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Corporate philanthropy leads giving in Alaska

Diane Kaplan,Dennis McMillian
OPINION: Alaskans gain by the high level of corporate philanthropy here. Pictured: Diapers were included among items available to low-income families at the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in 2012, when Alaska corporate sponsors helped to underwrite the local KIDS (Kids in Distressed Situations) program. ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News

We don’t usually talk much about charitable giving during the summer. It’s partly timing. We’re in the quiet period between Permanent Fund dividend applications. We’re months from the year-end flurry of fundraising activity. And Alaskans are busy enjoying all that our wonderful summers have to offer.

Even so, the most recent Foraker Nonprofit Economic Impact Study is worth some attention. In it, The Foraker Group has determined that Alaska nonprofits get a much bigger share of their unrestricted contributions -- 15 percent -- from corporations than nonprofits nationally.

Stated more dramatically but no less accurately, corporate philanthropy in Alaska is triple the national figure. Nationally, corporate giving accounts for just 5 percent of philanthropic giving. In Alaska, it’s 15 percent. Big oil alone accounts for 11 percent. That doesn’t even include other big givers such as banks. By every indicator, corporate giving in Alaska is three times the national norm.

While corporate giving in Alaska remains strong, another study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy confirms what we have known for some time: Personal giving in Alaska lags behind the national norm -- although not as far behind as in the past. Charitable donations from individuals grew from $279 million in 2007 to $322 million in 2013 -- that’s an impressive 19 percent increase.

Corporate philanthropy in Alaska is also a big factor behind the growing success of Pick.Click.Give. As most Alaskans know, Pick.Click.Give. allows Alaskans to share some of their Permanent Fund dividend with charitable causes they care about. This year, nearly 27,000 Alaskans pledged $2.8 million from their PFDs to their charities of choice. That’s three times the 2010 amount.

That growth doesn’t just happen. A huge part of the credit belongs to Pick.Click.Give. investors who have helped fund the infrastructure and awareness building of this philanthropy start-up – corporations such as Wells Fargo, ConocoPhillips Alaska, BP Alaska, Flint Hills Resources, Doyon, Ltd., Arctic Slope Regional Corp., Providence Health and Services, and Northrim Bank. They join organizations such as the Alaska Mental Health Trust, the Mat-Su Health Foundation, the Atwood Foundation and the Alaska Children’s Trust in helping to build a vehicle to grow philanthropy in Alaska.

ExxonMobil deserves a special mention. They match dollar for dollar every Pick.Click.Give. donation to the state’s universities. And a special promotion grant this year stimulated the highest daily giving totals since the campaign began in 2009.

Credit is also owed to the thousands of Alaskans who make our state better through their charitable investments. We thank you.

Diane Kaplan is president of the Rasmuson Foundation, a private foundation that supports nonprofits and individuals with the goal of making life better for Alaskans. Dennis McMillian is president and CEO of the Foraker Group, a nonprofit that works with and advises other nonprofits in organizational development and sustainability.

The views expressed here are the writers' own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.