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SC Sec. of State: ‘Give from the heart, but please give smart’ this holiday season

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 6:54 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 26, 2021 at 4:22 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Each year, Americans collectively donate hundreds of billions of dollars to charity, with much of that giving during the holiday season, according to the National Philanthropic Trust.

With the season of giving now underway, Secretary of State Mark Hammond is advising South Carolinians, “Give from the heart, but please give smart.”

Hammond said people should research before opening their wallets or checkbooks, as some organizations hire professional fundraisers, a cost that can eat up much of the money they receive in donations.

“Those contracts are filed in the Secretary of State’s Office, and on those contracts, on average, the professional fundraiser gets 85% of the contribution, and then there’s other charges that they may charge to the organization, so sometimes, organizations will only get maybe 15% or 10% of the contributions donated,” Hammond said.

People can look up organizations through the Secretary of State’s public database to find out how much of their expenses were allocated to program services in their most recent year’s filings. They can also call the Division of Public Charities at 1-888-CHARITI or email the division to learn more about an organization before they give.

“Unfortunately, there are organizations that would like to take advantage of our generosity,” Hammond said.

Each year, the Secretary of State’s Office highlights “Angels,” South Carolina charities that make the most of their donations by dedicating at least 80% of their money to charitable programs and services. Those organizations also must meet other criteria to be Angels, including making good use of volunteer services and having a significant presence in South Carolina.

Among this year’s 15 Angels was the Free Medical Clinic of Columbia, which has been providing primary care, specialty care, and prescription services to thousands of South Carolinians without health coverage for nearly 40 years.

“That’s the bulk of our operating budget is donations and fundraisers,” said Dr. Todd Crump, who volunteers as the clinic’s medical director.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, the Free Medical Clinic puts its donations to good use, dedicating more than 94% of its money to charitable programs and services last year.

“I’ve seen the books here,” Crump said. “I know that we are very good stewards of the gifts that we are given, and we have to be because we have stretched a dollar very tight in order to meet the need because there’s such a need out there.”

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