In 2019, Rasmuson Foundation hosted a sabbatical luncheon to celebrate and connect with past recipients. (Photo by Matt Waliszek)
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Alaska-based nonprofit and tribal executives interested in a unique opportunity for time away from the office have until Sept. 15 to apply for a Rasmuson Foundation 2022 sabbatical award.

Now entering its 18th year, the program offers awards up to $40,000 to cover salary and expenses incurred during a three- to six-month sabbatical.

Healthy nonprofit and tribal leaders are crucial to Alaska. Yet many work in environments where the need is great but resources are thin. The stress and long hours can strain professionals and lead to burnout. To prevent this, a sabbatical provides time for personal growth, rest and renewal.

Tara Riemer, president & CEO of Alaska SeaLife Center, credited her time away with helping her through the last tumultuous year saying, “My sabbatical in 2019 is fully responsible for my surviving the pandemic!”

She said she went back to the office fully rested, and her staff was better equipped to manage day-to-day details. Riemer was able to focus on the big picture including new staff policies, government assistance, grant proposals and a major fundraising campaign that saved the SeaLife Center.

Melanie Bahnke, president and CEO of the Nome-based Alaska Native regional nonprofit Kawerak, spent part of her 2018 sabbatical at a fish camp with family.

Organizations benefit when leaders engage in an extended leave. Their time away provides opportunity for others to grow and allows for the development of new perspectives.

Executives from tribes and Alaska-serving nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible to apply. Applicants must be Alaska residents with at least five years in the sector and at least three years in the position of CEO, president, executive director or tribal administrator.

The application requires a written plan for how the organization will be managed in the leader’s absence and a letter from the organization’s board endorsing the decision to apply for a sabbatical.

Participants are expected to fully step away from work. They can travel, spend time with family, explore paths of personal growth or simply rest.

The primary criteria for selection are: 1) the benefit of the sabbatical to the individual and organization; 2) the ability of the organization to sustain itself in the executive’s absence; and 3) the executive’s demonstrated level of performance and leadership within the organization. Personal interviews with finalists play a major role in the decision-making process.

Since the first sabbaticals were awarded in 2005, 95 Alaskans have benefited. Search past recipients here or read about one nonprofit leader’s sabbatical experience here. Guidelines and application materials are available on the grants section of the Foundation’s website.

Individuals can either be nominated by others or initiate their own application. To nominate a leader, click here. To apply, click here. Note: all nominated individuals must still complete and submit a full application by Sept. 15. For more information, email sabbatical@rasmuson.org or call 907.297.2700 or toll free in Alaska, 877.366.2700.

Susan Ohmer, executive director of Petersburg Mental Health Services, traveled to Europe for the first time while on sabbatical in 2017. She and her husband, Dr. Mark Tuccillo, are seen in Byron Grotto and St. Peter’s Church in Porto Venere. (Photo courtesy of Susan Ohmer)