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Why We Give

And the Dos and Don’ts of Giving

By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

Did you know the nonprofit sector contributed an estimated $985.4 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015, composing 5.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product?

Or that the nonprofit sector is the third largest employer in the United States after retail and manufacturing?

Or that total private giving from individuals, foundations, and businesses totaled $427.71 billion (source: Giving USA Foundation 2019), a slight decrease from the 2017 high after adjusting for inflation?

How about  that 30 percent of U.S. adults volunteered in 2018, contributing an estimated 6.9 billion hours, worth $167 billion in economic value based on the Independent Sector’s (a national membership organization that brings together the charitable community to advance the common good) estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour for 2017?

Nonprofit organizations are intended to preserve and protect things that are important, but surpass the scale of burden that any one individual, community or coalition of government agencies can handle alone. That includes the various battles to protect human life against disease, food and water insecurity, homelessness and dispossession. That also includes battles to preserve and protect the environment and all life supported by it.

Just as there are nonprofit organizations intended to protect all life, there are nonprofits to preserve and protect our history and culture; they lift up and provide avenues of enrichment for our children across the spectrum of abilities, or they preserve and protect traditions and practices that would otherwise disappear as time passes.

With that said, there are a lot of scammers out there looking to take advantage of people’s good will. Below are warning signs, dos and don’ts when considering the nonprofits to which to donate.

Warning Signs

  • Pressure to give right now. A legitimate charity will welcome your donation whenever you choose to make it.
  • A thank-you for a donation you don’t recall making. Making you think you’ve already given to the cause is a common trick unscrupulous fundraisers use to lower your resistance.
  • Promises that 100 percent of donations goes to the charity claims to help. All charities have fundraising and administrative costs.


  • Do check how watchdogs like Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance before you make a donation, and contact your state’s charity regulator to verify that the organization is registered to raise money there.
  • Do your own research online. The FTC recommends searching for a charity’s name or a cause you want to support (like “animal welfare” or “homeless kids”) with terms such as “highly rated charity,” “complaints” and “scam.”
  • Do pay attention to the charity’s name and web address. Scammers often mimic the names of familiar, trusted organizations to fool donors.
  • Do ask how much of your donation goes to overhead and fundraising. One rule of thumb is that at least 65 percent of a charity’s total expenses should go directly to serving its mission.
  • Do keep a record of your donations and regularly review your credit card account to make sure you weren’t charged more than you agreed to give or unknowingly signed up for a recurring donation.


  • Don’t give personal and financial information like your Social Security number, date of birth or bank account number to anyone soliciting donations.
  • Don’t make a donation with cash or by gift card or wire transfer. Credit cards and checks are safer.
  • Don’t click on the links in unsolicited email, Facebook or Twitter fundraising messages; they can unleash malware.
  • Don’t donate by text without confirming the phone number on the charity’s official website.
  • Don’t assume pleas for help on social media or on crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe are legitimate. The FTC warns that fraudsters use real victims’ stories and pictures to con people.

Local Charities with known track records

Harbor Interfaith Services Inc.

The mission of Harbor Interfaith Services is to empower the homeless and working poor to achieve self-sufficiency by providing support services including shelter, transitional housing, food, job placement, advocacy, childcare, education, and life-skills training.


Spay Neuter Project Of Los Angeles Inc.

The mission of SNP LA is to substantially reduce animal shelter euthanasia and intake by providing high quality, low-cost veterinary services to underserved communities in the Los Angeles area.


Harbor Community Clinic Inc.

The mission of Harbor Community Clinic is to provide low-cost and no-cost health services to residents with low incomes and those whose employers do not provide health insurance coverage.


Beacon House Association Of San Pedro

The mission of the Beacon House Association of San Pedro is to help men recover from the diseases of alcoholism and addiction to other drugs.


Bettys Foundation For the Elimination of Alzheimer’s Disease

The mission of Bettys Foundation For The Elimination Of Alzheimer’s Disease is to eradicate this disease by raising funds for the most innovative and progressive research programs in the country and raise overall awareness of the difficulties faced by those dealing with the disease.


Toberman Neighborhood Center Inc.

The mission of Toberman Neighborhood Center Inc. is to assist the Harbor Area communities with life-changing services that encourage, inform, educate and empower our families to live healthy and purposeful lives.


Los Angeles Maritime Institute

The mission of the Los Angeles Maritime Institute is to empower youth to discover their greater potential through extraordinary at-sea experiences aboard educational sailing vessels built to equip young people with 21st century leadership skills, and inspire maritime and STEM career paths.


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