By Robin Thompson
In a time when so many Alaskans are turning towards nonprofit groups for help, one organization continues to provide a unified and trusted way for Alaskans to give – Pick.Click.Give.
The program facilitated through the Alaska Community Foundation on behalf of the State of Alaska gives Alaskans the opportunity to donate to causes they care about through the PFD application. While the deadline for applying for the PFD closes on April 30 — amended from the earlier date of March 31 on Monday — the Pick.Click.Give program remains open through the end of August.
“That’s a widely unknown fact,” said Pick.Click.Give program manager Jessie Lavoie. “This gives Alaskans time to go back through their MyAlaska accounts and make adjustments or additional donations. In 2019, another $30,000 was raised after the PFD application closed bringing the total to 2.9 million pledge dollars for last year.”
The Pick.Click.Give tool on the PFD application makes searching for nonprofits easy. The search and sort feature allows donors to search alphabetically, by city or location, and by name or by cause type — such as arts and education or youth services, explained Lavoie.
After the program officially closes on August 31 the PFD division then begins their application audits to approve, reject, or require more information from applicants.
“By October 1 we get an official donor list,” said Lavoie. “Then they send a check and we parcel them out to those nonprofits. We give one big distribution in October and then a smaller one [as additional applications are approved] in November. By December they’re completely paid out and the cycle begins again.”
The application process for nonprofits who would like to join the program — or for those already participating — must submit a yearly application between February 1 and March 31 in order to be considered for the next Pick.Click.Give cycle.
“They go through a pretty strong vetting process,” said Lavoie. “We go through and make sure they’re in good standing with the IRS and we double check their 501(3)c status — not every nonprofit can actually say that.”
The application for participating in the program also includes a $250 fee that is then used to provide business tools, resources and education back to those nonprofit groups.
“Most of them don’t have a budget for marketing so one of the value-added to being part of this program, is that they gain access to marketing tools and branded materials that they can then use,” Lavoie said.
The program also provides education, in collaboration with the Foraker group, which includes learning how to navigate and build long-lasting relationships between nonprofits and their donors directly. Donors are identified through the PFD application and their contact information provided to each nonprofit receiving donations at the time of check disbursements.
“Our education provides some easy simple ways to use these donor lists so that they might turn into that regular donor that nonprofits need,” said Lavoie.
The Pick.Click.Give program was written into statute by the State of Alaska in 2008 and originally managed by the Rasmuson Foundation. In 2015 management of the program was transferred to ACF, a philanthropic organization that manages and builds private donations through permanent endowments and provides donors with flexible giving options. The program does not receive any state or federal funding and currently manages a total of 500 funds, with assets totaling more than $100 million.
“Essentially it’s a place for someone to come who would like to give money to a cause that they care about — for perpetuity,” said Lavoie. “We have a lot of funds that are in memoriam, a lot of scholarships and the like. We are also a catalyst for the community to have some bigger philanthropic discussions — what does philanthropy outside of Anchorage look like. It gives control to communities for that money that’s being raised there, that stays there.”
Lavoie shared that the first year of the Pick.Click.Give program raised over $500,000 and continued to see an increase in donations through 2015 when it reached an all-time high of 3.3 million. After the PFD cap by Governor Walker and growing concerns about the future of the PFD, annual donations started to decline.
“It’s really hard to figure out exactly what might be indicating what’s going on, but Alaska is a very generous state, but it just could be in very different ways. We have a very complex culture that not only values the dollar but values time and community,” said Lavoie. “Last year it actually shot back up to 2.9 million despite everything that was going on with the state budget and PFD, not knowing what that was going to be, and we’re seeing a similar trend this year. But even with more uncertainty, those that are using the programs are giving more and supporting those causes that they care about.”
All donations through the Pick.Click.Give program are tax deductible with tax documentation sent directly from the State after each donation has been processed.
“I just want to kindly remind the public that this is entirely voluntary. You do not have to share any of your PFD if that’s not how you want to give,” said Lavoie. “Here at ACF we would just love to see you involved in the community. Sometimes giving your time or talent may be more valuable than a donation to Pick.Click.Give.”