Playing to Strengths: How Alaska Airlines Ties Giving to the Power of Flight

In the News | November 1, 2018

Alaska Airlines has been engaged in corporate philanthropy for over 35 years in communities where “a significant number” of its employees live or work, namely Alaska, Hawaii and Washington. Its related but independent nonprofit, the Alaska Airlines Foundation, has been up and running for nearly 20 years.

The airline organizes much of its funding into the overarching areas of youth mentoring and education (often in STEM fields), aviation workforce development, and community outreach. The contributions include employee service and charity flights. Many of its programs are tied in some way to aviation and the related fields of science, technology, engineering and math/STEM, and in building community connections and support around these areas. This makes Alaska Airlines an interesting example of a corporate funder drawing on its own strengths and existing structures to center and guide much of its philanthropy.

Many other philanthropists are also embracing STEM education and undertakings related to high-altitude travel these days, whether through backing tech trainings for young women, commercial and recreational space flight endeavors, or science projects on the International Space Station. But Alaska Airlines’ interest perhaps comes more naturally than most.
Along with medical-assist flights, Alaska Airlines conducts community outreach work by donating flights to help charities achieve their missions and meet their business travel needs. It offers its “Mileage Plan” members the opportunity to donate miles and support charitable organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, and the Dream Foundation.

That last one, the Dream Foundation, is a 20-year partner in philanthropy with Alaska Airlines. Dream Foundation helps terminally ill adults and their families achieve end-of-life dreams of their design. The airline has donated over 1,000 round-trip flights, helping this foundation fulfill over 400 dreams. And Alaska Airlines passengers have donated over 5.4 million of their own miles to the Dream Foundation.

“When Alaska Airlines donates the flights for a dream, that means that gifts from our supporters can be put to all of the other costs and other dreams, so we can fulfill far more dreams across the nation every year,” Kisa Heyer, CEO of Dream Foundation, said.

Alaska Airlines’ corporate community outreach also supports employee service as board members with nonprofits, volunteering locally and participating in fundraisers. It has a matching gift program for its employees, as well.