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Community Perspective

During COVID-19 and after, nonprofits meet our needs

Do you, your parents or neighbors receive “Meals on Wheels”? Are your neighborhood emergency services provided by volunteers? Do you and your kids participate in volunteer-organized local sports leagues? Do you enjoy concerts, plays and art exhibits sponsored by nonprofits? Do you hunt, fish or hike thanks to advocacy by nonprofits? Have you been fed, sheltered, counseled, protected or educated by a nonprofit?

Are you a member of a nonprofit organization? Do you serve on a nonprofit board? Alaskans created many such organizations to provide services otherwise unavailable through local, state and federal governments. And as our population ages, the number of nonprofit volunteers and board members is declining.

In this COVID-19 period of uncertain global economics, nonprofits have stepped up to meet many human needs, as well as provide for animal welfare, environmental and many otherwise unmet concerns.

A not-for-profit organization does not earn any profits for its owners. Rather, it uses that money and donations to fund the organization’s purposes irrevocably dedicated to the charitable, educational, literary, scientific or religious purposes specified by law.

The most recent 2018 study of Alaska nonprofits by the Foraker Group (forakergroup.org) revealed there are 5,765 such entities, directly providing 44,100 jobs to the state economy, serving as regional housing authorities, community health clinics, cultural centers, museums, providing childcare services, private/parochial schools, electric cooperatives, providing for animal welfare, land trusts, community service organizations, economic development, vocational training, etc. These diverse services have been created by Alaskans for purposes not funded by local, state or federal governments. And as governmental public policies have changed, some previous government services are now contracted to nonprofits, or new nonprofits have been created to provide those services.

This column is the first of an occasional series of articles coordinated by the Golden Heart Community Foundation (goldenheartcf.org) to selectively showcase the diversity of nonprofits in Interior Alaska. As a regional partner with the Alaska Community Foundation, we are building a permanent endowment to assist Interior nonprofits and encourage them to establish endowments for long-term sustainability. Like the Alaska Permanent Fund, the basic endowment fund can never be spent, only the annual interest.

Our Golden Heart Community Foundation began six years ago. Residents and businesses with generous matching funds from the Rasmuson Foundation and Alaska Community Foundation have raised over $808,622 for our community. That corpus amount will never be spent; the interest of $71,500 has been allocated through competitive grants to regional nonprofits.

This Fairbanks Daily News-Miner series will introduce us to nonprofits and their services, governance through volunteer boards, and advice for other nonprofits. Because of the current fiscal and volunteer constraints of COVID-19, uncertain global economy, and aging of our population, these articles may provide useful ideas for future planning and sustainability.

Support your regional nonprofit by volunteering, donating, and including them in your will.

Ronald K. Inouye is a member of the advisory board of the Golden Heart Community Foundation.

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