At Charity Navigator we receive questions every day from generous donors looking to donate noncash items to a worthy cause. Below are the steps we recommend taking in order to maximize the impact of your noncash contribution.
Step 1: Determine whether or not the items you wish to donate are useful.
Most charities can only make use of items that are new, unused, or nearly new. If you don't have any use for your old, tattered couch, rusty washing machine, or other used item, chances are neither will a charity. Similarly, a timeshare that has turned out to be a bad investment for you won't do much to help out a worthy charity. If you think that the items you wish to donate may be of use to someone else proceed to Step 2.
Step 2: Consider selling your items and donating the proceeds to charity.
By donating cash instead of goods you allow charities greater flexibility in spending the money so that it reaches the people or animals that need it the most. When you sell the items yourself you also eliminate the for-profit middleman that can take a big cut of the money intended for charity. When you sell the items yourself you also unburden charities of any time and money they would have to spend on selling or refurbishing the items, allowing them to spend more resources directly fulfilling their missions. Finally, by selling the items yourself, you know the exact value of the donation you can report to the IRS and don't have to worry about estimating the amount for your tax returns.
Online auction sites such as eBay or classified ads such as craigslist are good places to sell your new and used items. You could also get your friends and neighbors together for a multi-family garage sale, and donate the proceeds to a local charity. Whether or not you decide to sell your items and donate the cash, or you still think your items may be of use to a charity in need, proceed to Step 3 to find the right charity to accept your generous support.
Step 3: Start locally to find the right charity.
In order to avoid transportation costs that can lower the impact of your donation, look first in your local community to find a charity to support with your noncash contribution. Call around and ask charities if they accept the kind of items you are looking to donate, and if they don't find out if they have any suggestions of a charity that does.
You can use Charity Navigator's database to find a charity in your local area that might be interested in donated goods by using our advanced search feature and searching for charities within your state, city, or within a set radius from your zip code. Within the results list you can also click on "Re-sort by: Overall Rating" to see these charities listed from highest to lowest rated. Once you see a few efficient charities that you think may be interested in your donated goods you can use the contact information provided on their ratings page to discuss with them how you might be able to arrange such an donation.