In Alaska, the Juneau Community Foundation Gains Momentum

 Juneau. Photo: Tim Hancock/shutterstock

Juneau. Photo: Tim Hancock/shutterstock

With a statewide population of less than 740,000 and not many funders on the local philanthropy scene, grant awards in Alaska can feel a bit few and far between. That’s why the growing momentum of one community foundation here really stands out. The Juneau Community Foundation (JCF) recently announced its biggest annual award by far, and social service organizations took the spotlight this time around.

JCF was first launched in 2000 and gained momentum in the mid-2000s thanks to support from the larger and more well-established Alaska Community Foundation and Rasmuson Foundation. But then in late 2015, the foundation entered into an agreement with the city and borough of Juneau to administer social services grant funds, essentially doubling its grantmaking role in town. More recently, JCF awarded a record-breaking $1.8 million in grants to local social service providers working in the areas of senior care, substance abuse, disability law, and more. A total of 27 grants were awarded to 26 local groups in this grant cycle, following several months of community input to identify the most pressing local needs. Substance abuse and homelessness came out on top in terms of issue areas, so naturally, the largest grants went to these causes.

For example, the funder gave $335,000 to Gastineau Human Services for outpatient and inpatient substance abuse treatment and $285,000 to the Juneau Coalition on Housing and Homelessness to address homelessness issues with various agencies in the area. Another unique issue area that has been gaining momentum in the Juneau area is disability law, as many people here have trouble accessing government benefits even though they are entitled to them. Additional funding is going to a local youth center, the town’s school district to reduce costs for student meals, and domestic violence and crisis intervention training for the town’s police department. Other topics of interest for JCF lately are supporting senior citizens, trauma care for children, job training, and suicide prevention.

So, how is this community foundation managing to ramp up its grantmaking with the growing social service needs in and around Juneau? Well, it was able to source thousands of dollars from other foundation funds, a utility waiver program, the United Way of Southeast Alaska, and the Avista Corporation. JCF describes this grantmaking arrangement as a “unified process,” a way to help Juneau’s most vulnerable residents, and a way to encourage collaboration among social service programs. This is the third year that JCF has provided a combined grant process that includes the city and borough of Juneau social services grants.

Juneau’s mayor, Ken Koelsch, said in a press release:

Juneau has a cadre of hardworking professionals leading our social service organizations. With the community foundation’s leadership and our combined funding resources, these leaders come together to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their work through collaborative efforts. We appreciate the important work they do for our community and the work they are doing with CBJ staff on Housing and Homelessness.

Letters of interest for Juneau Hope Endowment Fund/City and Borough of Juneau Social Service Grants are due annually in December with full applications due in late-March. Learn more about the annual opportunity here.