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JUNEAU – When the 2009 Permanent Fund Dividend application period opens Jan. 1, Alaskans will have the option to automatically donate a portion of their dividends to more than 330 non-profits in the state.

The new PFD charitable contributions program – known as Pick. Click. Give. – was signed into law by Gov. Sarah Palin in May. The Rasmuson Foundation will pay the costs of start-up and operation for the first three years. The state will not incur any costs. Brenda Hewitt, president of United Way of Southeast Alaska, believes that giving people an easy way to donate will encourage more to do so.

“It’s kind of a universal belief that most people (who) do not give to a non profit (don’t do so) because they haven’t been asked,” she said. “This is a way of asking people who haven’t been reached before. I’m hoping that it’ll be an opportunity for people to share.”

The program is a project of the Alaska Giving Coalition of the Foraker Group, a non-profit umbrella organization dedicated to strengthening the state’s non-profit organizations.

“We face huge economic challenges right now and it’s critical that we continue giving to Alaska’s nonprofits – many of whom provide essential life-lines to people in need around the state,” said Jim Cardarola, chair of the Alaska Giving Coalition. “Using our PFD checks is an excellent way to do this.”

Ken Leghorn, executive director of the Juneau Community Foundation, believes the program will help make a connection between the PFD check as a portion of the state’s wealth, and the idea of sharing that wealth with non-profits working within individual communities.

“I hope that it encourages new donations from new donors as well as making it easier for people to donate,” he said. “I don’t know if (donations from PFD checks) happens that much unsolicited.”

Although the program’s supporters hope it will increase charitable giving throughout Alaska, there are no benchmark goals just yet. The most important of the program’s goals are qualitative, not quantitative, said Jordan Marshall with the Rasmuson Foundation. Although the program does aim to increase donations to non-profits in the state, it always aims to cultivate a spirit of “sharing and helping our neighbors and the organizations in our neighborhood,” Marshall said.

Non-profits won’t receive the names of people who donate portions of their PFD’s, so Hewitt hopes that donors will write to the non-profits to whom they donate.

“I do want to be able to thank them and … let them know where the money goes,” she said.

Learn more about Pick. Click. Give. at www.pickclickgive.com or by calling 1-888-785-4438.