Share your dividend? Local non-profits hoping givers pick their cause while filing 2011 permanent fund applications

Posted: Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The state started accepting applications for 2011 permanent fund dividends on Jan. 1, and for the third year, applicants can pledge a portion of their dividend to one of more than 300 eligible non-profit organizations -- including more than a dozen in the central Peninsula area.

This is Pick Click Give's third year and participation is increasing, said Jordan Marshall, a Rasmuson Foundation project manager who helps coordinate the program.

"It has been growing every year," he said. By Jan. 5, 2,795 people had pledged $224,475 to 4,414 organizations. That's more overall participation than during same time period in the previous two years.

More than a dozen organizations on the central Peninsula are eligible for donations, and most hope to see the effects of the growth this year, including the Kenai Historical Society.

"It wasn't very much last year, only four people, but we've got our fingers crossed," said president Betty Idleman.

The Kenai Watershed Forum has experienced the growth over the past two years. The forum's Rhonda Orth said that organization got $725 in the program's first year, and $1,850 in 2010 (the second year). This year, they hope to see another increase as awareness grows.

"I think this year will be even better," Orth said.

Although donations haven't been huge, Orth said they still make a big difference.

"Any time anyone is willing to donate to a non-profit, that's a huge benefit," she said.

Much of the watershed forum's funding comes from grants and contracts that have very specific purposes. And funding for each of the forum's main missions -- restoration, research and education -- tend to ebb and flow. So money with flexibility is helpful. The dividend donations are undesignated, so the forum uses them to fill in gaps in their funding.

"It kind of fills in wherever we see the need," Orth said.

The historical association also uses the money wherever it's needed. The society gives money to local projects with a historical connection, Idelman said. One of the most recent projects they've supported is the construction efforts at the Russian Orthodox Church.

Not every organization on the list will use its money for programs and projects in 2011. Affiliates of the Alaska Community Foundation, including the Kenai Peninsula Community Foundation, will invest their donations.

"Community foundations are a little bit different from other operating nonprofits," said Candace Winkler, ACF's executive. ACF is a statewide organization, with many regional affiliates, that helps areas (and individuals) set up endowments. Those affiliates use the dividend money to build up their investments.

"Those monies will go to help build that long-term endowment," Winkler said.

The Kenai Peninsula Community Foundation is sort of like the community squirrel, storing nuts for later. Last year it got two donations, which were added to the endowment, said Jane Stein, a member of the community steering committee.

"Those two we really, really appreciated," Stein said, adding that all the donations add up.

"Every little bit helps because it just builds up," she said.

And each year, it gives grants from the interest earned on their investment.

Winkler said past grants have gone to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, Hospice of the Central Peninsula, Youth Restoration Corp and other local non-profits.

She described giving to the Kenai fund as donating to "the long-term sustainability and quality of life on the Kenai."

Participating non-profits don't receive their money immediately. Alaskans pledge money when they apply for their PFD online (the application period ends March 31 at 11:59 p.m.), but it doesn't get distributed until the dividends are distributed. This year, that's scheduled to start on Oct. 6.

When Alaskans receive their dividend this fall, the United Way of Anchorage will be tasked with distributing the donated portion of each dividend. Before dividends are sent out, the state takes out money for debts, and then for Pick Click Give. All of the money goes to the Anchorage organization in a couple of batches -- one when all the direct deposits are made, one for the paper checks, and then a final trickle-in of donations for questioned applications.

By the beginning of November, the money should be disbersed, Marshall said. Because the United Way coordinates and distributes money for its own giving campaigns, it was a natural fit to help distribute the Pick Click Give donations, he said.

The program is only available for online applicants, but Marshall said paper applicants are encouraged to donate in other ways.

The program suggests that people figure out who they want to donate to before they apply for their PFD, because the list is long. (That can be done online at http://www.pickclickgive.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=pfd.orgs.)

Orth, from the watershed foundation, stressed the convenience of the program for donors.

"I hope everyone gives $25 to one of their favorite non-profits," she said.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com



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