Imagine for a moment that you’re a 20-something female who lives in downtown Chicago. You live in an apartment that was big enough for you when you moved into it, but over the last year you’ve accumulated so much stuff that it’s starting to feel too small. You decide to get rid of clutter and you head to your closet to see what can be purged there.
You end up collecting two garbage bags full of clothes that are in good condition and can be worn again by women in need of casual and business clothing. You decide that a women’s shelter would be a great place to take your clothes.
You visit one women’s shelter and they don’t want your things. Then you go to a second and they won’t accept them either. You decide to pick up the phone and see if a third shelter will take your clothes, but no luck. Finally, on your fourth attempt, you reach a women’s shelter that is interested in your clothing. As you drive to the fourth shelter, you think about how you never imagined giving away nice clothes was going to be such a difficult task.
The above scenario is exactly what happened when one of our readers tried to donate clothes to Chicago-based women’s shelters. What was it that was wrong with her clothes? Why didn’t the women’s shelters want her things? The shelters didn’t want her clothes because they were sizes 4 and 6, and the shelters needed clothes in sizes 12 and larger. They appreciated her offer, but couldn’t accommodate the donation.
Right product, wrong size.
My community is currently holding a book drive for the area prisons. I planned on donating a bunch of fiction books to it until I realized that the book drive was for specific types of books: atlases, textbooks, and travel guides. I haven’t owned any of these types of books in years, so my fiction books are still on my shelves waiting to be donated to the next library book sale.
Many charity shop locations don’t accept electronics or exercise equipment. Unless a public library runs an annual book sale to raise money, they may not want your book donations. Many food pantries are only interested in specific types of dried and canned goods.
The lesson in all of this is that you should pick up the phone and call your local charities or research them online before making donations. Investing the time up front to learn what your community needs will save you from driving around town and giving yourself a headache. Also, the needs of charities change over time, so don’t assume that just because they accepted or didn’t accept one kind of good in the past means that they will continue to need or not need it in the future.
Finally, if you can’t find an organization in your community that needs your donations, jump online and research national organizations. As is the case with electronics, there are numerous national groups that will accept what your local charities may not be able to accommodate.
On a sort of related note … this cartoon makes me smile.
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.