Alaska’s rich give little to charity

Government spending fades
Dennis McMillian, President and CEO of the The Foraker Group, talks to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce about their mission of building sustainability and organizational capacity in Alaska nonprofits Thursday at the Moose Lodge.

Alaska’s best-off residents aren’t doing their part to support the state’s charities, a non-profit leader who studies giving told the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.

Those who make more than $200,000 per year give thousands less than the national average of those similarly situated, and substantially less than those in any other state, Foraker Group’s Dennis McMillian said.

He blamed the state’s entitlement culture.

It has been so easy for non-profits to get funding in Alaska from the state and federal governments, that many have done that instead of doing the hard work of raising money elsewhere, he said.

“It was easy to go to Washington to see Uncle Ted,” McMillian said.

The state's non-profits were turning to former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who created the Denali Commission to funnel federal money to Alaska projects, and state oil revenues, for support.

“We may not want to think of ourselves as socialists, but we are,” he said.

That largess is ending, with budget realities forcing reductions in federal contributions to Alaska even before the state lost Stevens, he said.

McMillian described the trend line as not just down, but really down, “almost like a death dive.”

“It bounces up in 2009 due to the stimulus, but the trend is down,” he said.

And the trend began before Stevens left the Senate, much of it happening after the “bridge to nowhere” issue changed the mood in Congress about funding for Alaska.

Foraker Group is a non-profit with a mission of helping other non-profits. McMillan, its president and CEO, said that may mean helping them tap new sources of funding, and in Alaska that is going to have to come from private donations.

And the state’s well-to-do are a likely source to tap, he said, especially those making more than $200,000 a year.

“We have the lowest giving in America, by far, for that group,” McMillian said.

The average Alaskan in that income range gives $3,500 a year, with the next lowest state giving $5,500 in comparison. The national average is $8,000, he said.

Alaskans in lower income ranges also give less than those living elsewhere, he said, with only those making less than $50,000 a year giving at the same level as those elsewhere in the nation.

The state’s non-profit sector, ranging from traditional charities to business associations, community utilities, tribes, and others totals $4.5 billion in annual expenditures each year.

Public charities, those covered under the IRS 501(c)(3) regulations, amount to $3 billion of that, McMillian said.

Alaska’s non-profits are an important part of the state’s economy, he said, employing more than 32,000 people. Many of the largest are hospitals, including Providence Health and Services Alaska, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, and others, he said.

While many charities earn much of their funding through their operations, others need to tap the individual giving base, he said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at






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