I'm going to ignore the greatest type of giving done in America, gifts to religious institutions and talk about other giving.
We give. We give money to food quality groups, advocacy groups, gardening groups, legal groups, local help the helpless groups, arts groups, cultural/history groups, alumni groups and hey-we're-doing-this-cool-thing-and-we-happen-2B-a-nonprofit-groups.
Some money goes to make up for what the local or federal or state government doesn't give, like with alumni groups. Some of our money funds scholarships, so that's less money someone has to take out a loan. Some money helps programs at my (the Help has some negative feelings about his alma mater) old school that aren't funded by the school and probably seem unworthy of fully funding by the people of Florida or Massachusetts. Food stamps are supposed to feed everyone, but they don't. So we give to a program that feeds people on the streets and another that provides families with healthy food options they can cook at home. I know the some arts and cultural programs get a portion of their funding from government sources, but not all, and at some weird times, have their govt funding cut altogether. We give to the museum that the Help is on the board of, they get their basic support from a local government, but to do more programming, that money comes from private sources.
Some money goes to groups who try to get the government to change their mind. I'm thinking of one non-profit that works with refugees and immigrants in the US. I'm also thinking of the bicycling group that tries to get the government to stop hatin' on cyclists with laws and a bureaucratic culture that assumes the cyclist is ALWAYS in the wrong and give us some more bike lanes. I'm thinking of groups that challenge overreach and declined applications for benefits. I'm thinking of gardening groups that might have to fight one part of the local government from seizing and bulldozing over a lot given for community gardening. I'm thinking of food groups that fight a mindset in government given over to big-Ag and junk food.
Then there are the odd-ball groups that do things that would be stupid for the government to do, like Christmas toys for innercity kids, hair for cancer patients (that would be creepy) and crocheted hats for premies.
And almost none of them blow up or kill brown people on the other side of the world in my name, or spy on me or my neighbors, nor do any of the non-profits I give to can put me in jail and take away my property if I don't hand money over to them.