Watch out for those mystery bins in parking lots around Austin

Goodwill Industries of Central Texas is one of the largest Goodwill’s in the world, and there’s a reason for that, says Gerald Davis, president of Austin’s Goodwill. “Austin donors are some of the most generous in the country.”

But recent donations to Goodwill are down 11 percent. Unfortunately, this drop hits at a time when demand for Goodwill’s services is up 57 percent.

Are Austinites donating less stuff this year? Maybe. But there might be another factor – those donation bins in parking lots around the city. Unfortunately, the stuff you put in some bins around the city is not necessarily going to the charities listed on the bins. A number of bins are placed by for-profit resellers who have entered into agreements with charities to share a small percentage of sales in exchange for allowing them to use their name on the bin. Some of the resellers aren’t even located in Texas.

It’s a practice for which the Texas Legislature passed SB 776, which requires disclosure of such agreements to be written on the bin. It also imposes a fine of up to $2,000 for each violation. The law goes into effect on September 1, 2009.

“This is part of the problem,” says Davis. “Austin’s great because rather than throw out their stuff, they look to donate it. But it has to be convenient. So in trying to fulfill our mission, we’re also trying to fight these bins.”

The lesson is the same as with all donations to nonprofits: Make sure you know how your donation is being used.

To locate a genuine drop-off point for your unwanted clothes and household items, look at this map.

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1 Comment on Watch out for those mystery bins in parking lots around Austin

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