How To Donate Your Used Items to Shelters

How To Donate Your Used Items to Shelters

One of the most effective ways to get rid of unwanted items before moving is to donate them to various charities or shelters in your area. Donating is not only a cost-effective way to rid yourself of unwanted possessions but also helps those in need and gives back to the community. However, not all items are suitable for donation, and not all charities accept all types of donations. This quick guide will go over the best charities for your donations and what items are best suited for shelters. 

What Condition Should Items Be in When Donating Them?

Charities and shelters only have use for functioning, clean, undamaged items that contain all respective parts and pieces. If an item does not function properly or is otherwise damaged, the charity will not accept it. Ideally, the items you donate should be new or, at worse, gently used. For items like clothing, avoid donating pieces that are ripped, torn, stained, or filled with holes. For other items like household goods, tools, electronics, and furniture, ensure that all items still work, are not missing important pieces, and are devoid of damage. For single-use or perishable items, ensure that they’re unused and that the original packaging or package seals remain intact. 

What Donation Centers Will Accept Your Items? 

Some locations are more general, accepting just about anything, like Goodwill or The Salvation Army. However, some charities have more specific missions and only accept items that further those causes. For shelters, you should always check ahead of time and ask what items they need, and many shelters will also post wish lists on their websites. 

Here we have listed each category of donatable items and some of the best corresponding charities that accept them. The need for these items can vary depending on location and season, so before heading down to make a drop-off or schedule a donation pickup, check your local branch’s website or shelter’s wish list. 

Clothes 

Clothes are some of the most commonly sought-after items at accepting charities or homeless shelters. Clothing donations include most types of garments, including shirts, pants, jackets, hats, gloves, scarves, etc. Socks, in particular, are sought after by homeless shelters during the winter months. 

  • American Red Cross: The Red Cross has been around since 1881. It specializes in disaster relief, disaster preparedness, and emergency assistance. The Red Cross is a great charity to donate clothing to, as your items will go to families affected by natural disasters or emergencies. You can donate clothing and other items to the Red Cross through its partnered organization, Greendrop.
  • Dress for Success: Dress for Success provides professional, work-appropriate clothing to low-income women. This organization empowers and provides valuable resources to women as they attempt to gain or maintain employment. You can make a donation by contacting a local affiliate
  • One Warm Coat: This organization helps provide free coats to the homeless and those in need. It also spreads awareness of the need for winter clothing and coats. If you want to donate an old winter coat, you can find a nearby location here or organize your own coat drive.

Shoes

Another high-demand item for charities and shelters is shoes. From heavy work boots to children’s shoes, loafers, and sneakers, there is no shortage of need for footwear. So before throwing out your next pair, consider donating to one of these organizations. 

  • Soles4Souls: This organization provides shoes of all kinds to families and individuals in need. It has been around since 2006, and while based in Atlanta, it operates in all 50 states and 127 countries. Soles4Souls accepts just about every kind of footwear, as long as they are new or gently used. You can find donation instructions here.
  • Share Your Soles: This Chicago-based organization has provided over 4 million shoes to those in need for over 20 years. It accepts donations of just about every kind of shoe that is either sent to impoverished areas or sold at a highly reduced price at organized shoe sales. You can visit or mail your shoes to one of these drop-off sites.

Tools

Tools can last a long time but are difficult to pack and transport. So when you’re downsizing for your next move, you can save on time and cut down on cargo weight by donating some of your old tools.  

  • Habitat for Humanity: Also known as Habitat, this organization helps create affordable housing for low-income families and communities. When donating to Habitat, your tools or construction materials will either go directly toward building someone a new home or be sold in a ReStore to fund someone’s new home. You can find a nearby ReStore or drop-off location here.

Food 

Food is one of the most important things you can donate. According to the USDA, just over 10% of American households (13.8 million) experienced food insecurity in 2020. Thankfully, there is no shortage of charities and food banks willing to take your unwanted food and give it to those in need. 

  • Food banks: The best way to donate food is by finding a local food bank. These nonprofit organizations work with local communities to provide food to your neighbors in need. While there are many foodbank repositories online, we like this one
  • Feeding America: Feeding America is a nonprofit organization and a nationwide network of over 200 food banks and over 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. It aims to eliminate food insecurity in America by collecting and distributing those donations through various programs and initiatives. You can find one of its food banks for donations here

Electronics 

While not typically considered needed items, old electronics, like computers and cellphones, are sought after by in-need families, low-income communities, and schools. As a result of this growing need, many charities have sprung up in recent years to collect and distribute electronics. 

  • Human-I-T: Human-I-T is a nonprofit, eco-minded organization that believes access to technology is a right and that we can reduce harmful waste by redistributing old tech. This company provides electronic devices, internet access, training, and support to underprivileged communities. You can review its donation policy and donate here.
  • World Computer Exchange: This organization collects electronic devices like computers, monitors, mice, and keyboards and distributes them to schools in developing countries. It also provides programs in computer literacy, coding skills, and other IT-focused fields to help bridge the digital divide for low-income or developing communities. You can read more about its donation process here.

Toys, Books, Other Media

Donating entertainment media is important for several reasons, such as providing families with accessible Christmas gifts and enriching the lives of children in need. Many organizations accept toys, books, video games, and other kinds of entertainment, but we find the following to be the most reputable. 

  • Toys for Tots: Founded in 1947 by Major Bill Hendricks, this organization is run by the U.S. Marine Corps. It provides new or gently used toys to families that cannot afford to provide Christmas gifts. It accepts toys, stuffed animals, hand-held electronics, and games. You can donate through its official website here
  • Local Libraries: Local libraries are one of the best places to donate books, DVDs, cassettes, or even old video games. You can reach out to your local library and see if it’s currently taking donations or have an available donation box. There are many library-finding websites, but we like this one.

Fitness Equipment 

Moving fitness equipment can be difficult. It’s heavy, bulky, delicate, and complex to assemble and disassemble. However, several charities can take these items off your hands. Before you head down to one of these locations, be sure to call ahead and schedule a drop-off time – this allows the charity the time to prepare the space to move and store the equipment. 

  • The Salvation Army: While the Salvation Army is a general charity, accepting most items as long as they’re in good condition, it’s also one of the best options for donating workout equipment. The Salvation Army can even come to your home and pick up items for you. All you have to do is contact your local branch and schedule a pickup time. You can use its branch locator tool to find the nearest chapter. 
  • One World Running: This charity was formed by a group of runners, including Lorraine Moller, Steve Jones, and Arturo Barrios. It promotes health, fitness, and humanitarian outreach by providing running shoes and fitness equipment to developing countries. You can read up on their donation rules here

Furniture 

A good piece of furniture can make a world of difference to a family in need. With rising inflation, large purchases like a new couch, dresser, or bookcase are out of the question for all too many families. By donating to one of the following charities, you can help an underprivileged household get the furniture it needs while reducing the amount of furniture you need to haul in your next move.

  • Habitat for Humanity: On top of accepting tools and construction materials, Habitat for Humanity also accepts donations of large, bulky, and otherwise cumbersome items. You can go down to your local ReStore and drop off your unwanted furniture or call and have its team come and pick it up at your home.
  • Furniture banks: A furniture bank is an umbrella term used to describe organizations, nonprofits, and social enterprises that resell furniture at a greatly reduced cost. These organizations have existed since the 1970s and can be found across the U.S. and Canada. You can use websites like the Furniture Bank Network to find a nearby location. 

Generalist Charities

If you have an assortment of goods you need to get rid of, you might consider going to a thrift store or homeless shelter. These locations may not accept all items, but they will accept a wider variety than most other specialized charities. 

  • Goodwill: Goodwill is one of the most widespread charities throughout the U.S. It takes in a great variety of household items and resells them at greatly reduced prices. It also provides job training, job experience, job interview prep, and other employment services to those in need. 
  • Homeless shelter: Homeless shelters, or emergency shelters, take in individuals who do not have access to housing or are fleeing their homes (such as in the instance of domestic violence). They accept a large variety of goods but are typically most in need of the following products:
    • Toothbrushes
    • Diapers
    • Toothpaste
    • Baby wipes
    • Linens
    • Toiletries
    • Body washes
    • Deodorant
    • Mattresses
    • Razors
    • Backpacks
    • General personal hygiene products

Final Thoughts

Donating is a great way to get rid of unwanted items while giving back to the community. You can also get a valuable tax deduction for making sizable donations to accredited charities. While the charities in this article are all great, there are many more local organizations that you can donate to, and we recommend thoroughly researching them before donating. 

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