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    Person folding clothes

    Why Aren't Donated Clothes Always Given Away for Free?

    Many charities, particularly thrift shops, collect donated goods and sell them to fund charitable work, allowing people to give without pulling out their wallets.

    You gave a pile of your clothes -- still in good condition but no longer suitable for you -- to charity. The organization received them for free, so why are they sold rather than given to someone in need? Many charities, particularly thrift shops, collect donated goods and sell them to fund charitable work. This model is popular because it turns unwanted goods into donations, allowing people to give to charity without pulling out their wallets. Often, the donated clothing is sold for a much lower price than new clothing, making thrift shopping a more affordable option. Like a cash donation, donating clothing to a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit is tax-deductible.


    Do Your Research


    Not all organizations collecting clothing are charitable, and some, like those affiliated with churches, are not public charities subject to transparency requirements. You can use Charity Navigator’s search to find nonprofits in your area that are highly rated. Once you have options in hand, do some research to find the best match for your donation.

    Find the best fit for you: If you want to give your clothes to someone in need, find a charity that explicitly states that they do not sell donated goods. If you don’t object to having your clothes sold to support a good cause, find a charity accepting donations that fund the work you believe in. Many local charity shops will fund community projects, and some have religious affiliations. Consider the end goal of your donation as you make your choice.


    Find the best fit for your clothes: Not all clothing donations are the same; some may benefit certain organizations more than others. Frontline service charities often take clothing donations to give to their clients. For example, homeless shelters may want warm clothing, and employment charities may want business attire. Certain stores may accept donations of specialty items, like wedding or prom dresses. By giving requested items in good condition, you can dramatically increase the chance that your donated items end up in good hands, rather than a landfill.



    Prepare Your Donation


    • Check the requirements of the nonprofit receiving donations to ensure your donation fits their requirements. Follow any explicit instructions that they list. 

    • Do not attempt to give clothing that is stained or damaged. (A possible exception to this rule is animal shelters, which may accept damaged clothing donations that would be thrown away by other organizations.)

    • Wash, inspect, and neatly fold clothing. (This may not apply to all clothing, use your judgment.)

    • For large donations, sort clothing by type and label the groups. 

    • Drop off your donation, or schedule a pickup, in accordance with the preferences of the receiving organization.