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Contributions to Charities

July 30, 1994

Your article "Charities Find L.A. Is a Challenge" (July 20) paints only part of the philanthropic picture. The survey neglected to measure the significant contributions of volunteers and in-kind donations, which are worth their weight in gold to the nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles.

Without these kinds of contributions, the Venice Family Clinic would not have been able to function as the largest free clinic in the country, now in its 25th year. Volunteer medical professionals alone provide over half the clinic's 51,000 annual patient visits made by the working poor and homeless.

Recently we were chosen from a national pool of 5,000 nominations to receive the President's Volunteer Action Award from President Clinton for the involvement of almost 2,500 volunteers. Of the 21 organizations selected, five were located in or near Los Angeles.

We have found that when the availability of monetary contributions becomes more limited, our donors are more concerned about how much of each dollar they give actually goes to pay for the purpose it was given--namely, direct patient care. That's why the involvement of volunteers and in-kind donors is so important. They allow us to maximize the cash support we do receive.

JEFFREY J. CATANIA, Development Director, Venice Family Clinic

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Your article dealing with the poor showing for charitable gift giving in Los Angeles (ranked 48th) omits a major consideration of how Angelenos give. On an almost daily basis, I am asked for change from an apparently homeless person. Unequivocally, I donate between $3 and $5 weekly to various people seeking money for food, shelter, and probably, alcohol and drugs. You cannot get out of your car in the Los Angeles area at a grocery, pharmacy, convenience store, etc., without someone asking for money. Not always, but frequently, I give something.

When I receive a solicitation in the mail for the charities I regularly gave to in years past, today I consider what I have already given directly to the "people's" version of the United Way, etc. If middle-class direct contributions were factored into the study of our "stingy" habits, I am certain the ranking of Angelenos would be much higher than the study reports.

MISCHELLE MARTIN, Los Angeles

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Susan Moffat's article was excellent reporting on a topic infrequently and, often, inadequately covered.

There was one dimension of philanthropy, however, not covered: Planned or endowed giving. This type of giving--where a donor gives funds that are managed by a charitable organization to generate income that is distributed as grants for social services--is an increasingly important funding source for charities that previously survived on annual fund-raising campaigns.

Over the next 20 years, an estimated $7 trillion is expected to pass from one generation to the next. In the process, a significant portion of this wealth will be given to philanthropic organizations--both as a result of estate planning and the strong commitment to philanthropy that many have.

A donor working with philanthropic organizations such as the Jewish Community Foundation or the California Community Foundation has choices and flexibility--in the assets used to fulfill charitable commitments, charitable vehicles, ability to direct charitable gifts to specific agencies, causes or populations, ability to continue philanthropic involvements into future generations, the timing of gifts during their lifetimes or after--that are very appealing to a person with a desire to fulfill a philanthropic vision.

MARVIN I. SCHOTLAND, Executive Vice President, Jewish Community Foundation, Los Angeles

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