Rasmuson Foundation expects normal giving by 2011

Posted: Thursday, April 15, 2010

FAIRBANKS - After a year of cuts, Fairbanks' Rasmuson Foundation expects to be back to normal giving by 2011.

The foundation made the projection at a meeting with leaders from a variety of Fairbanks agencies and nonprofit organizations last week.

Rasmuson grants to Alaska charities and artists have dropped by 95 percent over the past two years. Working back to normal is news welcomed by the foundation's beneficiaries.

Like most foundations across the nation, the value of Alaska's largest philanthropic fund has plummeted - from about $600 million in 2007 to $375 million in March 2009.

For a foundation that counts on an investment return of at least 8 percent per year to replenish itself, the loss was enormous, so staff members have been furloughed and grants cut.

The foundation paid out $16.2 million statewide in 2009, down from its high of $28.9 million in 2007.

Foundation President Diane Kaplan said better times are ahead, with the fund beginning to recover, although they expect it will take seven years of 10 percent returns to be fully replenished.

"This is what we're calling the new normal," Kaplan said.

She said the foundation plans to focus on small grants in the year ahead, with an anticipated average award of $15,000. A limited number of large grants of more than $25,000 also are expected.

Program officer Jayson Smart is pushing for more giving in the Arctic and parts of the Interior, which have typically been underrepresented in Rasmuson grants.

Outside of Fairbanks, almost no grant money makes its way to the Interior, and Kaplan said the foundation would like to change that, perhaps with a focus on library books and recreational equipment.

The Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband, prominent Alaska banker E.A. Rasmuson. The foundation is designed to provide "a catalyst to promote a better life for all Alaskans."



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