative (CABI) builds on the model of a statewide permanent fund and takes it a step further – by bringing it one step closer to home.

Launched in 2008 by Rasmuson Foundation, CABI is a partnership with The Alaska Community Foundation to support creation of permanent community assets in the form of locally advised, endowed funds.  Ultimately, donors create a sustainable source of philanthropic funds that can be deployed to target community needs.

Members of affiliate advisory boards and representatives from the Homer Foundation and the Juneau Community Foundation gathered in Anchorage for the Foraker Leadership Summit in April 2013.

Members of affiliate advisory boards and representatives from the Homer Foundation and the Juneau Community Foundation gathered in Anchorage for the Foraker Leadership Summit in April 2013.

Through CABI, nine communities created endowed affiliate funds through The Alaska Community Foundation.  In 2008, affiliate funds were established in the Chilkat Valley (Haines, Klukwan); the central Kenai Peninsula; the Upper Susitna Valley (Talkeetna, Trapper Creek); Petersburg; and Seward.  In 2013, we welcomed four new affiliates in Fairbanks, Ketchikan, Kodiak, and Sitka. Today, the affiliate funds total over $4.3 million. It is an impressive total, but it only tells part of the story.

In every affiliate community, dedicated volunteer advisory board members are leading the effort to cultivate home-grown philanthropy.  The advisory boards know and understand their community.  The Alaska Community Foundation provides the technical, legal and administrative support.  Rasmuson Foundation provides generous support with matching funds, technical assistance and a shared commitment to cultivate local philanthropic leadership.

Together, we are building strong and resilient hometowns for future generations of Alaskans.

As friends and neighbors come together and give to their own hometown “permanent fund,” it’s inspiring to imagine where they will be in 10, 20 or 40 years . . .

Endowment building is a gradual process.  It requires time, commitment, stewardship, patience, and – above all – a clear understanding that your gift becomes part of a lasting legacy.

Alaskans give back in innumerable ways: volunteering on a board of directors; buying fundraiser event tickets; sharing your secret stash of smoked salmon and berries; giving a little of your PFD through Pick.Click.Give.; or including a planned gift to a cherished nonprofit in your estate plans.

Find your favorite cause.  Give in a way that works for you.  And feel good knowing that you are making Alaska stronger and more vibrant!  Live Here, Give Here!