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Editorials

Giving strong in Alaska, even as dividends shrink

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News editorial board
    | Opinion
  • Updated: January 27
  • Published January 27

The Pick.Click.Give. program, by which we can give a share of our Permanent Fund dividend checks to nonprofit and charitable groups, has taken a hit these last two years, along with the dividends themselves.

But the numbers speak pretty well for Alaskans, for while dividends have been roughly halved for two years running, donations have declined at a much slower rate.

In 2016, when Gov. Bill Walker vetoed about half the dividend amount, down to $1,022, the number of Alaskans who contributed through Pick.Click.Give fell by about 12 percent from 2015, from 33,421 to 29,543. The amount those donors gave fell by about 4 percent, from $3.33 million to $3.19 million. By that time Alaskans were feeling the effects of a recession caused primarily by low oil prices and a state budget running a deep deficit, and some prospective donors likely backed off well before the governor's veto, which didn't occur until late June.

In 2017, when the Legislature and governor agreed on another diminished dividend, this time of $1,100, Alaskans had seen it coming and that's when Pick.Click.Give. took a bigger hit. The total two-year change from the peak of giving in 2015 was a drop of 22 percent in donors (from 33,421 to 26,128) and 19 percent in donations ($3.3 million to $2.7 million).

The cuts in giving were far less than the cuts in the dividends. That's encouraging, for while fewer Alaskans have given through the Pick.Click.Give program over the last two years, they've given a greater share of their dividends than they did in 2015, when the dividend was $2,072 and expected to go higher.

Pick.Click.Give., despite its unlyrical name that only a keyboard could love, had seen continuous growth since its founding by the Rasmuson Foundation in 2008 until 2015. The idea was simple — make it easy for Alaskans to share their share of the state's wealth for good works and build, year-by-year, a stronger tradition of philanthropy.

Alaska is fertile ground for it. Anyone who has lived here for long and seen how Alaskans respond to calls for help — especially when both the need and how to respond are clear — knows that Alaskans will give in spades.

Pick.Click.Give. has built on that knowledge. With its list of more than 600 organizations from Abbott-O-Rabbit Little League to the YWCA, and modest administrative costs (7 percent, borne by the donor), the program offers to hundreds of thousands of Alaskans an easy and relatively painless way to do a lot of good. At the same time, hundreds of groups doing that good have access to Alaska's biggest marketplace — the 640,000, give or take, who apply for the Permanent Fund dividend.

Pick.Click.Give. isn't the only way to give and it doesn't cover all of the giving Alaskans do with their dividends. But it's a good, efficient way to spread the wealth. Let's keep it up.

BOTTOM LINE: Alaskans take a hit in the dividends, but still spare a dime for their favorite charities (www.pickclickgive.org). Long may it be so.

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