As we begin 2011, there are many tasks before us as Alaskans. We’re taking down holiday decorations and recycling Christmas trees, and putting up new calendars. We’re preparing for the upcoming legislative session, with a host of interesting bills to be considered by our elected leaders. And for those of us who wish to be proactive, there’s no time like the present to apply for this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend.
I applied a few days ago, and our friends at the Permanent Fund Dividend Division have made it easier than ever to apply. Long gone are the days when we had to wait for the application booklet to arrive in the mail, fill out several pages of forms, get two of our fellow Alaskans to vouch for our legitimacy, and then mail the whole thing off. Now one merely goes to the appropriate State website, and if you’ve applied online before and none of your personal information has changed, the whole application process takes mere moments. But there is an additional step one can take if feeling eleemosynary.
The Pick.Click.Give program was started three years ago with the passage of House Bill 166 by the 25th State Legislature. Representative Bill Thomas of Haines introduced the bill in 2007, and it took over a year for it to make it all the way through the legislative process. It had no opposition in the House, and only two members of the Senate voted against it. It was signed into law in May of 2008, which allowed the program to go into effect the following year. In 2009 Alaskans were able for the first time to allocate a portion of their annual dividends at the same time they applied for them. In its first year about 5,500 people donated a total of $545,000. Last year, the figures nearly doubled, with almost 10,000 Alaskans chose to give an amount approaching $1 million. This year there are hopes that the figures will continue to increase.
The organization that has done the most to promote Pick.Click.Give is the Rasmuson Foundation, which is far and ahead the largest philanthropic institution on the Last Frontier. While the Rasmuson Foundation directly supports a tremendous array of worthy causes and activities by donating vast amounts of money to them, it also seeks to increase philanthropic activity by individual Alaskans. Compared to other Americans, Alaskans do not tend to donate that generously to charitable causes. This is counter-intuitive, because we know Alaskans are generous with our time and energy to worthy causes. But the numbers for cash donations don’t match the overall nature of Alaskan generosity.
There is a partnership that is promoting Pick.Click.Give has set an ambitious but entirely attainable goal that Alaskans will give $1.5 million of their 2011 Permanent Fund Dividends with non-profit organizations when they file online. One reason to think this goal is sensible is illustrated by the mathematics. Small donations can have tremendous impact. If every Alaskan who is going to receive a dividend this year donated a mere $25 from his or her dividend, it would yield a total of $15 million. That’s 10 times the actual goal for this year. It simply comes down to how many Alaskans choose to participate in the program.
The Pick.Click.Give partnership involves a host of institutions, including the Permanent Fund Dividend Division of the Alaska Department of Revenue, the Rasmuson Foundation, the Foraker Group, the Alaska Giving Coalition, United Way of Anchorage and the Alaska Community Foundation. In addition to these partners, this year’s outreach campaign has been funded by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, BP Alaska, ConocoPhillips Alaska, the Mat-Su Health Foundation, the Friends of the Alaska Children’s Trust, Providence Health + Services Alaska, and Flint Hills Resources Alaska. As important is in-kind marketing and media support by the Alaska Public Radio Network, CoastAlaska and AlaskaOne, among other public broadcasting entities, as well as the Alaska Club, and the Nerland Agency. Recently Governor Sean Parnell and First Lady Sandy Parnell added their voices to the chorus of Alaskans encouraging us to share some of our Permanent Fund Dividends with others. Three-quarters of Alaskans know about the program, and you can join the team effort to get the word out by participating in Pick.Click.Give and then telling your friends, family and co-workers.
When you apply for your dividend online you can search for potential recipients a number of different ways, statewide or regionally. You can review the groups by mission, which include social services agencies, public broadcasters, and animal welfare institutions. In Juneau alone there are a vast array of worthy potential recipients including Perseverance Theatre (where, in the interests of full disclosure, I will be performing in “The Importance of Being Earnest”), the Juneau Family Health & Birth Center and our public radio and television stations. To get more information on organizations that have signed up go to www.PickClickGive.org.
We are so fortunate to live in the Great Land and to enjoy the bounty of our phenomenal natural resources. Join you fellow Alaskans in sharing a little to make our world a better place.
• Brown is an attorney who lives in Juneau.
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