Alaska Community Foundation raises $100M to support statewide nonprofits

The Alaska Community Foundation has raised $100 million to permanently support Alaska nonprofits and other community causes, the foundation announced Wednesday.

The $100 million Alaska Fund was created by private donations from more than 1,600 Alaskans — all the way from a $25 contribution from a 7-year-old boy to large multi-million dollar estate contributions, according to ACF President Nina Kemppel. While the five-year “Campaign for Alaska’s Future” originally planned to raise $50 million, she said it met that goal in July — then doubled it over the next several months.

“We owe all of our donors an amazing ‘Thank you’ for being committed, and being committed to giving back to the state of Alaska,” Kemppel said. “I am overwhelmed by the generosity.”

Community Foundation board member and Rasmuson Foundation President Diane Kaplan said the moment marked a major milestone for philanthropy in Alaska.

“Today we begin a day where people who have come to Alaska, who have lived in Alaska their whole lives, who are committed to the future of Alaska, are saying very loudly, we are going to keep Alaska’s wealth in Alaska,” Kaplan said.

A New York native, Kaplan spoke about the philanthropic legacy of J.P. Morgan and the Guggenheim family, their involvement with the lucrative Alaska Syndicate, and how the Alaska Syndicate’s interests in copper mining, fishing and transportation helped fund great public works in the Lower 48.

“Alaska money — earned here in our state and from our resources — had no benefit for our state as the years went on; you can’t find anything in our state that says Guggenheim or J.P. Morgan on it,” Kaplan said. “This has been the pattern throughout Alaska history. That ends today.”

Alaska Community Foundation president Nina Kemppel said the Alaska Fund’s money will be distributed through grants to community organizations around the state, directed towards needs identified by the ACF Board of Directors. In years past, she said, the foundation has supported organizations providing everything from food and shelter to wellness and suicide prevention initiatives. The board is scheduled to meet Feb. 14 to determine future funding priorities, Kemppel said.

To Alaska nonprofits, the fund is poised to make a lasting future difference. Lisa Aquino, executive director of Catholic Social Services, said organizations like hers serve thousands of Alaskans every year. They rely in large part on private donors, she said.

“And it’s work to be always fundraising,” Aquino said. “So the fact that there’s now this incredible Alaska fund, and it’s reached this huge amount, that’s just more potential for us. It’s more potential for us to do new work, but also to sustain the really important work that’s happening right now.”

The community foundation says it expects to release more information about new funding opportunities within the next month.

Kirsten Swann is a producer and reporter for Alaska Public Media.

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