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How to Donate to Goodwill (And Why You Should)

Updated on July 12, 2012

Your closets are filled to overflowing. Your garage is stacked to the ceiling with bins of baby clothes and toys even though your kids are closer to middle school than diapers. You have your eye on some pretty new dishes, but you don't know what to do with your old ones that are still in decent condition. You know you need to clean up and clear out, but you don't just want to throw everything away, and donating to charity is such a hassle . . . or is it?

A Goodwill drive-through donation center in Jupiter, Florida.
A Goodwill drive-through donation center in Jupiter, Florida. | Source

Goodwill Makes Donating Stuff Easy

Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Vietnam Veterans of America, and other charitable organizations want your donations, so they make it very easy for you to donate.

Here's what you need to do to make a donation:

  1. Gather the items you want to donate and assess their condition. Throw away anything broken or stained.
  2. Write a list of items you will be donating and their approximate value. This is for your receipt.
  3. Decide whether you need pickup service. If so, call to schedule it.
  4. Bag or box your small items up. (Clothing and linens do fine in garbage bags, but books, toys, and anything fragile is better off in a box.)
  5. If you are dropping off your items, drive to a local donation center. Most have a rear entrance or loading zone for taking donations; my local Goodwill has a covered drive-through donation area. If you are unsure where to go, go in the front (without your bags) and ask for assistance. A staffperson may help you unload your car, or may merely show you where to place your items.
  6. You will get a (mostly blank) receipt. Fill the receipt out at home, staple it to your itemized list, and file it away for next year's taxes.

And that's it — in an afternoon you have cleaned your closet, given to charity, and received a tax deduction. So easy!

These are good items to donate. The clothes and towels are in good condition, the games have all their pieces, and the books don't have any teeth-marks on them.
These are good items to donate. The clothes and towels are in good condition, the games have all their pieces, and the books don't have any teeth-marks on them. | Source
What NOT to donate. Note the mysterious pink stains on the shirt and the hole in the crotch of the shorts. How do these things even happen?
What NOT to donate. Note the mysterious pink stains on the shirt and the hole in the crotch of the shorts. How do these things even happen? | Source
This is several hundred square feet of aluminum storm shutters we donated to our local Habitat ReStore. They carried them out to the truck for us, so no sweating or cutting our hands!
This is several hundred square feet of aluminum storm shutters we donated to our local Habitat ReStore. They carried them out to the truck for us, so no sweating or cutting our hands! | Source

Items to Donate to Charity

Most people think primarily of used clothing when it comes to donating, but charitable organizations accept many different types of items:

  • clothing
  • linens (e.g., towels, tablecloths, sheets)
  • kitchen appliances
  • dishes, pots, pans, and glassware
  • toys, puzzles, and games
  • sports equipment
  • electronics
  • books
  • furniture
  • lamps
  • artwork

Due to recent outbreaks of bedbugs and other sanitary concerns, larger organizations usually do not accept mattresses or sofabeds.

Clothing and linens should be clean and in good condition (no stains or rips; if you wouldn't pass it on to a friend then toss it). Household goods, appliances, toys, and electronics must be in good working order. Include any manuals if you still have them. If you are donating electronics such as an old laptop, make sure to wipe any personal information from the hard drive.

There are also specialty organizations that collect other items. A great example is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which accepts gently used building materials in clean, good condition:

  • kitchen cabinets
  • lighting fixtures
  • doors
  • paint (full cans only)
  • storm shutters
  • plumbing supplies
  • lumber and tools

We donated our aluminum storm shutters last year when we upgraded to accordion shutters, and were able to take a hefty deduction, since shutters are so expensive. The guys who came to pick them up were punctual and polite, and they handed me a receipt before I could even ask for it.

On a recent trip to Goodwill, I packed my trunk with four big garbage bags of clothes and a box of books and toys.
On a recent trip to Goodwill, I packed my trunk with four big garbage bags of clothes and a box of books and toys. | Source

Do You Need to Schedule a Pickup?

If you are donating furniture or large appliances, or you just can't fit a dozen garbage bags full of clothes and blankets into your car, most organizations will offer to pick up your items for free. Call the organization you wish to donate to to arrange a pickup time. The Salvation Army usually make appointments 1–2 weeks in advance, and they will come inside to load your heavy furniture if necessary. The Vietnam Vets schedule pickups in some areas within 24 hours, but you must box your stuff up and move it outside yourself. Goodwill offices have individual policies regarding pickups, although it is available in most areas.

How to Value Donations

Charitable organizations offer valuation guides on their websites, but do not appraise individual donations. That covers them from getting in trouble with the IRS. You are ultimately responsible for the values you choose to assign to your items. I usually keep a copy of the valuation guide that I used to help me figure out what my items were worth (I staple it to the receipt and file them together), and if I have any big-ticket items I take a photo, as well, to show the condition.

Valuation guides suggest a low and high fair market value for many different types of items, and you should be accurate when choosing values. For instance, if you are donating two pairs of jeans, and one pair is Faded Glory that you bought at Walmart, and the other pair is 7 For All Mankind from Bloomingdale's, you should value the former at $4 and the latter at $21 (the low and high suggestions from the Goodwill Valuation Guide). Likewise, a brand-new dress with the tags still on would be valued higher than one you wore twice a month for a year before you lost weight and couldn't fit into it anymore.

Some organizations accept donations of cars. The tax implications of donating a car are different from those of donating household items. If the organization sells the car to raise money, you can only deduct the amount the charity actually receives for the sale. If the charity uses the car for operations, you can deduct the fair market value of the vehicle.

For a detailed explanation of fair market value and the tax implications of donating items to charitable organizations, see IRS Publication 561.

Sample Itemized Valuation List

How Many?
What Kind?
Worth?
1
mens' blazer
$6
8
girls' dresses
$16
5
womens' blouses
$20
4 pr.
kids' jeans
$12
3
fleece blankets
$10
 
TOTAL VALUE:
$64

Why You Should Donate to Goodwill (Or the Charitable Organization of Your Choice)

There are several great reasons to support organizations such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and local charity thrift shops. Here are a few of the most compelling reasons:

  • Support good works: Each charity has a different focus, and you can find one whose mission dovetails with your own values. Goodwill provides job training and family support services; the Salvation Army is a Christian organization that helps the homeless, youth and the elderly, and provides rehabilitation services for addicts; the Vietnam Veterans of America's mission includes fighting for access to healthcare for all veterans.
  • Clean out your clutter: You don't need to hang on to clothes your children outgrew last year, or working consumer electronics your family has recently upgraded from. Reclaim your attic, basement, and garage from bins full of stuff, and breathe more easily in an uncluttered environment.
  • Go green: Keep your unwanted items out of a landfill by allowing someone else to reuse them.
  • Get a tax deduction: If you itemize deductions on your taxes, donations can make a big difference. Just remember to value your items honestly and keep good records.

Everyone wins!

What's Your Favorite Charity to Donate Items to?

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    • profile image

      Carol Duffner 8 weeks ago

      I live in Sayville 11782 We want to donate 2 beautiful pieces of furniture.

      A entertaining unit and antique hall tree.

      Who will take it, pick it up?

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 3 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Some organizations save all useless clothing, linens, etc. for the "rag man". If the org. is very large old rags are sold by the ton. Our Vets makes a last ditch effort selling their oldest stuff by the pound periodically in huge bins outdoors. What is finally left goes to rags which they sell to someone tons at a time.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 3 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      That's an excellent point, PaigSr. There are all kinds of items that we might be tempted to throw away that could actually be given to Goodwill as long as they are in good condition. Halloween costumes worn once, sets of dishes, any kind of item still new in its packaging — these are all good items to donate.

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 3 years ago from State of Confussion

      I tend to donate to Goodwill. In fact as part of the last donation they accepted a bunch of National Geographic magazines that the library would not accept. It's always good to ask what they will take. As they say, "Hay you never know."

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Barbergirl: thank you for sharing your experience. I am sorry that the stores failed you when you were in need, but I hope and believe that on the whole charity thrift shops do their best to serve the needs of their communities. I'm glad you did have at least one positive experience, and don't forget to clean out your closets soon!

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I really need to take the time to go through my stuff and get rid of junk that I no longer need or use. However, I will admit that I was a little turned away from some of the organizations. I don't mind donating because I think it is a great way to help someone less fortunate. However, last year when my husband and I were tight on cash, I went to some of these stores looking for items we needed because we just moved. Since we moved across country we donated majority of our stuff. When we finally were able to get into our own place we had to get new stuff. Well, upon checking out these stores that are filled with donated goods, I found they were priced ridiculously high. I was so disappointed. They were out of my budget. In fact, some of the stuff was priced higher than what I could buy at Walmart. So much for helping those less fortunate.

      However, I will give props where props are due. We need a winter jacket for my son and I saw one that was absolutely adorable. It was a bomber jacket. I walked up to the counter with one but was talking about how I would prefer the other one but it was out of my price range. The lady gave it to me for a 50 percent discount. That restored my faith a little bit!

      Great hub - and thanks for the reminder to clean out my closets!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Hi, Raggededge. I know this hub was quite US-centric, but I didn't know enough about the charity-shop situation in other countries to include them. It's good to know you have lots of opportunities to donate stuff in the UK, too. And I'm guessing that with lots of options it must be quite easy to find a cause close to your heart to support.

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev 5 years ago from Wales

      We don't have Goodwill in the UK but we do have a gazillion charity and community shops. Our local community shop takes clothes and household items and raises money for the teen drop-in centre. Drive through sounds great - we usually have to park and lug :)

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Yes, the drive-through is wonderful. But even at location without one, the staff have always been helpful, wheeling out a bin or dolly if needed to load my stuff onto. Thanks for reading, Susan!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I always donate to Goodwill. I do wish we had a drive-through one here as that would make it so much easier.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Hi, Natasha. Even if you don't get a receipt, you've still done a very good thing by supporting a charitable organization. The receipt is only helpful if you itemize on your taxes; if you're single and don't own a home or make a huge salary, it probably doesn't pay (I'm not making assumptions; this is just an example!).

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I think a lot of people forget you can donate way more than just clothes! Thanks for the very thorough hub. I both donate and shop at thrift stores, but I never both to get a receipt for my donations. I guess I really should.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thanks for reading, Chrissie. I have been donating to Goodwill for years but have only recently begun to shop there. They provide a great service with their job training, employment opportunities, and low prices.

    • chrissieklinger profile image

      chrissieklinger 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Donating to the Goodwill helps people with disabilities have a job and they are a great place to shop at, new stuff everyday. Great hub!!!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thanks, Austinstar. I do it a couple of times a year, generally following my kids' growth-spurts. In between trips, I have a space reserved in my bedroom for the giveaway pile, so we can take clothes out of circulation as soon as they no longer fit.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Hey BB! Very nice hub. I love donating to Goodwill because they make it easy. Just throw stuff in the trunk and drive through the side. Easier than going to a fast food place and twice as healthy.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Hello, GoodLady. I know my hub is US-centric; sorry! Goodwill is a global organization, and they even have a branch in Italy, but the thrift stores seem to be a purely American phenomenon.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Oh if only we were this organized in Italy. Wonderfully useful Hub and inspires to clean (re-do the house). I have old pots of paints in the barns...any goodwill hunters????