From the moment Dennis McMillian stepped foot in Alaska in 1992, he was destined to make a lasting impact on the nonprofit sector and the communities they serve. His ideas were bold and his approach was collaborative. Dennis was brilliant at convening people from different organizations to work on common issues.
Dennis understood that relationships were key - especially in Alaska - and he worked tirelessly to build those connections, not only within the nonprofit sector but also with the funding community. He became a vital resource to both nonprofits and funders.
His vision for Foraker was brilliant. The concept of capacity building for nonprofits was in its infancy. But Dennis believed that having a well-run organization would allow a nonprofit to better fulfill its mission. But to make his vision a reality, he had to convince funders that supporting an organization that was solely devoted to building the capacity of nonprofits was a good investment.
Fortunately, it didn't take him long to show funders - both in Alaska and the Lower 48 - that backing the idea of capacity building was an excellent idea. Not only would it tremendously help nonprofits, but it would serve funders in many ways, including better grant proposals, more collaboration among organizations, and better information coming from the nonprofit sector as a whole. It was definitely a win-win for both nonprofits and funders.
And the rest is history. Both nonprofits and funders jumped onboard and Foraker has been going strong since the doors opened in 2001. Of course, one of Dennis's strengths was to build a team that could work as partners to envision the full potential of Foraker. Some of the people who have been on the team since the beginning and continue to steward that vision are Diane Kaplan, Suzanne Lagoni, Steve Mahoney, Joan McCoy, and Laurie Wolf, who is now the CEO.
Perhaps Dennis's most notable achievement at Foraker was developing a new way to think about sustainable organizations. That thinking became the Foraker Nonprofit Sustainability Model, which he detailed in his book Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit's Journey.
Dennis brought a unique style of leadership not only to Foraker but the entire sector. His hard work paid off and his legacy in Alaska will continue well into the future.
The Anchorage Daily News recalled Dennis's work at Foraker when he stepped down as CEO in 2015.