Philanthropy has long been ingrained in the lifeblood of the United States. Smithsonian scholar and specialist in the history of giving in America, Amanda B. Moniz, states that “engaged philanthropy is vital to democracy.”
It’s impossible to argue with the numbers. In total, the United States gave $485 billion to nonprofits in 2021, according to Giving USA. One factor that contributes to this remarkable achievement is America’s tax system. As David Malcolm, a San Diego philanthropist, puts it, “Americans have a culture of philanthropy and a tax system that supports it,” providing tax deductions for giving to charities.
The city of San Diego alone has nearly 12,000 501(c)(3) nonprofits, as reported by the University of San Diego Nonprofit Institute. On a national scale, the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) records over 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the United States.
With so many different charitable operations seeking philanthropic support, how does someone decide what causes and organizations to give money, time, or in-kind contributions to in order to benefit society?
“Everyone has their biases, preferences, and pet causes. For me, it is kids and the military, and that is how I decide where to invest,” said David Malcolm. The San Diego philanthropist supports causes close to his heart, which is why he established the David Malcolm Family Trust to give back to gymnasiums, the YMCA, schools, the United States military service members and their families, and more. Malcolm has supported several scholarship initiatives to provide financial aid to the youth, including the David Malcolm Scholarship and The San Diego Foundation Community Scholars. He also supports organizations that strive to be a positive influence for younger generations, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and Urban Youth Collaborative.
Malcolm has also helped others bring their philanthropic visions to reality. Malcolm assisted in bringing to life the Bashor family’s charitable wishes by negotiating a $16 million gift to the San Diego Zoo on behalf of Dianne Bashor. With her donation, Mrs. Bashor was able to honor her late husband, Jim Bashor, a U.S. Army serviceman. The gift funded the zoo’s construction of the Bashor Bridge, free admission for active-duty military, and earlier opening hours specifically for wounded warriors to navigate and enjoy the zoo without struggling against the crowds.
“The San Diego Zoo and the Bashors found themselves in a perfect win-win situation with the Bashor gift. The zoo takes pride in waiving fees for men and women in military uniform and seeks to help the U.S. military, one of San Diego’s largest employers. Jim Bashor also wanted to aid his fellow service members,” said Malcolm.
In Malcolm’s experience, the decision of where to direct charitable support involves alignment between the philanthropist and the nonprofit organization. Donors should first think about subjects that personally resonate, such as social issues, problems to solve, and ideals to achieve.
Next, philanthropists should make an effort to ensure that their support is effective. That means doing the research effort to find organizations that have good reputations, track records, metrics, and financial accountability. When making donations, it is better to set sights on fewer quality nonprofits rather than the number of organizations supported. As Malcolm says, do not “scatter-shot” with financial contributions.
As Malcolm believes, when it comes to charitable giving, the world is round; what goes around comes around. The act of giving generates uplifting spirits for the giver while they and the organization help to create improvements the world needs. So, when choosing what organizations and causes to support, donors should ask themselves: How do I want to make the world a better place?
About David Malcolm
With a five-decade track record of excellence in the real estate industry, David Malcolm is the President of Cal West Apartments in San Diego, CA, which has provided financing and homes for thousands of residential and commercial clients. He has also served in several civic offices and is a generous contributor to many public and private organizations.