Clearing Clutter? Use These Tips to Find a Worthy Charity.
When it comes to clearing away clutter, sometimes our intended help does more harm than good. Especially if you’re not sure of the best pet charity to donate to, or which charities are actually designed to drive profits— not care for people.
Much like shopping on Etsy, responsible giving requires a bit of research to make sure your people- and pet-donation items have a real impact. Because those items you think are helping your community may end up lining the pockets of a CEO, or being sold to developing countries.
Here's how to make the most of your people- and pet-donation items— and to help only the most worthy charities:
Skip the Donation Bins
While filling your gas tank or heading out of the grocery store parking lot, you’ve probably seen “donation” bins conveniently waiting to accept your gently used clothing and home items. These bins seem like a great idea. And they’re so convenient!
Unfortunately, the organizations who own the bins are profiting from them. And your old sweaters might end up baled and shipped to a developing country, where they’ll be sold for a gross profit.
In fact, in 2014, the New York City Council introduced legislation that would keep the donation bins from popping up all over the city. Those new regulations required that the individuals who run these “charities” would have to start registering the bins and providing an annual report outlining just how much they take in.
One of the more popular “charities” guilty of placing the bins is Planet Aid. Charity Watch investigated the truth behind their giving (or lack thereof). Further investigation found that they may be connected to a cult-like group whose leader is running from the FBI. Throughout that investigation, enough questions were raised that I just won’t donate to them. And I hope you won’t either!
And by the way, those nonprofit donation pickups that happen at your house— you know, the ones that send you a plastic bag in the mail? They're doing the same thing.
Our Favorite Places to Donate
1. Local "Buy Nothing" or Freecycle Groups
Donate anything and everything!
The phrase "one person's trash is another person's treasure" is so truly accurate when it comes to your local Buy Nothing groups on Facebook. This is a great place to start when you have items that may not be a good fit for any of the other options listed below.
2. Animal Shelters
Great for old towels, sheets, blankets, pet beds, collars, leashes, and pet coats.
Your local animal shelters are the best pet charity to donate to in your area. While shelters may not always advertise their needs, these items will be much appreciated here, especially in winter! You can find a shelter near you by checking out Shelter Animals Count.
Fun fact: Our local Blue Ridge Wildlife Rescue loves reusing plastic takeout food containers - the rectangular or round plastic with clear lids.
Great for women's professional clothing.
This is a wonderful organization that provides gently used office-appropriate clothing items to women who are working to improve their lives. A clean, professional outfit can mean the difference between landing a job that takes care of you and your family, or being trapped in unemployment. And I don’t know about you, but I believe every woman deserves every chance to earn a livable wage in a safe, healthy environment.
4. Homeless Outreach Centers & Shelters
Great for hotel-size toiletries, old casual clothing, and shoes.
All of our excess toiletries, wearable old casual clothes, and shoes go to our local outreach center where they provide showers, meals, and counseling assistance to those experiencing homelessness. The shelters in your area can always use whatever extra supplies you have available.
5. Local Charity “Clothes Closets”
Great for nicer casual clothing, office attire, housewares, linens in good condition, and children’s goods.
I donate these things to our local charity-run “Clothes Closet” which lets families in need “shop” for free. I prefer this over taking things to the local thrift store because I know the clothes closet isn’t profiting from selling our items.
6. Domestic Violence Shelters
Great for work clothing, household items, and children’s items.
These organizations help women and children in one of the most difficult situations life can throw at them. Often, when these women flee a dangerous relationship, they don’t have time to take anything but their children. The domestic violence shelter provides them with clothing, children’s toys, and even household items when they find a safe place to stay. For women forced to start over, this is a true lifesaver.
7. Local Schools
Great for art supplies, craft supplies, fabric, and musical instruments.
Many public school art teachers will gladly take old art, craft, and fabric supplies for use in their classrooms. And music teachers will often take old instruments and sheet music, as budgets for these programs are notoriously small.
Whatever you do, watch Out For Unique Thrift and Savers!
Unique Thrift is a popular donation-based “thrift store” chain. And while it appears to be helping the communities where it operates, it’s owned by the billion-dollar retail company, Savers. There are many other corporations masquerading as charity thrift stores like this.
If you look closely, you’ll see their website states, “We're a for-profit company that champions reuse. Shopping in our stores doesn't support any nonprofit.”
They boast that they’re saving clothing from landfills. But they’re actually a billion-dollar, for-profit business selling the inventory you’ve just given them for free.
They donate a meager amount to local charities in order to state that they’re “giving back.” But in California, for example, they donate as little as 0.2% of their profits!
To all my discerning pet parents out there, just say no!
These sites take the guesswork out of finding the best charity to donate to.
Both Charity Watch and Charity Navigator help you find organizations in your area that will take your well-loved but still fabulous clothing, furniture, household items, and pet donation items. And, because they’ve thoroughly vetted every charity, you can rest easier knowing that your donation helped those in need in your community.
For a little extra clutter-clearing inspiration, check out these resources:
- Charity Watch - Tips for Giving Wisely
- Charity Navigator - When to Donate
- Charity Navigator - Guide to Donating Noncash Items
- Charity Navigator - Questions to Ask Charities Before Donating
And one last parting thought. Before you drop off that box, have you asked yourself these 4 simple questions?
We may not be able to change the whole world. But by donating smartly, we can make our little corner of it a better, brighter, and safer place. Won’t you join me in clearing clutter responsibly this season?
Title image credit: Laura Metzler Photography