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    Donation Bins vs. Donation Centers: Does it Matter Where I Give?

    Donation bins and donation centers are valid avenues for giving goods. Donation bins may be a more convenient option, but they also require more due diligence.

    It’s time for you to clear your closet of clothing that doesn’t suit you anymore, get rid of that kitchen appliance you only used once, and do away with the other odds and ends cluttering up your space. You want those items out of your home, but you don’t want them to end up in a landfill, so you’re going to donate them to extend their life and support a charity. There’s a donation bin in the parking lot of your local grocery store. That seems like the perfect place to drop off your donation without making an extra stop. But is it just as good as a donation center? Maybe. 

    There are many donation bins run by legitimate charities doing good work in their communities. For these organizations, donation bins provide an easy way for would-be donors to make their contributions when and where it is convenient for them. Unfortunately, there are for-profits taking advantage of the model as well. These companies set up bins that look just like charitable donation bins, but they may donate only a small portion of the proceeds to charities, and some may not give anything at all. It is important for donors to check into the organization hosting the box before making donations to ensure that goods go to the intended cause.



    Steps for Donating Goods


    Select your donation location: Search Charity Navigator to find and vet organizations in your area that accept donations. Charity Navigator only provides ratings for public charities, so you can feel confident that any rated organization you find is not a for-profit company masquerading as a charity. In addition to ensuring that your donation is going to a charity, ratings can help you choose organizations that are the most efficient and effective. 


    Learn the charity’s requirements: Not all organizations accept all types of donations. Once you have chosen a destination for your donation, look up their donation requirements and respect them. Donation bins are often reserved for soft items like clothing that won’t be damaged by their time in the bin.

    Go over your donation with a critical eye: Not all donated goods are an asset. Goods that are in poor condition are unlikely to be sold. Worse, these goods create an extra for the charity, which now must dispose of them. Be courteous, and give only goods that someone else would be willing to buy.


    Clean, sort, and arrange your donation: Make sure that your donated items are clean and have all their parts. If there are items with multiple parts, secure them together. Depending on the nature of the items, this may mean putting them in a labeled bag or taping them together. If you have a large donation, sort and label your items to save the charity work. Large donations may not easily fit in a donation bin, so consider making a trip to a donation center if you have multiple bags and/or boxes of goods. 

    Make the dropoff: If you are going to make a donation at a center, check their hours and make sure to make your donation during that window. If you are using a donation bin, you can visit it at your leisure. However, it is important that you leave your donation in the bin. If the bin is full, you’ll need to come back another time. Donations that are left around the bin can’t be used by charities, and create an expensive cleanup problem.


    Ultimately, donation bins and donation centers are valid avenues for giving goods. Donation bins may be a more convenient option for you, but they also require more due diligence. Staffed donation centers have limited hours and may be out of your way, but they are a great place to ask questions about your donation. Charitable donation centers will also provide receipts for your donations, which can count toward your charitable tax deduction.