For the first time, Pick.Click.Give. donations take a dip

The Permanent Fund Dividend website prominently features the Pick. Click. Give. program. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO - Juneau)
The Permanent Fund Dividend website prominently features the Pick. Click. Give. program. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO – Juneau)

It has been a difficult year for nonprofits. The state’s budget is shrinking. Alaskans’ wallets are emptying.

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And, for the first time since Alaskans began donating in 2009, the Alaska Community Foundation’s Pick.Click.Give. program saw a drop in donations.

The program allows Alaskans to donate a portion of their annual oil-wealth payments to hundreds of nonprofits statewide.

The people who donated a portion of their Permanent Fund Dividend checks this year were generous. On average, they gave $108 per person, a record high since the program was created by lawmakers in 2008.

But that generosity didn’t make up for the drop in the number of people who decided to donate.

“This was the first year that the program saw a decrease from the year before,” said Jason Grenn, manager of the Alaska Community Foundation’s Pick.Click.Give. program. He’s also an independent candidate for statehouse, challenging Republican Rep. Liz Vazquez for her seat.

Each year, when Alaskans sign up for their PFDs, they have an option to donate $25 or more to hundreds of nonprofit organizations across the state.

And, by most accounts, the program has been successful. Alaskans have given millions to organizations like Catholic Social Services, public media, food banks and Planned Parenthood. This year, nearly $3.2 million was donated to more than 640 nonprofits.

But, that’s down $136,000 from last year.

“I think this year we saw less people giving who maybe realized, ‘Hey, I’m going to maybe need my PFD this year,’” Grenn said.

And, there’s a chance it could get worse for the program, and the nonprofits that depend on it for revenue.

When Alaskans decided to give this year, they didn’t know that Gov. Bill Walker was going to veto half of their dividend checks.

Grenn said that means they could be even less likely to donate next year. He said the Pick.Click.Give. program will emphasize the importance of helping nonprofits, knowing that people might be hesitant to give.