In this wasteful world, anything each of us can do to make an impact counts. Donating gently used items to less fortunate individuals is not only a way to recycle, but it’s also a way to help your community. Just because you no longer need/want/love something, doesn’t mean it should be headed for the landfill. It really is true one’s trash is another’s treasure.
In terms of donation options, it starts with what you’re looking to donate. Then is the daunting tasking of figuring out where to donate. We’ve heard everything from funds being embezzled for lavish vacations to donations being sold at twice their worth. It’s important to do research if you want to donate without worry of your generosity being taken advantage of. Staying local & donating to specific causes tends to be the best bet in avoiding a lot of the unknowns associated with dropping clothes in the yellow box at your grocery store parking lot.
There exists a place on the internet where good intended people can go for reliable information about an easily lied about topic. That place is CharityNavigator.org
Charity Navigator is the largest and most-utilized charity evaluator in America. The organization helps guide intelligent giving by evaluating the Financial Health, Accountability and Transparency of over 9,000 charities and provides basic data on the rest of the 1.8 million U.S. nonprofits. Charity Navigator accepts no advertising or donations from the organizations it evaluates, ensuring unbiased evaluations, nor does it charge the public for this trusted data.
Basically, Financial Health refers to how the organization collects, and allocates funds, and Accountability & Transparency is far more self explanatory — referring to the organization’s visibility to & honesty with the public. After scouring their pages, I have comprised a brief list of the worthy organizations & food for thought for each category of non-cash “donatables”.
(Please note: Donating non-cash items may entitle you to some sort of tax deduction or other financial benefit, as incentive. That being said, try & sell what you have before donating because a lot of the time the monetary donation can go way further than a non-cash donation.)
Clothes – If you’re really looking to donate the clothes themselves, consider: Dress for Success , Clothes to Kids , and others of the like. Charities that accept specific clothing (i.e. Operation Prom) or for specific groups (i.e. National Federation of the Blind) are good options because the items themselves are donated directly to someone. Goodwill and Salvation Army resell donations to then donate the proceeds — after paying all their bills, leading both to suffer in the Financial Health category. While you still purchase items at low cost, these items didn’t cost the store anything in the first place. This is one of the reasons why it is sometimes better to just donate the funds yourself. Apps like Poshmark offer shopaholics the opportunity to share their obsession with others. Poshmark sellers list their items with detail including original price & condition. There’s a negotiation option for Poshmark Buyers & sale prices include the cost of shipping for buyer & seller. The app even offers authentication services for certain listings!
Furniture – Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts furniture, but know they follow the same practice of reselling donations as Goodwill & Salvation Army — which both also accept furniture. While ebay & Craigslist are still undeniably prevalent means of getting rid of & finding whatever, it’s becoming rapidly easier to household items on sites like LetGo & Facebook Marketplace right to your neighbors. If you still want to be charitable, donate that proceeds from the sale instead of the item itself. Unless charities have a specific need for certain pieces of furniture, it usually becomes more of a hassle than a help to drop bulky dated entertainment centers at their loading bay.
Electronics – Electronics post an interesting opportunity & problem within the same breath. As you go back in time, devices increase in size. As we move forward in time, devices increase in frequency. Either way, the amount of electronic waste is relatively ridiculous. In such a technology driven & innovative time, to let slip away all that raw material is beyond irresponsible. In response to this issue, many organizations have come in search of electronic “waste.” In this case, donating the items may be better than selling them. Services like Gazelle can offer you some money, but only for relatively new tech. In 2010, Mashable published “5 Charities for Donating Your Old Electronics” listing organizations that accept these goods for good causes. All five stood the test of time — Reconnect, a partnership between Dell Computers & Goodwill; The Wireless Foundation, the organization that delivered the first AMBER alert to wireless phones; StRUT , a student enrichment program on the west coast; Komputers for Kids, partnered with the Alliance for Technology Refurbishing and Reuse; eBay Giving Works, a charitable extension of the popular resell & retail website — and continue to do their part.
Pets – The farthest you should ever go to donate pet supplies, is your local animal shelter. Every county from sea to shining sea has at least one shelter & it’s likely overcrowded & underfunded. Shelters are constantly in need of donations every day of the year. Generic needs include food, bedding, litter, toys, leashes, blankets & money (for things that cannot be donated — like medication). Specific needs vary from shelter to shelter depending on who they’re housing, when & where, so be sure to look that up too! If (you think) you have nothing to donate, remember your time is just as valuable to these animals as any toy. Human interaction is key to rehabilitating many shelter surrenders & strays. To learn more, consider the ASPCA. #AdoptDontShop
Food – This shouldn’t be donation that includes much travel either — for more obvious reasons. Start by locating the closest Food Bank to you. Areas with denser pockets of poverty, like cities and coastal communities, tend to have more Food Banks than in rural farm country — but poverty can be just as extreme regardless of location. While many organizations make it VERY easy to donate non-perishable food items (& even frozen turkeys & hams) during the holidays — poverty doesn’t take a vacation & there are people in need year round. Many areas rely on Feeding America; Some areas rely on individuals or groups within the community; & The newest trend in food donation & community outreach is little, free pantries. Remember to only donate non-expired non-perishable food items to these organizations as that ensures the food will be used & stored if it can’t be used right away. Many of these facilities do not have refrigerated areas for food because they are non-profit. Again, if (you think) you have nothing to donate, remember your time is just VERY valuable & soup kitchens & homeless shelters are always in need of volunteers.
Cars – Depending on where you live, the need & use for donated cars may be very different. The most noted piece of advice I’ve found is to avoid commercialized calls for car donations & research local options. For example, many Fire Departments will accept vehicles as donation for live training drills. Charity Navigator goes over this topic in full here.
(The above list is comprised of my interpretation of research I’ve done. As with any opinion piece, the information in this is and should be taken subjectively, even is source material is considered objective. Source information is noted as used, for further reference. I do not speak for any of these organizations & none of this content is sponsored.)