It’s the number-one call we get: “Where can I donate…?” At least once a week, someone tries to stump us with an item they want to give away.
Well, we’re happy to help!
Your first thought may be to drive it over to Goodwill, and that would be great! They accept almost any household item, clothing, books and media, toys, and anything you’d find in a garage or attic. But maybe you’d like to explore an alternative to Goodwill.
See below for a list of places that accept donated items, but first, review these general guidelines for donating stuff:
1. DO GIVE ITEMS IN CLEAN AND WORKING CONDITION. Clothing should be free of holes, stains and too much wear and tear. No hazardous waste. And no junk: A box of random Tupperware lids, for example, probably won’t benefit anyone.
2. DON’T DONATE A BURDEN. If it’s large, they must consider where to store it before it’s used. If it doesn’t fit their clients or mission – an old sewing machine to the animal shelter, for example – now your donation becomes something a staff person has to deal with… rather than having a client being what they have to deal with.
3. DO GIVE OFFICE FURNITURE AND SUPPLIES that the staff of the nonprofit can use. The staff at most mid-sized nonprofits are working with rickety office chairs, noisy printers and limited supplies of pens, copy paper … even cleaning products and coffee. You would be surprised at how grateful a nonprofit office staff can be over a donation of good coffee. But again, do not give a burden. Call first and make sure it’s something they can actually use.
(I worked for a nonprofit once that had one of those furniture-sized televisions in the hallway, taking up space because someone dropped it off as a “donation.” Uh, no thanks.)
4. DON’T TELL THEM HOW TO USE IT. Even if they do want it and need it, they may have other plans for how to leverage it.
6. DO DONATE TO A SCHOOL. Public schools accept school supplies, tissues, hand sanitizer, children’s clothing and other things all school-year long. And non-chain preschools might accept these items and others like toys or prizes leftover from your child’s party.
5. DO DONATE A VEHICLE. Not all nonprofits are equipped to accept your car or boat, but it’s worth asking. Check out these tips for donating a car to charity. Side note: The Austin Community Foundation can also help you donate real estate. What a great way to unload property without going through the sales process. Read more about how that can work here.
6. DON’T EXPECT TO GIVE IT DIRECTLY TO PERSON IN NEED. Most nonprofits are bound to protect their clients and families and not identify them as “people in need” to maintain their privacy and protect them against predators.
7. DO SCHEDULE A PICK-UP. Some do pick-ups (Salvation Army), but you may have to call and make arrangements.
8. DON’T GIVE TO A FOR-PROFIT. Also, be aware that stores like Savers and ThriftTown buy donated items from the nonprofits like Easter Seals that received them. It’s all on the up-and-up, but maybe not quite how you would expect it to work. Some of the sales from your items might go to help someone in need, but most doesn’t. Also, watch for those “donation boxes” in parking lots. Again, there are lots of businesses out there making profits off your “donations” – and they’re not a nonprofit.
9. DO EXPECT A RECEIPT AND A THANK YOU. Remember, the fair market value of every item you donate can count toward a tax deduction if you itemize your taxes and if the amount you donate over the year substantially effects your return.
10. CONSIDER ONE OF THESE OTHER WAYS TO GIVE YOUR STUFF AWAY…
What do I do with…is a page on the City of Austin website that lets you type in a thing and then find out how to donate, recycle or get rid of it.
Freecycle.org is an online message board that lets you post (and search for) items that you just want to give away.
Find and join a local Buy Nothing group on Facebook. Basically, it’s a message board that lets you post things you want to give away as well as things you need. The Austin area has about 20 different groups, since it’s by neighborhood, so search for your group, join it, and post your item.
Austin Creative Reuse accepts donations of any bunch of stuff that could be considered arts-and-crafty.
Austin Materials Marketplace facilitates the exchange of building materials between businesses.
See the comments below for even more ideas and advice!
ACCEPTING GENERAL DONATIONS
Treasure City Thrift (supports Inside Books Project and other local nonprofits)
Top Drawer Thrift (supports Project Transitions)
Appliances and Building Materials/Recycled House Fixtures
Art Supplies, Art Materials
SAFE Austin (formerly SafePlace)
Clothing – Women’s professional clothing, shoes, bags
Most public schools accept clothing for their “clothes closets” for students
See General Donations above, specifically those with thrift stores
Home Items, Cleaners, Paper Goods
Medical supplies, equipment, wheelchairs
Pet Items, old towels, blankets
Photography and Video Equipment
School & Office Supplies
Have we missed any? Please add them in the comments below and we’ll update our list.