Making sure your charity donations go to the right place

Lesson 9: Free online downsizing course

Some people are worried about whether or not their donations are going to the “right place” when they donate to large charities.

People are sometimes concerned about:

  • Their donation going to someone who needs it
  • The chance of their donation ending up in landfill
  • The commercialisation of the charity sector

The aim of this lesson is to go through the different considerations when it comes to donating to large charities vs other options, so that you can make an informed decision on which types of charities you might donate particular items to.

Large charities do spend money on disposing of donated items

Every year, the large charities spend millions of dollars on items going to landfill. This is largely due to inappropriate donations and donations being left out in the weather.

Many people (including myself at times!) can be over-generous and donate items that should go in the rubbish bin, rather than to charity.

Items of clothing that are looking worn, plastic items which have suffered UV damage and any other items that are “well past their prime” are not worth donating, even if they are much-loved items.

It may be helpful to consider the idea of picturing the end user of the item being a friend or a relative, and asking yourself if you would feel comfortable gifting that item to your friend or relative.

Finding direct end users can be rewarding but difficult

It’s a really common desire to try to find a direct end user for a much beloved possession.

I love the feeling of knowing that a rocking chair is going to a nursing mother in vulnerable circumstances or that an outdoor dining setting is going to a men’s halfway house.

However, most specialist charities (especially in the case of natural disasters or overseas initiatives) will greatly prefer money over physical donations of items.

Where they do accept physical items, they will often only accept new items. For example, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation only accepts new books so that the kids feel equal to any Australian primary school student.There are three fairly effective avenues for re-homing items to direct end users:

  1. GIVIT (a website where individual charities will post requests for items)
  2. Street pantries (for food and essential items) and street libraries (for books)
  3. Buy nothing Facebook groups (where you can offer items to people in your local area)

These can be quite time consuming, but may be worth exploring for items you can’t bear to part with otherwise.

There are also occasionally charities who will accept donations of niche items. My favourite two are: Guitars Gathering Dust, which collects guitars for disadvantaged kids, and the Tech Shed, who refurbish computers for purchase by concession card holders.

Valuing your time

At the end of the day, your time is a really precious commodity and a downsizing project is large.

In my opinion, a whole-home downsizing project is too large to try to find individual homes for each type of item.

In doing so, a planned relocation or decluttering project may take much longer than anticipated, and you may run out of steam part way through the process.

It may not be possible to find direct end users for the thousands of items you might come across in a whole home downsizing project.

Good causes who can take a variety of items

The good news is that there are charities and organisations in Australia who do take a variety of items and sell them to raise money for good causes.

After facilitating sales of items of value, we will commonly use the Salvation Army for clothes and some household items, Lifeline for books, and The Green Shed (the tip shop in Canberra) for hard-to-place items.

These three (Salvos, Lifeline and the tip shop) are invaluable outlets who take a very wide variety of items and raise money for charitable initiatives, saving countless items from going to landfill.

Salvos and Lifeline will also pick up from your home, also saving in transportation time and costs.

After all, who else will come and collect your surplus items for free?

I feel we’re lucky to have this service available to us and that, together with supporting your favourite causes, these outlets play a crucial role in a downsizing project.

Next lesson: An argument for the tip shop

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