This list can help you help others

With 30,000 charities in Southern California, and 300,000 nationwide, finding a group that needs your money, time, in-kind contributions or other help isn’t hard.

But finding one that should get your contributions, whether it’s $25 or $25 million, 20 hours of volunteer time or 20 gallons of surplus paint, is an entirely different matter. Oh, sure, you need to find a cause that resonates with you — but just as important is finding an organization that addresses that cause well.

The simplest way to find such a group is through an umbrella organization such as the California Community Foundation, Entertainment Industry Foundation, Motion Picture Fund, Academy Foundation, Fulfillment Fund or Actors Fund. All these orgs take contributions, then distribute them to charities they’ve closely scrutinized.

But such an umbrella approach may lack the focus you’d like in your giving. You may want to target more narrowly your contributions, meaning you need to know more about the group to which you’ll give.

Once you find an appealing organization, ask for copies of the detailed paperwork it must keep to qualify as what the Internal Revenue Service calls a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity. Ask for the its annual report and the annual IRS Form 990 report, which details executive pay, spending on overhead versus actual services and other useful information. If the organization can’t provide copies of these documents, or prove it’s a legal nonprofit, go elsewhere with your money.

After reviewing these documents, ask the group’s director or development officer how many people it serves, and what impact its programs are having. Basically, you want to get some bang for your bucks.

“If an organization can’t tell you that in two sentences, keep your money,” says Lisa Paulsen, the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s CEO. “Find an organization that can demonstrate to you, with appropriate documentation, how they’re serving their constituents.”

That said, here are some organizations that may be worth your contributions. Happy giving.

- David Bloom

Main | Activism/Human Rights | Environment/Animals | Food Banks/Relief | Health/Disabilities | Youth

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