On Febraury 11, 2020 BP officially handed over the keys to the BP Energy Center to The Alaska Community Foundation. At the event, Laurie Wolf gave a tribute to the building, and to BP for their generosity. Here are her comments:
On behalf of the nonprofit sector and the hundreds of organizations and civic groups who use this facility every year, thank you. And thank you for inviting me to say a few words about this place and this gift to Alaska nonprofits.
We are here today to celebrate this remarkable gift as it transfers hands and keeps its promised intent for Alaska’s nonprofits. We are grateful as nonprofits not only for the gift of this space, but for the many gifts of financial investment, employee time and engagement, and a corporate culture of truly living the meaning of philanthropy – love of humankind.
This space indeed is not just an asset, it is a gift of spirit and, true to its name, a gift of energy. Foraker and the BP Energy Center grew up together. We came from the similar idea that nonprofits are part of the fabric of our lives in Alaska. We often say no matter where you travel in Alaska, and no matter how you travel, you will come in contact with a nonprofit every day.
The beauty of the Energy Center is that on any given day these walls have so many diverse missions activated inside. From direct human services, to the arts, to industry associations, and so much more, every day the energy inside this center is palpable.
This place is also home to many Foraker firsts – the first session of our Certificate in Nonprofit Management program and our Catalyst for Nonprofit Excellence – another BP inspiration thanks to Alice Galvin and Steve Marshall.
This is Foraker’s home-away-from-home because so many use this facility every week supporting the groups that are lucky enough to land a coveted room. Yes, it is harder than you can imagine to get a room even months in advance. I am personally thrilled each time a group invites me to provide a facilitation or training here because I know the setting will be perfect. My own fun fact is that I spend so much time here that Sandra Cacy, the wonderful woman who operates this place day in and day out, sometimes lets me do the hand motions to the exits during the safety briefing.
We and so many Alaska nonprofits are grateful for this space. It is, indeed, an Alaskan gift in so many ways.
Importantly, this facility was the first real space of quality that said in no uncertain terms that nonprofits matter and that they deserve the same level of support as other segments of the community like businesses, industry, and government. From the technology, to the design, to the attention to detail, to the beautiful inspirational scenery that sees trees as art and makes us think about and experience the world anew, the Energy Center was the first space built specifically to welcome the sector with such grace.
And, as we learned, this space was designed to facilitate productive conversations, to inspire creativity, and to support collaborations – all things that strengthen the nonprofit sector. This space also supports the tough conversations that we all need to have to advance our missions and improve our communities. The environment ensures we are nurtured in the conversations and helps us feel supported. As a result, our decisions are better for our organizations, our missions, and our communities.
As we look ahead, we thank BP for creating this community space – this gathering space. I know I speak on behalf of Alaska’s nonprofits when I say we all look forward to using the BP Energy Center well into the future. And we are thankful that it is passing to the trusted hands of the Alaska Community Foundation who will steward this community asset for all of Alaska.
Let’s take a quiz. What do these three things have in common?
Did you guess it right? Well if you said the U.S. Census – then you sure did.
Just what is the census? As I alluded to above, the census is enshrined in our constitution and requires the federal government to count every person living in the United States every ten years. Remarkably, it is the single largest peacetime mobilization by the federal government and while it is the job of the census bureau to do all the counting, we sure can make their efforts a little bit easier by helping Alaskans know the facts, know their rights, know why it matters, and know how to participate.
Ultimately the census is just 10 questions that will take 10 minutes and will have 10 years of impact.
Because of its importance to Alaska’s future and particularly to the nonprofit sector, the 2020 Census is Foraker’s top public policy priority, and I hope it is yours, too. After all, about 18% of 3.2 billion federal dollars flow directly into Alaska nonprofits every year. We simply could not miss an opportunity to have a more positive impact on Alaska and our nonprofit landscape. And, thankfully, we are not alone in seeing the potential we could have by working together to achieve a successful 2020 Census.
About four years ago, as part of our initial focus on the census, we created the Alaska Census Working Group, a statewide, nonpartisan assembly of stakeholders committed to ensuring an accurate count of Alaskans. Unfortunately, we had little information about past efforts to promote the census in Alaska, along with the unsettling reality that the count was going to start soon, and the U.S. Census Bureau was hamstrung by a lack of adequate funding and other constraints. We knew that if Alaska was going to have a better result in 2020, we had to do things differently.
Before I share more with you about the ways we are doing this, I want to give a huge “shout-out” to our key partner in the working group, Cook Inlet Housing Authority. CIHA has joined us in making significant in-kind contributions of staff and resources. I also want to acknowledge the Alaska Public Interest Research Group. They have been an important part of our team over the past year, especially with their work to translate census material into the languages of Alaska Native peoples. This is truly a team effort, and we are grateful for all the working group partners across the state. We are also grateful for our funding partners who have invested alongside Foraker and CIHA to make this work come alive: the Census Equity Fund, Rasmuson Foundation, Mat-Su Health Foundation, Alaska Children’s Trust, Alaska Community Foundation, Providence Health and Services, and the Native American Rights Fund. We want to thank GCI and Alaska Airlines for their in-kind support in helping us spread the word across Alaska. You can find links to all these amazing Alaska partners here, and if you have relationships with any of them, please thank them for supporting the census.
To be sure, what we have created is seen as a grand exception to the rule of how states are organized to promote the census. Indeed, we have created a model that other states and national organizers tell us is a hallmark success in its very creation, structure, multi-sector participation, and operation. We hope that turns out to be true for the results as well.
So, how have we accomplished this so far? With little to go on we started our efforts in what we called our “air game.” In this phase, the working group focused on sharing the importance of the census with policymakers and advocated for appropriate funding and sufficient resources at the federal and state level. We also established relationships with U.S. Census Bureau staff at the national, regional, and state level.
In June 2019, we shifted to a “ground game” and started the outreach phase where we are engaging Alaskans and emphasizing the importance of the count. We have received tremendous support from the Alaska-based census staff. They have been a terrific partner even with limited resources. And as true partners, the working group and census staff have focused on combining resources to spread all our capacity as far as it will stretch.
Finally, last fall we were proud and excited to launch Alaska Counts, a statewide education campaign. (See the story below to learn more about Alaska Counts and how you can become involved in promoting the census.)
And now the day has arrived – the census is happening. While the rest of the country and most households in Alaska won’t be counted until March, the census started early in Alaska in Toksook Bay. Read the news reports of the first count here and here.
What’s next? It’s time to expand our efforts and that’s where we rely on all of you. Whether your community has started or is getting ready to start, now is the time to engage – because the census really does matter to our future.
Why does the census matter?
We have 3.2 billion reasons to care about the census – that’s how many federal dollars flow into Alaska each year based on census data. This funding goes to every Alaskan community for everything from roads and airports to hospitals and schools. Given current state and local budget gaps, it is increasingly important that Alaska receive its fair and equitable share of these federal resources. If Alaskans go uncounted in the census, our state does not receive its fair share of this funding. And the impacts aren’t for one year or two, but for 10 years. We only have one shot at this every 10 years, and it’s so important that we get it right in 2020.
Beyond funding, there are many other reasons the census matters. Organizations across sectors rely on accurate census data to plan for the future. Whether it’s a local government determining need for a new program, or an airline deciding whether or not to add another route, or a store deciding where it should open, all of it depends on good census data.
When we think of why census matters, we often say it is about Democracy, Data, and Dollars.
In terms of democracy, we think of the census as something specific to the government sector – conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau to determine how congressional and other elected seats are apportioned and how federal funds are distributed. That it all true and the census also helps reinforce the voting and civil rights laws.
I often say the census data is like toothpaste. We all have it. We all use it. But rarely do we consider how it was made or where it comes from. Census data is everywhere. Census data is used by businesses of all sizes and from all parts of our state to plan for the future and make decisions about where and when to invest in our communities. Whether it’s data on our biggest cities or our smallest communities, for our largest companies or our small local businesses, census data informs business decisions everywhere.
The census also determines funding for services that make our state and the places we live and work thrive – services like police and fire, roads and airports, hospitals and schools. When all Alaskans are counted, our state receives its fair share of federal funding for these programs, and more Alaskans are hired in each of these sectors.
The risks of not having accurate data could mean a reduction in federal funds for our state and local governments, an inability to plan for the future by our local communities, improper enforcement of the voting and civil rights laws, and possibly the reduction of essential services. There is so much at stake.
What challenges stand in the way of a complete count?
For all of these reasons, we know that an accurate census count is critical for our state. But we also know that Alaska is known to be one of the most difficult states to count. Every part of Alaska is considered by the census bureau to be hard to count in varying degrees. 2010 census data tells us that certain groups are especially at risk of being undercounted, including Alaska Native peoples and American Indians and Alaskans living in remote/rural parts of the state.
But it’s not just our remote communities that are difficult to count. Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley, and just outside Fairbanks had some of the census tracts with the lowest response rates in the country in 2010. And we know that some residents – racial/ethnic minorities, children under the age of 5, low-income earners, and renters – are especially at risk of being undercounted.
Whether in Anchorage or remote Alaska, we’re working to remove barriers to a complete count like:
The answer to overcoming these barriers is to get involved. We strongly urge you to do just that. Alaska Counts has resources and ideas to help you. And consider getting in touch with your local Complete Count Committee. CCCs are a great opportunity for local messaging and local messengers to get the word out about the census and a great way for local entities to get involved in spreading the word. While the working group is a statewide effort, CCCs provide an opportunity for organizations and individuals to help in a more focused way.
The bottom line is that as a nonprofit leader your voice and action matter to ensuring an accurate count in 2020. You are a trusted voice and have access to so many Alaskans who are considered hard to count. Your nonprofit relies on census data every day even if you don’t see it. You can have a significant impact in Alaska, with the people and communities you serve, and for your friends, neighbors, and democracy.
If you have questions about what you and your organization can do, call us. We have answers and ideas for you.
Foraker is pleased to announce the addition of Kimberly Waller to our team. Kim is the first-ever Director of Sultana, our fiscal sponsorship program. Sultana exists to support groups and projects in the preliminary stages of their development, offering opportunities to incubate ideas, employ staff, and provide the stability that funders need to make initial investments.
As the Director of Sultana, Kim will support opportunities for new collaboratives and grassroots initiatives to germinate. She will also take on the role of a Foraker Lead Capacity Builder and join a team of facilitators who are responsible for strengthening Alaska organizations and tribes. Kim will be focused on collaborative efforts by fostering cross-sector partnerships to maximize missions across Alaska.
Kimberly Waller, Director of Sultana/Lead Capacity Builder
Kimberly was born in Fairbanks and raised in Anchorage. She began a career in broadcasting here in Alaska before moving to New York City to work for NBC Digital, MTV Networks, and IHeartMedia. Through her work in public affairs, Kim has partnered with some of the best-known nonprofits in the country including Sing For Hope, God’s Love We Deliver, AIDS Walk NYC, New York Public Library, Fresh Air Fund, YWCA, and more. Kim returned to Alaska with her family in 2018 to launch Women’s Power League of Alaska and immerse herself in the nonprofit sector. She is happily married with one daughter she calls a “beautiful person and a skillful negotiator.” Kimberly received her B.A. in Mass Media from New York University where she was awarded the Stenbeck Scholarship and was the recipient of the Founders Day Award for academic achievement. She also holds an A.L.M. in Journalism from Harvard University.
Foraker’s Leadership Transition team is rapidly growing so we can better support your organization through a leadership change. We know that change is inevitable and that a smooth transition from one leader to another will keep your organization focused on mission.
Please join us in welcoming Catherine Bradshaw and Mara Carnahan to Foraker. In addition, Foraker consultant Allison Fong has changed roles and is now a staff member.
Catherine is joining us as the Director of Leadership Transition. She is deeply committed to helping nonprofits develop their leadership capacity and navigate the journey of transitioning to new leadership. She brings over 25 years of experience as a coach and consultant to nonprofit leaders, with a particular focus on succession planning and leadership transition. Before joining Foraker, she was a consultant with TSNE MissionWorks, a Boston-based organization that supports nonprofits in New England. In that position, she supported more than 20 nonprofits in their leadership transition journey. Catherine is passionate about identifying and addressing barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusion in nonprofit board and staff teams. She has served as a diversity trainer for Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services and continues to integrate this focus into her work. Catherine holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Washington and a Masters in Organization Systems Renewal from Antioch University in Seattle. She has served on many nonprofit boards and has been an active community volunteer.
As the Leadership Transition Coordinator, Mara will ensure all details are attended to and will keep board, staff, and candidates well-informed each step of the way. Mara is excited to work with staff and volunteers who are passionate about their mission and inspired to do meaningful work. She holds a communications degree from Lewis and Clark College and has been both a staff member and volunteer for several nonprofit organizations.
As a Lead Capacity Builder with a focus on Leadership Transition, Allison helps our clients take a realistic and thoughtful approach to successful leadership change by guiding them through the Prepare, Search, and Thrive Phases of our comprehensive services. She also facilitates strategic plans and annual plans with our Partners. Allison brings a robust and diverse body of experience to the Foraker team. Most recently, she served as the program manager of the Seward Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Alaska Community Foundation. She has 15 years of healthcare experience, serving in administration, strategic planning, and business development roles within large health systems and small rural hospitals. She earned a Masters in Healthcare Administration from the University of Minnesota. Allison is a graduate and regular coach of the Foraker Catalyst for Nonprofit Excellence.
Recognizing both the importance of the census for our state and the many risks of an undercount in 2020, the working group has launched a statewide education and outreach initiative called Alaska Counts, which has four areas of focus:
Those who engage in promoting the census are our Census Champions.
Central to our initiative is the website, which serves as an information hub with a wide variety of excellent – and free – resources. You’ll find many Alaska-made products, material for social media, and messages from trusted Alaska voices. We hope that everyone who recognizes the value of the census and wants to promote it will visit the website and use the material there.
In all our outreach we have one goal – to ensure that every Alaskan participates. We are sharing three basic messages we hope will get us to that goal. Please feel free to incorporate any of these messages into your outreach efforts.
What resources are available?
In order to share our key messages, we are focusing on specific activities. We started by launching a landing page of information on the Alaska Counts website. This page will serve as a resource repository for all things about the census – such as fact sheets and social media graphics. We recently added a section on materials that have been translated in four Alaska Native languages. Check it out today. Over the coming weeks, we will continue to update the website.
We also are working on additional materials and activities to supplement what the census bureau is not able to do. That includes informational mail pieces to 88,000 Alaskans with post office boxes, more translation of key materials, mini-grants to local communities, and public radio and digital ads. You will find links to everything below:
Now is the time – become a Census Champion today!