Hundreds of millions of dollars in Permanent Fund Dividends arrived in Alaskans’ bank accounts Thursday, with paper checks arriving in Juneau mailboxes today and elsewhere shortly thereafter.
While much of those $1,174 payments will be spent in stores around Alaska in the very near future, some is already spoken for.
Alaskans have donated just short of $1.6 million from their 2011 dividends to the state’s charities through the Pick. Click. Give. program, said Bryan Butcher, Commissioner of the Department of Revenue.
The amount contributed in 2011 is more than was contributed in the program’s first two years combined, according to the Department of Revenue’s Dividend Division.
“That’s excellent, I think people are learning to give,” said Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, when he heard the new numbers.
“That’s exciting that they give that much,” he said.
The donation program was championed by the non-profit Rasmuson Foundation, and sponsored in the Legislature by Thomas and then-representative, now-Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage.
Rasmuson provided something like seed money, using $900,000 of its own money to cover the administrative costs of Pick. Click. Give. in its early years so that administrative costs would not overwhelm the fledgling effort.
“It’s working as intended,” said Rasmuson’s Jordan Marshall.
“It’s great to be part of something exciting and innovative, and something that is unique to Alaska,” he said.
Alaskans rank low on national lists of charitable giving, but they seem to have taken to the Pick. Click. Give. opportunity to provide donations from $25 up to their entire dividend to the state’s non-profit organizations.
Contributions are made during the application season, between Jan. 1 and March 31, but can be changed up through Aug. 31.
Thomas said it’s likely the success of the program stems from people being able to contribute before the dividend is in their pockets, so they get to accomplish something and barely notice the impact.
“People in Alaska have more disposable cash than most places,” he said.
“If I was in Anchorage I’d probably give to Beans Café, but I’ll give it in Tlingit-land instead,” he said.
Thomas’ district ranges from the farthest Southeast through small communities north to Cordova.
Marshall said what’s really making Pick. Click. Give. work is when those who provide charitable services realized they could benefit if they let their supporters know.
“The real outreach that matters in a lot of ways comes from the providers themselves as they reach out to prospective donors,” he said.
This year more than 27,800 Alaskans participated in Pick. Click. Give., also a record.
The Pick. Click. Give. program only began in 2009, but has been growing well since then. It is only available to those who file for their dividends online, but with the rapid growth of electronic filing more people have become eligible to donate through the program every year.
Thomas declined to speculate on where the program might go in the future.
“If we can just maintain what we’ve got, that’s good,” he said.
Marshall said he expects even more support from Alaskans in the future.
“There’s no indication that the growth of the program, and people’s embrace of the program, or the interest of the providers themselves, have maxed out,” he said.
The state’s charities are continuing to respond to Pick. Click. Give. as well, with 415 organizations registered for the 2012 donation year.
The 400 charitable organizations who participated this year will get their own payments from the Permanent Fund Dividend Division later this month, Butcher said.
Despite this year’s positive results, Marshall said it’s still too soon to claim victory.
“There’s plenty of room to move,” he said. “All the numbers are trending in the right direction, but victory is still elusive.”
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.