A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Dec 6, 2013

Give With your Heart, but Consult your Brain

As we again come upon the busiest fund-raising season of the year I, again urge you to know your charity and to donate locally.

Donors often feel duped and upset to learn that their precious funds neither contributed to programs nor helped needy pets in the intended community. Often, a donor unintentionally exported funds to another state! It is essential for you, your lawyers and estate planners to research reputable existing charities and locate those that serve the constituency and community that you wish to help. Determine if that charity provides the specific service that you wish to fund in the place you wish to fund it. Only then should you donate. You can even name your favorite program for a significant contribution.
cute dog
Courtesy spcaLA

How many of you reading this did not know that the aspca and hsus are not national umbrella organizations that funnel contributions back to communities by zip code as actual national charities do? A good example of such an actual national umbrella entity would be the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  spcas throughout the country are individual legal entities and not chapters of any mother organization. Yet aspca spends tens of millions of dollars annually on television and other fundraising outlets which omit that significant fact and your funds may have unintentionally gone to New York. That is fine if you meant to do that – but – what if you didn't.

What could happen to your spcaLA and to our vulnerable populations here if a lot of generous people make that mistake?

The Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy produced a report that sounds the alarm on the implications of Los Angeles exporting charitable dollars out of the city and state. The document states:
Los Angeles foundations are committed to Los Angeles, but not exclusively focused on the region. 43 percent of these grant dollars went to local nonprofits, 19 percent went to nonprofits in other parts of California, and the remaining 38 percent went to nonprofits outside of California. At the same time, foundations from other parts of California and from other states made grants to Los Angeles nonprofits. However, the inflow of philanthropic dollars is less than the outflow, resulting in Los Angeles being a net exporter of philanthropic dollars based on the grant making of the foundations included in the grant sample
The answers to the questions raised by this analysis are not entirely obvious. Yet, they are important to consider. They highlight the opportunities that exist to strengthen the future of foundation philanthropy and nonprofit capacity in Los Angeles County and in so doing to
Improve the lives of Angelinos and their communities.”(An Analysis of the Scale, Scope and Reach of Foundation Philanthropy in Los Angeles County by James M. Ferris, Jeff Glenn, Lia Moore – May 2010)

I wonder what the numbers would look like if the question “did you give where you intended to give” was asked.

Giving locally also helps to strengthen the community in which you live. It is especially true in these horrid economic times where the philanthropic entities are filling gaps left by the government and the for-profit sector. If the reputable local nonprofits fail - there will be no relief. Additionally, bolstering the local charities boosts the local economy, provides jobs, resources and allows the community to thrive. Stronger neighborhoods result in stronger cities, states and countries. Our ability to help others improves with our own increased strength and solvency.

Please - give to your spcaLA and other local charities.  If you can afford to donate to multiple organizations - please do. If not - please choose your home charity first.

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