Standing Beside Alaska's Non-Profits

Reflection on the Summit

I don’t know about you, but our office is still abuzz with all the information and perspectives we gathered at our recent Leadership Summit. I hadn’t anticipated this energetic reaction from our crew. I thought we would be burned out – focusing our time on tying up loose ends and feeling grateful we survived.

It was no small task to pull off our first event of this type in the time we had to prepare. At its meeting on October 26, the Governance Board decided to move ahead with a recommendation from the Operations Board and the Leadership Task Force to hold the summit on January 10-11 – just nine short weeks away.
Any successful event begins with clear objectives. For us, those were

  • To encourage nonprofit staff and board members to establish peer networks to support each other in their important work
  • To provide at least one useful tool for participants to take back and use in their ongoing career, organizational or personal life
  • To have each organization develop a transition plan for key staff and board positions that demonstrates sensitivity to generational changes
  • To emphasize that organizations need to develop and maintain a disaster plan

Needless to say, our staff and a great group of volunteers from both boards worked many hours developing the vision, finding a location, securing the speakers, notifying our Partners, and taking care of all the details to ensure a successful conference. While everyone would have wanted more time to make sure everything was ready – and it would have been good not to have a few holidays during the preparation – most who attended confirmed that the summit was a success.

Now that it’s over, we are excited about the opportunities we discovered through the amazing speakers and, most importantly, from our networking with you. Our next step is to decide how and where we respond first. And to help with that, we’re carefully reviewing your comments.

More than 80% of you said you were “highly likely” to implement what you learned at the summit when your returned to your office. You especially appreciated the opportunity to network with Alaska nonprofit leaders and to meet others from peer organizations. We’re thrilled with that response because it was one of the objectives of the summit. You also were satisfied with the presentations – most notably, our keynoters.

First, we seem to have hit the mark with Peter Brinckerhoff and his presentation on Generations. Virtually everyone gave him top reviews – he stimulated thinking and sent a good number of you back to your organizations to plan for succession. In your reviews, you asked for more leadership training and help with succession planning – both of which we are happy to provide.

Second, the presentations on disaster planning hit a responsive nerve. Some of you said you’ve started the process, but others haven’t given it much thought. It seems to me that this is a good subject for continued networking – who has a plan, how did you build it, what lessons did you learn in the process? Here at our office, we’re looking at ways we can help you.

We also received constructive comments that will help us plan for a better summit in two years. For example, we need to be more clear in the description of our breakout sessions – are they basic or advanced? We also heard that for some participants too big a jump existed between the presentation topics and ways to implement them – “next steps” weren’t as obvious as they needed to be.

We’ll check back with you through conversations and a survey this summer to see if our objectives were realistic and if you’re achieving them in your organization. While we are grateful for your positive comments, we will not feel totally successful if we didn’t move you to act on what you learned. If you need help in developing peer networks, implementing new strategies, working on generational issues, creating transition plans, or developing disaster plans, call us. We will either help, or find you help to make these important things happen.

In closing, we thank the staff, volunteers and board members who worked so hard to make the summit a success. We also thank our generous sponsors – ConocoPhillips, not only for major financial support but also for many hours of staff time to help us – AVIS for supplying vehicles for our speakers – BP for helping over one-third of our participants with travel support – and the Rasmuson Foundation for sponsoring all of their sabbatical program participants to attend, as well as all they do to provide unrestricted funds for The Foraker Group to dream big dreams.

Finally, thanks to all of you who took the time to come. Without your faith in our ability to produce an event, bring in participants and provide world-class speakers, none of this would have happened. We are proud to work with you to strengthen Alaska’s nonprofit sector.

Note: Many of the presentations and information on the summit is available on our web site at — click on Educational Opportunities, the Leadership Summit.

Latest on Health Insurance

I made an announcement at the summit that The Foraker Group and Premera Blue Cross/Blue Shield have reached agreement to develop an association health insurance plan for our Partners. The details are still being determined. Therefore, we have no additional information on this long-awaited achievement, nor will we be able to provide more insight until the details are secure and our boards have approved the plan. As soon as that occurs – we hope by early April – we will visit communities, meet with the insurance industry and with Partners, and then plan to implement by mid-summer, 2008. While we know you want information now, we ask your patience until we have completed our preparation for the program, including a review of options for design and implementation.
The Foraker Group is committed to strengthening the sector because we believe a strong sector will support a great Alaska. Our staff is dedicated to stand beside you and your organization so you can inspire, preserve, educate, develop, support, assist, coordinate, and/or promote health so we can live in not only the most beautiful place in the world, but also the strongest communities.