Thinking of Making a Gift to Charity on Giving Tuesday? Please do, but not Before Some Important Advice from USD’s Nonprofit Institute

Nonprofit leaders tell us that, now more than ever, our neighbors in San Diego need support for services such as housing, food, and healthcare. However, as demand grows, so does the need for more resources. In the spirit of Giving Tuesday, The Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego urges you to make a charitable donation to a local nonprofit but be careful and prepared before you do.

Make your list and check it twice. Have a plan for your charitable giving. Decide which charities you want to support throughout the year, determine how much you want to give, and then stick to that plan. Having a plan makes it easier to say no to all the door to door solicitors who come knocking or groups who set up tables outside stores and coffee shops asking for help at this time of year. While their stories can really pull at your heart strings in the moment, these may or may not always be legitimate charities. Planning ensures you have the time you need to properly research and select your charities and makes it easier to say no when asked in the spur of the moment. Of course, you may want to be able to give when emergencies like natural disasters occur, so simply include that kind of giving in your plan.

Be wary AND bright. While the majority of nonprofits are very reputable and do great work, there are occasionally some individuals or groups that misuse or fraudulently solicit donations. As a minimum requirement, expect most legitimate nonprofits to have a physical business location with a mailing address, a website, a tax-ID number and a letter of determination from the IRS stating they are a tax-exempt organization. In California, nonprofit organizations will also be registered with the State Attorney General. No matter how compelling the cause, if they do not have these items… find a different charity to support - there are many good ones out there!

To avoid getting involved with a fake charity, I suggest people give to organizations where they have some connection.  Give to charities where you or someone you know has been helped, somewhere you have volunteered, or you know the people involved. Additionally, charity watchdog groups such as Charity Navigator, Guidestar, and the BBB’s Be Wise Giving Alliance, can also provide donors with useful information.

Gifts with bows are lovely, gifts with strings attached are not so nice. Donors often want to have a say in how their charitable gift is used. However, donations that come with too many restrictions can actually make a charity less efficient. Nonprofit professionals are experts in their fields and flexible funding lets them deploy resources right where they are most needed. In most cases, it is acceptable to direct your gift to existing programs but making too many special demands can diminish the usefulness of your gift.

Don’t be Grinchy. Be willing to pay for the full costs of providing services. Some donors believe that their gifts should not be used for administrative costs or overhead. The prevailing perception that overhead in charities is somehow “bad” has led many nonprofits to actually under-invest in their organizations. When nonprofits are not properly resourced, their ability to maximize the impact of your gift may be limited.


About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD recently concluded our successful $317M Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represented the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.


Lissette Martinez
(619) 260-4659