Do You Know the Dos and Don’ts of Donating Household Goods to Charity?

Donating household goods to charity is a great way to help others while cutting down on household clutter and saving cash. Did you know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to donate your used stuff to charity? Make sure you’re donating the right stuff to the right charities, at the right times and in the right places, by following these dos and don’ts of donating household goods.


Do Research Different Charities

Before you decide where to donate your used household stuff, find out more about the charity organizations in your area. Look into them to make sure they’re legitimate. If you’re planning to drop your used goods into a drop-box, you should be aware that these boxes aren’t always put out by charity organizations; many of them are associated with for-profit businesses that will take your used items and sell them for whatever they can get, without sending a dime to charity. Call the number on the bin to make sure your used household goods are really going to benefit the needy.

Researching local charities also gives you a feel for what different organizations actually need at the time. Go the extra mile and extend your research beyond the big-name charities, to local churches, homeless shelters and other organizations. Your neighborhood church might need goods to help a family whose house has burned down, or a local homeless shelter might be grateful to accept donated linens or towels.

Don’t Donate Damaged, Dirty or Broken Goods

When you donate used goods to charity, make sure they’re gently-used goods. If you don’t want that broken lamp or torn sweatshirt, why would a needy person want it? Donating dirty and damaged items doesn’t improve anyone’s life; it just costs charities extra money and time to discard the items. Make sure the stuff you donate is in working order, unless it’s a car or boat; charities that accept larger items like these typically sell them for cash, and they can usually get a good amount out of them even if they’re not in great shape or not running at all.

Do Get a Receipt

You can claim a tax deduction for donating used household goods, but you need a receipt. You should ask for one even if you’re not planning to get a tax deduction. You might change your mind come tax season and decide to take that deduction anyway.

Don’t Donate Items that Your Charity of Choice Doesn’t Accept

Many charities that accept household items are very specific about which kinds of items they’ll accept, and some don’t accept household items at all. If your favorite medical charity prefers cash gifts, everyone involved will be better off if you just stick to writing a check. Donating unacceptable items just forces charities to dispose of the stuff themselves, which is a waste of resources that could go to those in need.

Do Schedule a Home Pickup

If your favorite charity is willing to come to your home to pick up your stuff, take them up on it. Just make sure you have the stuff ready when they arrive, so they don’t have to wait.

Don’t Make Drop-Offs After-hours

Don’t make after-hours drop-offs of your household goods unless the charity has the facilities to accommodate you, like a drop box that’s sheltered from the elements and protected from thieves. Otherwise, stuff you drop-off after closing could end up stolen, strewn all over or sodden with rain.

Don’t Expect the Charity to Assign Value to Your Items

You can take a tax deduction for the cash value of your donated items, but don’t expect the charity to assign a value to your stuff. This is your responsibility, and not something you should ask the charity to do. The most you can expect from the charity is a receipt that itemizes the things you’ve donated.

When you donate household goods to charity, you can get rid of some extra clutter and help the less-fortunate while saving money. Whether you want to de-clutter your closets or you’re low on funds, it’s a great way to make a difference. Just make sure you’re following the proper protocol for donating household goods so that everyone wins.

About the Author: Contributing blogger Denise Abernathy has worked in non-profits for over 20 years.


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