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Charities await PFD donations; public television tops Fairbanks-area recipient list

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Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 12:35 am

FAIRBANKS — Most Alaska residents will receive their annual Alaska Permanent Fund dividend checks on Thursday, but they’re not the only ones who are about to get a quick income boost.

A few weeks after that initial round of PFD deposits are made, $2.2 million in donations will be funneled to hundreds of nonprofit organizations around Alaska. The voluntary contribution program dubbed “Pick. Click. Give.” will steer more than $200,000 of those funds to Fairbanks-area charities.

The program, a check-off on the PFD application, allows Alaskans to donate part of their dividend to a variety of charitable groups.

The top Fairbanks-area recipient in 2012 is AlaskaOne public television, which will collect $25,175 through the program. Other top local recipients include the Fairbanks Animal Shelter Fund, at $23,750, and the Fairbanks Community Food Bank at $20,725.

In all, more than 37,000 Alaskans contributed $2.2 million to the program this year. It marked a new record for the program, which has steadily grown since it was launched in 2009.

It’s also become a handy way for nonprofit organizations to boost their fundraising efforts. The Fairbanks Animal Shelter Fund, which pays for equipment and veterinary services for local shelter animals, will get nearly 20 percent of its budget through PFD donations this year.

“It’s been a wonderful program,” said Ronnie Rosenberg, the fund’s president. “I can’t say enough good things about it.”

PFD donations account for a much smaller portion of the food bank’s budget — about 3 percent — but Executive Director Samantha Castle Kirstein said it’s important to have a flexible revenue source.

“One of the advantages is that it’s unrestricted money — we can pay the light bill with it if we need to,” she said.

Kirstein said she initially wondered whether existing contributors were just donating through the PFD program rather than another method. She said, however, that most PFD contributions appear to be from new donors.

Rosenberg said the “Pick. Click. Give.” program also has proved beneficial because it provides the names of people who are interested in helping the charity. The shelter also gets numerous donations from children whose parents encourage charitable giving, she said, which helps build those habits at an early age.

Alaskans pledge their donations when they apply in the spring, but they still can make a variety of changes to their application until mid-August. Since some people change their minds about donating, officials plan for some “shrinkage” in those totals by the time PFDs are distributed, according to the Rasmuson Foundation, which helps coordinate the program.

But Rasmuson Foundation spokeswoman Cassandra Stalzer said nearly as many people decided to add contributions after their initial filings this year, offsetting those who dropped their donations.

“This year we had almost no shrinkage,” she said. “They pretty much balanced each other out when it was all over.”

This year’s $878 dividend is the second-lowest since 1990. The deadline for changing applications had passed by the time that amount was announced, so Stalzer said it’s hard to say whether the lower amount would have much effect on giving.

But she said the lower PFD totals will almost certainly mean more people will be in need this year. Because of that, she said many charities will need money more than ever from people who can afford to sacrifice some of their PFD.

“Even though the checks are smaller, it’s still a good time to give something if you can,” Stalzer said.

Pick. Click. Give. contributions

year donors amount

2009 5,500 $545,000

2010 9,500 $927,000

2011 19,000 $1.5 million

2012 37,000 $2.2 million

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.

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