A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Apr 22, 2011

Like Kids, Pets, Africa? There’s a Charity for That!

I hate to sound like a broken record - but - everybody isn't qualified to run a charity. It is not necessary to start your own corporation to accomplish something or to steer funding to a specific need. At least once a day I receive a call from someone who wants to start a charity to fulfill some personal need or to accomplish a specific project. Others feel they need to do so to appear philanthropic or to use celebrity power to create awareness and large sums for a righteous cause. However, many a well-intentioned philanthropist lacks the skills and resources to actually execute the charitable mission and properly oversee the workings of the enterprise. The result is that vast expenditures are made for startup needs, advisers, managers and the like. Since often the necessary expertise and the time to monitor the hired expert is lacking, things often go wrong and the funds don't make it to the target recipients.

As there can be a lot of profit in the not-for-profit sector, there is great opportunity for the unscrupulous and the greedy. We are a predominantly generous and empathetic people who are exposed to a zillion pieces of information daily with very little time to research everything we see and hear. Consequently, we are easily ripped off and misled while trying to help others.

In the last two weeks it was reported that Madonna's charity had "issues” and her promised new school would not be built, Kanye West's foundation funds were not making it to the needy, the Dodgers had to repay their foundation funds that were spent improperly, and that Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson might be a fraud. (In fact 60 Minutes reported that even President Obama donated a hundred thousand dollars of his Nobel Peace Prize award to one of Mortenson's projects.)  
The consequences are the same whether the donations are stolen or mismanaged. Those who need the help don't get it.

The solution is simple. Research reputable existing charities and locate those that serve the constituency that you wish to help. Determine if that charity provides the specific service that you wish to fund. Then donate specifically to that program. The funds saved on startup costs, overhead expenses, and consultants can be used to create or enhance a program within an existing charity. You can even name your favorite program for a significant contribution.

The point is that more of each dollar will make it to the needy.  Isn't that better?

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