The start of the New Year, for many Alaskans, means spending some time in front of a computer. Starting Jan. 1, qualified Alaskans will be able to officially file for the 2015 Permanent Fund dividend. And a growing number of nonprofits hope to tap into the annual giveaway.
Last year, more than 641,000 Alaskans received $1,884 each through the dividend program. The check could be even bigger this year, as the stock market average over the last five years -- the period used to calculate the dividend payout -- has increased.
This year, 540 registered Alaska nonprofit groups will be asking PFD recipients to donate a portion of their check to causes ranging from equine rescue to support for classically trained singers. The state's Pick.Click.Give. program, started in 2009, allows people who sign up for the PFD online to donate any or all of their dividend to one or more of the program's participating organizations as part of the application process. The PFD website lets donors search for organizations by name, type or location and have donations automatically deducted from their dividends.
In 2014, a record 26,773 Alaskans donated $2.7 million through Pick.Click.Give. Still, only 4.8 percent of PFD recipients -- up one-tenth of 1 percent from 2013 -- participated in Pick.Click.Give. last year.
"People are always surprised to learn that the participation rate is just about 5 percent," said Heather Beaty, Pick.Click.Give program manager. "But when you compare it to other statewide giving platforms or regional giving campaigns, they would be very envious of a 5 percent participation rate."
For the first time this year, under a new Alaska law, 7 percent of all donations will go to fund the program's marketing, training and coordination costs, which run around $350,000 annually. Beaty said. Based on last year's totals, she expects that will cover at least half the annual cost. The rest will be picked up by a variety of philanthropic organizations and foundations, according to Beaty.
Money to run the program itself comes from the $250 application fee collected from all nonprofits that participate in Pick.Click.Give.
The program is also offering, for the second year, an incentive to encourage Alaskans to make donations from their dividends. People who participate in Pick.Click.Give. will be automatically entered for a chance to win an extra dividend, Beaty said.