The Historical Timeline for The Foraker Group — From Vision to 2012
Laurie Wolf’s daughter Ella was recently at an office holiday event where she proudly proclaimed, “I’m four-and-a-half and three-quarters!!!!”
Using Ella’s math, Foraker is now ten-and-a-half and eleven-twelfths years old!
As Foraker turns eleven, we want to document the effort it took to grow from a “little” vision to what we are now. It was a team effort. While I was honored to be asked to coordinate that team, as you will see, from the initial vision up to now, progress depended on the effort of many dedicated people. As we move into our next decade, Foraker will continue to evolve with inevitable transitions of board and staff, not to mention the other significant changes we see for our sector. But as we have learned, while institutions must adapt to the ever-changing environment, only those that are rooted in their founding focus thrive into the future.
This timeline describes the steps taken and Foraker’s initial intent:
- The United Way of Anchorage Strategic Planning Committee convened in February. Eric Luttrell from BP chaired the committee, which included Alicia Iden, Jewel Jones, Diane Kaplan, Carla Beam, and Philip Gobe (ARCO).
- The plan that was developed envisioned United Way’s strategic direction until the year 2000. One direction was to increase internal efficiency, and then work to increase the efficiency of the funded organizations.
- A tactic to accomplish that goal was stated as “shared services;” where multiple organizations could share the resources of highly qualified staff, similar to the structure for the oil and banking industries.
- The United Way board focused on other strategic priorities from the plan until late 1997. Then a committee was established to review the shared services concept in February 1998.
- That committee was co-chaired by Bernie Washington and Lisa Ladds Doche (an investment broker), and included another board member, attorney Jake Allamaras, as well as key nonprofit leaders like Karleen Jackson and Jim Maley, with staff support from Sue Marchant.
- A survey to determine nonprofit interests in shared services was conducted that summer. The priorities identified were:
- Health insurance
- Planned giving
- Grant writing
- Technology support (IT)
- Human resources
- The committee (Bernie Washington) developed the original business plan that fall, which focused on four services the committee felt were sustainable:
- Planned giving
- Human resources.
- United Way reserves would provide initial funding, with the vision that earned income would provide all revenue by the third year of operation. The United Way board was briefed and voted to “proceed” with plans to implement.
- Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) was consulted on financial shared services since it had provided such services for Native organizations for many years.
- CITC staff and board reviewed how they could assist.
- In early 2000 the CITC board approved a strategy where they would expand their financial shared services to assist in implementation of this service.
- All plans were delayed as a result of the BP-ARCO merger and the uncertainty about the financial viability of the sector as a result of that merger.
- Later that year Elmer Rasmuson was briefed about the concept.
- Within a week he had responded, “Make it happen, statewide and for all nonprofits, not just United Way agencies.”
- Within weeks of that declaration, Neal Thorpe of the Murdock Charitable Trust encouraged founders to, “Expand the vision, and include training for boards and staff.”
- The first visioning session for a new business model was conducted in the late winter. Those who participated included:
- Carla Beam
- Joan McCoy
- Chuck Barber
- Nancy Schoephoester
- Fred Jenkins
- Jim Maley
- Karleen Jackson
- Diane Kaplan
- Dennis McMillian
- Mary Stewart Hall
- This group articulated Foraker’s “core ideology” as:
- Core purpose – Strengthen Alaska Nonprofits
- Core values – Strategic, Sustainable, Collaborative, and Urban/Rural-Native/Non-Native
- Diane Kaplan and Dennis then met to develop a revised concept for a business plan. They suggested two boards:
- A Governance Board comprised of key community leaders with a history of philanthropy and board service.
- An Operations Board comprised of a cross section of nonprofit leaders and funding officers.
- Initial funding would come from institutional funders.
- Suzanne Lagoni and Dirk Van den Bosch drafted the final business plan. Chuck Barber created proposals for Rasmuson Foundation, Murdock Charitable Trust, Phillips, and BP.
- BP and Phillips Alaska were first to provide funding.
- Joan McCoy, Suzanne Lagoni and Mary Stewart Hall developed the initial training services, called “The Institute,” with data from a graduate student’s study on the training needs for nonprofits in Alaska. That student was Laurie Wolf, who later that year was hired as the first full-time professional (since Dennis McMillian was still serving as CEO for United Way and the Alaska Community Foundation at this time).
- January 12, 2001, the incorporation of Foraker was announced at the Wells Fargo Board Room. Dennis McMillian was selected as the first CEO.
- Funding from Rasmuson Foundation and Murdock Charitable Trust was secured in early 2001.
- The first chair of the Governance Board was Ed Rasmuson. The first meeting of the Governance Board was held in April. Founding members included:
- Ed Rasmuson
- Diane Kaplan
- Bernie Washington
- Vic Mollozzi
- Byron Mallott
- Jake Adams
- Eleanor Andrews
- Jeff Staser
- Jim Palmer
- Kevin Meyers
- Grace Schaible
- Clark Gruening
- Jeff Cook
- The first Operations Board chair was Diane Kaplan. The first meeting of the Operations Board was held in June 2001. The initial members of this board included 26 sector leaders from around the state.
- Steve Mahoney assumed the role of Planned Giving Officer and a generalist consultant.
- Laurie Wolf began her full-time role leading training services.
- With assistance from Joan, Suzanne, Mary Hall, Ed Schumacher, and Dirk Van den Bosch, Laurie envisioned the nonprofit executive certificate.
- Chuck Barber, Thea Agnew, and Sativa Quinn joined Foraker to assist with grant writing support. Todd Allen joined to provide human resources shared services. Vicki Lewis started part-time and became full-time in 2004 as our logistics master.
- Our first office was established on H Street.
- Marcia Hastings was hired to lead the staff effort for the Alaska Community Foundation.
- Our first attempt to establish an association health plan for Foraker Partners began.
- The first formal strategic plan was implemented.
- Jim Palmer assumed the role as second chair of the Governance Board.
- Foraker receive funding from Paul G. Allen Foundation to build capacity at CITC so we could increase financial services to Partners.
- Dennis McMillian was now focused full-time on Foraker.
- Mike Walsh was hired as the second full-time professional staff.
- Todd Steele was asked to lead the Mental Health Trust’s Beneficiary Initiative.
- Our initial attempt at forming a health insurance association was successful in receiving the first state approval for such a plan. However, meeting state regulations would have resulted in prohibitively high premium costs for Partners and the effort was abandoned.
- George Hieronymus joined Foraker as the first full-time COO and also served as a senior consultant.
- Foraker reached 400 Partners.
- Grace Schaible became the third chair of the Governance Board. And Jeff Jessee assumed the role as chair of the Operations Board.
- Chris Kowalczewski joined as staff lead for the Pre-Development Program. Terry Horton was hired as a full-time generalist consultant. Janet Jacobs assumed the duties as the lead human resources consultant.
- Jeff Ranf (insurance broker/consultant) began work in partnership with Premera Blue Cross/Blue Shield to try again to develop an association health plan.
- Clark Gruening began service as the chair of the Governance Board.
- Foraker moved into the new “world headquarters” in Mt. View.
- Rebecca Savidis joined as our first full-time human resources specialist. Rebecca and Jeff Ranf led the renewed effort to establish the association health plan.
- After working as our partner since 2001 to provide financial shared services, CITC decided it was time for that service to move to Foraker – Raj Shankar came along to lead the department. He had ongoing support from the founder of these services at CITC, Bruce Hilton, along with Tor Daley. Malu Antonio and Olesya Zalata Sweat moved to Foraker with Raj and continue their service today.
- George Hieronymus retired after decades of service to the nonprofit sector in Alaska.
- Bill Allen took over as chair of the Governance Board.
- Jake Poole assumed duties as chair of the Operations Board.
- Gretchen Specht who had been at CITC before a year off for another job, rejoined financial shared services at Foraker.
- Andrew Cutting became our first Partner Relations Specialist.
- The Trust’s Beneficiary Initiative moved into the Mental Health Trust office.
- The second formal strategic plan was implemented and staff developed Foraker’s third formal business plan.
- Brent Kapansky joined the financial shared services team helping them serve over 50 Partners. When the service was at CITC, there were fewer than 30 clients.
- Pam Lund joined Pre-Development as its second full-time employee.
- Foraker assumed the role as the “Voice of the Sector” and as its official state association. It joined the National Council of Nonprofits, the national network.
- Foraker now has almost 500 Partners, making it one of the highest per capita memberships for state associations.
- Valerie Davidson assumed the role of chair of the Governance Board.
- Brooke Quiles joined as our office administrator.
- The second effort to provide health insurance hit a dead end and the next strategy began.
- Steve Marshall becomes the chair of the Governance Board.
Just as we have done here, we encourage all organizations to develop their history. When that occurs, it helps root an organization in its founding energy and it’s more resilient. It also helps avoid a tendency of nonprofits to re-invent their purpose, which usually ends in failure.
Part of the history outlines the original intent of the founders, which includes their purpose and the principles that compelled them to action – the rest is just good to document. That way, those who were there in the beginning can let go so those who inherit the vision can continue to adapt as needed to meet the challenge of our changing communities.