Recession causes dip in UA Foundation donations

By Reba Lean
Sun Star Reporter

Although Alaska’s isolated location and unique way of life have offered some protection from the nation’s recent economic woes, the drop in this year’s donations to the University of Alaska Foundation proves that the Great Land is not immune.

In March, the 2009 fiscal year’s donation total to UA was released, and the number was down from the previous year’s. Contributions totaled $28.9 million in 2009, while 2008’s brought in $30.2 million. The total number of donors for 2009 was 4,460, compared to 4,787 donors in 2008.

While more than a million dollars seems like a huge chunk of change to miss out on; compared to five years ago, donations are looking great. Since 2005, donations have doubled. Fiscal year 2005 garnered 3,469 donors and about $14 million.

Mary Rutherford, president of the UA Foundation, credits the surge to “a huge increase in pride.” She said that alumni are taking more of an interest in the schools, and that since the universities are creating needed jobs, many people feel the need to support financially.

The UA Foundation is a non-profit organization that raises money for university scholarships, grants and awards. Those donations include private and corporate contributions and when the economy takes a bad turn, it is the corporate giving that tends to drop off.

The University of Alaska has more corporate sponsors than elsewhere. In other states, individuals make up most of the donations to college foundations, said Rutherford. When the economic crisis finally hit up North, it was evident in the decreased contributions by corporations.

Now the foundation has realized that it needs to rev up its relations with its individual donors.

Pick. Click. Give., the PFD Charitable Contributions Program, may help to achieve that goal. The program began in 2009 as an encouragement for Alaskans to donate a portion or all of their Permanent Fund Dividend to charities or other nonprofits. Last year, the program raised more than half a million dollars for the qualifying nonprofits. The amount contributed to UA alone won’t be released until fall, but since the program is a relatively easy way for Alaskans to donate, the number is only expected to grow.

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