Supporting Non-profits and Building Community

If you’ve been through Southeast Alaska, you know that sunshine and blue skies are a rare and precious commodity. And when your average rainfall totals over 160 inches of “liquid sunshine” each year, you know that the folks in Ketchikan protect and treasure their sunny days with particular passion. Which made the strong attendance during a recent nonprofit training in Ketchikan all the more impressive…

I recently spent four days down in Ketchikan. While I certainly reveled in their splendid spring weather, I was there to support the Ketchikan Community Foundation (KCF) during a recent nonprofit training event and a strategic planning session with the KCF Advisory Board.

Over 60 representatives – including board and staff from a broad cross-section of Ketchikan nonprofits – willingly “gave-up” parts of a sunny Friday and Saturday to gather for a weekend of exceptional training and technical assistance hosted by KCF.

The featured presenter, Sara Lawson (Shorthand Consulting) currently resides in Seattle, but she maintains strong ties to Ketchikan through her past leadership at the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council. Her engaging and interactive presentations provided strategies to improve board effectiveness, practical techniques to navigate difficult conversations and a primer in fundraising. Using a lively mix of formal presentation, small group discussions and time for personal reflection – as well as a steady supply of chocolate – the attendees boldly jumped in with both feet to learn how to expand the impact of their individual organizations.

An image from the 2014 Ketchikan Board Training

Photo credit: RJL

I sat with Tom Schulz, KCF Advisory Board member and Past-Chair, during most of the training. Along with Sara, Tom and I observed how the energy level shot through the roof when the participants were working in small groups. We were inspired at the level of passion and dedication among the attendees, as well as their individual commitment to strengthen the work of their own nonprofit organizations.

After a day and a half of workshops, the attendees left feeling positive and energized. On the final evaluation forms, one sly participant encouraged us to “schedule these trainings for a rainy day!” Duly noted. We will do our best to make those arrangements for the future. ☺

On Sunday, Sara facilitated a day-long planning session with members of the KCF Advisory Board. As a new Affiliate of The Alaska Community Foundation, the Ketchikan Community Foundation is still refining internal systems and clarifying goals. But if the success of the weekend training for local nonprofit organizations is any indication, they have a promising future as an effective community convener.

Building an endowment and an authentic culture that celebrates local philanthropy in Ketchikan – and, for that matter, any community – takes time, focus and commitment. All three of these qualities were clearly evident and shared among the KCF Advisory Board members. I am honored to support their vision for Ketchikan and encouraged by their willingness to give back to their hometown in such a deeply personal manner.

To the KCF Advisory Board members: thank you for sharing your generous spirit of community, your vision for the future and four days of sunshine that did wonders for my winter-weary soul. Thank you!