By Kris Capps
It is commonplace now for commercial grocery stores and other business establishments to ask customers to round up their purchase to the nearest dollar, with those extra cents going to charity.
But when the Golden Valley Electric Foundation was founded and the Good¢ents Program began, it was a totally new concept in Interior Alaska. Launching such an innovative program required a vote by members of Golden Valley Electric Association. In the spring of 2010, members were mailed bylaw election ballots that included the Good¢ents Program. Voters approved the new program by 71%.
Here is how it works: A participating member’s bill is rounded up to the nearest dollar. For instance, a monthly bill of $97.65 would round up to $98, with the additional 35 cents going toward the Good¢ents fund. All those extra cents add up to thousands of dollars benefitting local charities.
Members participating in Good¢ents end up donating an average $6 per year. Plus, those donations are tax deductible. The program began March 1, 2011 and is totally voluntary.
Since 2011, participation in Good¢ents has grown and those donations from GVEA members have helped countless nonprofit organizations and benefitted local communities. To date, more than $1.3 million in Good¢ents grants have been given to Interior nonprofits.
The most important thing applicants can do is read the application carefully and include everything that is required, according to Foundation Trustee Heather Lambert. That includes a cover letter explaining the project and what the Good¢ents grant would be used for, a budget for the amount requested with justifications and itemized details, current organizational budget, all applicable IRS forms, current financial statement for the organization and a list of board officers and their addresses.
The application itself is not a long one, but the attachments are critical to the request even being considered.
“We have a very thoughtful board of trustees that looks at each organization,” she says. “Everyone has questions.”
Those questions should all be answered in the application.
Things to detail include, how many Golden Valley members are being affected by this program? Are these organizations relying on Good¢ents or just focusing on a special project? Is this a project of passion or necessity?
Organizations should make sure to include everything that is asked for in the application. If a piece is missing, the application may be disqualified.
Make sure the non-profit is still a 501(c)3 in good standing, operating within GVEA’s membership service area. Include the required financial information for the non-profit organization and an itemized list of what is being sought through Good¢ents.
“We want it itemized,” Heather says. “We want to see the websites and what you are buying from them. We don’t want to pay for frivolous stuff that doesn’t make sense.
“We look at the budget,” she says.
The board also looks to see who else is contributing to the project.
“We don’t want to be the sole giver year after year,” Heather says. “We want to be special projects, not a line item income for a nonprofit.”
Applications are initially rated at each meeting and if an organization is new to Good¢ents, it will get first perusal. Some organizations ask for support every year. Those requests are also considered, based again on need.
“People that don’t get our money often, we look at their project first,” Heather says. “We try and think of what makes the most impact for that organization and how needful it is.”
Applications are available on our Good¢ents page. The Golden Valley Electric Foundation Board of Trustees meets in February, May, August and November every year.