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Doing Good by Donating Clothing

12 May 2014 – 04:50 PM EDT

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With my kids constantly growing out of everything, it seems like I’m donating clothing every few months. Sometimes I pass along the clothes to a friend with a younger child. Sometimes I take them to my local consignment store. And there was the time I took the bag to one of those big bins you see in parking lots.

It seemed like a good idea, it was close to my house and I could drop off the bag while I was out running errands. But it’s something I won’t be doing again after I found out that many of these clothing donation bins are actually run by for-profit companies. The clothing doesn’t go to charity and it isn’t donated to a thrift store. While it keeps the items from going into the trash, I want to donate clothing in good condition to somewhere that will get the most use out of it.

Do Your Research

So can you trust any of the bins? Some are run by nonprofits, but they can still sell the clothing they collect to the for-profit companies. And some nonprofits may not use the proceeds in a way that benefits your community.

Before you donate clothing to a bin, find out who owns it. If it’s a nonprofit check its reputation on Charity Navigator, an organization that rates nonprofits and let you know how they spend their money. This can help you figure out if that bin can be trusted with your donated items.

Go Local

If you don’t know where to start, check online for local thrift stores. One I was driving by all the time near my home in Boston turned out to be not just a plain old thrift store, but a shop for a charity that provides HIV wellness and prevention services. I was more than happy to bring them everything that came from my last house-wide clean out.

Another option is to search for a local charity through Charity Navigator so you know immediately if the nonprofit where you’re donating clothing is reputable.

When In Doubt, Go Goodwill

Goodwill has been around as long as it has for good reason. Their mission is to help people find work, not just through working in their stores, but through training for careers in a wide variety of fields. They provide services in particular to some of the most overlooked members of society, including veterans and people with disabilities.

The Goodwill site lets you search for retail stores or donation sites to make sure your donation gets to the right place.

So next time you have clothing or other items in your home to donate, take a little time to make sure everything goes where it’s needed most.