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Charity gets record haul from PFD as 3.4 percent of Alaskans contribute

Alex DeMarban
Iowa state photo

Alaskans dug deeper into their Permanent Fund dividend checks than ever this year, and the biggest winners in the “Pick. Click. Give.” program included public radio, homeless shelters, animal rescue groups and Planned Parenthood.

Nearly 19,000 of 648,000 Alaskans receiving PFD checks directed a portion of their $1,174 to favored charities. They gave 27,800 gifts -- some donors made multiple donations --  totaling $1.57 million.

The giving outpaces the program's first two years combined by $100,000.

In the program's first year of 2009, some 5,173 people gave $545,000. A year later, 9,543 people gave $927,075, according to the Rasmuson Foundation, a private foundation that supports non-profit organizations in Alaska.

Despite the growth, only 3.4 percent of the Alaskans who applied for their dividend online participated.

It's difficult to compare Alaska's PFD program to other statewide efforts that raise money for nonprofits, since the giving in other states doesn't originate with an annual state check, said Laurie Wolf, vice president of
the Foraker Group, which runs the Pick. Click. Give website.

Wolf said Alaska's rate of giving is actually pretty good, considering the program is still just getting off the ground.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," she said. "For a new fundraising program to double in size in a year is remarkable. And Alaskans are still learning about the opportunity, so there's a big educational component to
the program."

Nonprofits that have incorporated the fundraiser into their everyday marketing strategy -- reminding supporters they can click-and-give in newsletters, radio blurbs and in TV commercials -- have benefitted, she said.

The single-biggest recipient among some 400 nonprofit organizations on the list?

The Anchorage-based public radio and television umbrella, Alaska Public Telecommunication Inc., which includes KSKA radio, KAKM television and Alaska Public Radio Network. It pocketed $69,000 in pledges.

Cassandra Stalzer, communications director for Rasmuson Foundation, which championed the creation of the program and provides marketing support, said the APTI network has been among the top three recipients each year.

Stalzer said APTI’s success might be due in part to a "latent desire to give." In other words, listeners who earlier may have tuned out the radio stations’ fundraising drives eased their guilt by skimming from their state dividend.

In general, small public radio stations throughout the state did quite well, she said, though nowhere near their Anchorage cousins.

Here are the top dozen recipients:

1. Alaska Public Telecommunication Inc., $69,000

2. Beans Café, providing help for the homeless, $56,000

3. Food Bank of Alaska, a food pantry, $53,000

4. Alaska Dog and Puppy Rescue, providing animal adoption services, $40,000

5. Friends of Pets, providing animal welfare services, $36,000

6. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, providing family-planning services, $34,000

7. Covenant House, a homeless youth shelter, $32,000

8. American Red Cross of Alaska, providing family disaster assistance, $29,000

9. Catholic Social Services homeless shelter, $28,000

10. Abused Women's Aid in Crisis, a women and children's shelter, $26,000

11. Salvation Army, providing several social services, $23,000

12. Kitty and K9 Connection A New Leash On Life, providing animal adoption services, $20,000

Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com