Pick. Click. Give. In Alaska

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December 30, 2010; Source: Fairbanks Daily News Miner | If you're a citizen of Alaska, you're eligible for a Permanent Fund Dividend payment, one of the unique aspects of living in this natural resource-rich state. Now, increasingly, nonprofits are tapping into these popular payments through the “Pick. Click. Give.” program.

For the past three years, Alaskans could opt to dedicate a portion of their dividends to nonprofits participating in the Pick. Click. Give. program. So far, 386 nonprofits have lined up to tap a share of the 2011 Permanent Fund Dividends. It is optional for Alaskans to donate part of their dividends to charities. In 2010, 9,500 people donated some or all of their divided checks, generating approximately $750,000 for participating nonprofits. This year, the Pick.Click.Give organizers are hoping to attract $1.5 million in charitable donations.

The Permanent Fund was created in 1976 as an investment fund for a portion of the state's oil and gas royalties, including royalties from the North Slope oil fields. The fund is managed by a private corporation but expenditures are decided by the legislature. One of the popular expenditures is a dividend payment to Alaskans, which over the years has ranged between $331 per person in 1984 and over $3,200 in 2008.

No surprise, the Rasmuson Foundation has paid for the first three years of the start-up and administrative costs of the Pick.Click.Give program. With some Alaskan employers such as BP, Wells Fargo, the Rasmuson Foundation, and The Foraker Group offering to match their employees' donations of PF dividends, Pick.Click.Give has the feel of a one-time workplace charitable giving campaign, though with an array of participating nonprofits a lot more inclusive and diverse than the typical United Way campaign.

With only three quarters of a million dollars to distribute in 2010, the totals going to any one of the organizations were relatively small, but several advocacy and human rights groups got dividend recipients' support in addition to the more traditional United Way and Red Cross types. See a list here (PDF).

The North Slope oil fields and other natural resource extraction activities may be unique to Alaska, but it is good to see that a portion of their revenues benefits ordinary Alaskans both directly and through charitable endeavors.—Rick Cohen