Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guidelines for Donating: An Interview with Goodwill Industries

After reading an article on Yahoo! News about the problem of junk being given to donation centers in areas affected by  recent tornadoes, I thought I'd do a bit of research and find out why this happens. And, more importantly, what we can do to be sure we're donating things that help, not hurt the donation industries.

I e-mailed Goodwill Industries International, Inc. with a few questions.  Goodwill has a network of 165 member organizations that independently operate more than 2,500 Goodwill stores. Goodwill generates opportunities for people to achieve economic stability and build strong families through job training, employment placement services and other community-based programs for people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience or face employment challenges. 

Here is a copy of my e-mail interview with a representative from Goodwill:

Question 1: Why do people donate junk, like unusable household goods, broken toys and damaged clothing?

Answer: A common misconception, among consumers, is that Goodwill can repair damaged or broken merchandise for resale. While there may be a few Goodwills around the country that provide programs for repairing items, for the majority of Goodwill, this is not the case.

Question 2: What is the biggest problem regarding donations of junk?

Answer: The biggest problem we face with junk donations is the financial cost of proper disposal. Disposal of non-sellable merchandise can be very costly and we would prefer to use those funds to operate our job programs and employment services.

Question 3: What happens to junk donations?

Answer: Goodwill Industries tries to prevent having to dispose of merchandise in landfills. We may sell damaged clothing to textile recyclers or have any recyclable items sent to a recycling center. Any remainder will be disposed.

Question 4: What basic rules should people follow when donating household items and toys?

Answer: Most Goodwills do not have the resources to repair, wash or clean merchandise. So, we ask that items are washed before hand and that furniture or toys be cleaned before they are donated.

Question 5: Are out of style clothing items a good option for donating? Are people looking for vintage clothes? And, how old does something have to be before it's considered vintage?

Answer: There is a market for vintage or retro style clothing among the younger population. Vintage apparel can vary depending on personal opinion but, for the most part, late 80s and before would be considered retro or vintage.

Question 6: Should people donate lightly damage clothing (missing buttons, items in need of hemming or other minor repairs)?

Answer: Again, most Goodwill facilities do not have the resources to repair damaged items. However, this can vary from region to region. We would suggest that our donors contact their local Goodwill Donation Center beforehand to inquire on their donation guidelines.

Question 7: Should stuffed animals and decorative pillows be donated?

Answer: Most Goodwill Donation Centers will accept stuffed animals and pillows as long as they are cleaned beforehand. Again, contact your local Goodwill for details.

I'm so glad I did this interview, because I learned some things that surprised me. I honestly thought  donating clothing with missing buttons or in need of other minor repairs was okay.  Of course, I knew that badly damaged items were not acceptable for donation. I'm also surprised they typically do accept stuffed animals and decorative pillows. Some of the independent thrift stores I've donated to don't accept these items.  It seems a good rule of thumb is to always call your local donation center ahead of time to be sure the items you are donating are accepted.

Did anything in this interview surprise you?

Don't forget to consult Where to Donate Your Decluttered Items the next time you are purging clutter.


  1. Just started my own decluttering blog and was looking for others when I found you. So fascinated by those who have started hooping these days!

  2. I also thought it was OK to donate clothes with minor faults such as missing buttons...I have even seen things in the charity stores like this.

  3. i found a pair of converse with the laces missing at the thrift store today, and i thought about this post! ha. for $1.99, though, i bought them and laced them myself. easy fix. :)

  4. I am so surprised by some of these answers as well! I didn't really think before about dropping off an item that may need a button or something else small like that. I'll definitely be more picky in the items I send to Goodwill...thanks for the article!

  5. Good questions!

    I hate that Goodwill gets stuck with people's trash.....

    I will be conscious to only donating things in great condition!

  6. I've noticed all charity donation services recently have become fussier about what they accept... but with the price of cotton going through the roof I can't see it lasting long!

  7. I had a friend who worked for Goodwill and told me that clothing that is not likely to sell in the US is donated to other countries, if someone donates the money to ship them. People in third-world countries do not care how hip the clothing is.

  8. Thanks for the research and actually contacting Goodwill Barb. I often donate things to Goodwill, and occasionally shop there too. Sometimes I am surprised at what kinds of things are available at the stores. It is unfortunate that people send their trash there though. I think this is a company that really helps out in the community.