Give Wisely This Holiday Season

December 18, 2009

Los Angeles:  Charities step up their soliciting during each holiday season, but this year they will be even more aggressive for your support. The lagging economy has also led to a sharp rise in the number of charities nationwide.
But if you are like most Angelenos, you have fewer dollars to spend. Selecting charities will not be easy.

To make sound decisions takes knowledge. However, do you really know your charity?  Are you aware of the actual services it provides?  Do you know the ratio of money it spends on those services versus administrative costs?  The Charitable Services Section of the Los Angeles Police Commission wants Angelenos to give, but advises that you Give Wisely. Take the following steps to avoid becoming a victim of charitable fraud:

The Los Angeles Municipal Code requires that all solicitors who solicit tax deductible donations within the City of Los Angeles possess a Police Commission Information Card. Written solicitations are also required to include a copy of the Information Card. This card contains information about your charity, which includes an address, telephone number and contact name, as well as the dates the charity is permitted to solicit. The card also states the dollar amounts the charity reportedly collected and the expenses incurred for a similar event in the past.

Evaluate the charity

If you do not know the charity, ask the following questions before giving.

1.    Are the charity’s expenses unreasonably high? How much revenue actually goes toward the cause. Look at the Information Card for the results of a past event, request a financial statement from the charity itself or check its Federal Form 990.
2.    Is the charity legitimate? Check with the Charitable Services Section of the Police Commission or the State of California Attorney General’s Office (see below for information).
3.    Does the solicitor possess a valid Information Card? Contact the charity to verify the solicitor. Beware of names that sound alike – check with the agency they claim to represent. Alert your local police station if they are soliciting illegally.
4.    Will the charity accept noncash payments? It is recommended that you donate with a check or credit card. However, it is best not to give personal information over the telephone.

Contact the Police Commission Charitable Services Section

The Police Commission Charitable Services Section is here to assist with your questions this holiday season, and throughout the year.  The section may be reached at 213-996-1260.

For further information about Giving Wisely, or the Los Angeles Municipal Code Ordinance governing charities, visit the Charitable Services Section Web site at Search for “charitable” and click on “Charitable Services Section.”

Additional Resources

 Connect to the California State Attorney General’s Web site at  to obtain additional information regarding a charity.