Monday, October 4, 2010

8 Items to Donate Other Than Money

If you find yourself here via the Carnival of Personal Finance #278 – Thanksgiving Edition hosted by Canadian Finance Blog, consider yourself welcome. Pull up a chair, grab a glass of sweet tea and look around. If you find what you like, you can always subscribe, follow me on Twitter, or Fan me on Facebook using the links in my right sidebar.

Money is tight for a lot of people these days. Because of the economic downturn our country has seen over the last few years, many non-profit organizations have suffered because people are clinging a little (or a lot) more tightly to their wallets. When these organizations depend on the generosity of others and those others are not as confident of their financial standing, many programs can fall apart or have to make drastic cuts themselves. Additionally, more people are qualifying for the needs that some of these organizations provide. Supply and demand is completely off balance.

However, there are things other than money that you can donate if you are currently finding yourself a little more strapped for cash but feeling bad about not being able to help as you wish.

1. Clothing
Whether it be stuff your family has outgrown or items that you just are not using, there are a number of places that will gladly take your gently used clothing. You can always do a standby of Goodwill or the Salvation Army, but there are thousands of others.

You can send clothing in good condition to local homeless shelters. Maternity clothes can go to crisis pregnancy centers. Business attire can go to organizations like Dress for Success (women) or Career Gear (men).

You can even donate unwearable clothing to The Socity of St. Vincent de Paul, as decent items they cannot pass as good quality are sold as rags.

Items that are torn, stained or unwearable can be donated to PlanetAid, who resell these to textile manufacturers to be repurposed as carpet padding, insulation, shop rags, and other byproducts. I actually used to work at a textile mill that did this. It was a great learning experience for me since I did not know that type of business existed previously.

Worn out sneakers (any brand) can be donated to Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program. This organization repurposes the material into sports surfaces—like tracks, tennis courts or playground padding. Since 1990, more than 25 million pairs have been collected.

2. Building Materials:
There are a number of organizations that will gladly accept the remainder of the flooring that you didn't need after the installation or some tinted grout mix that just didn't match your tiles but you were not allowed to return. Habitat for Humanity specializes in building homes for underprivileged families and can always use supplies and will gladly accept large donations of supplies. For smaller donations, you can give to their ReStore organization and all proceeds from those purchases help fund their building projects (and you can get some great deals there!). Make a Wish foundation also accepts donations to assist in building items to help children's dreams come true.

3. Electronics:
Of course many local organizations working with children will accept decently up to date computers and you should check those out in your area. If you can't find anything locally on your own, you should check out and they can assist you in finding something in your area.

What about cell phones? Cell Phones for Soldiers will rebuild/refurbish usable phones and distribute them to servicemen and women returning home from overseas. Non-usable phone are recycled and the profits are sent to military personnel overseas in the form of a calling card. 1 broken phone = 60 calling card minutes.

4. Eyeglasses:
What do you do with an old pair of glasses? You obviously cannot use them (effectively) anymore. OneSight, whose mission statement is to "restore and preserve clear vision for more than 314 million adults and children in need worldwide who cannot see clearly" could certainly use them. You can donate individual pairs of glasses at any: LensCrafters, ILORI, Optical Shop of Aspen, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical or participating local practitioner. Find the donation location nearest you today! easy is that?!

5. Clicks and Searches:
A number of sites now online will allow donations to be made because you simply clicked a few buttons. It's donating some of your internet time...and I know we all have that to spare. You can use The Hunger Site, Care 2, Ecology Fund, Free Rice, The Solar Site, Bhookh or you can search around on The Nonprofits, which lists 76 click to donate sites for non-profits in one area and you can choose the charity that fits your heart's passion.

There are also ways to use search engines to donate to your favorite causes. Because you're searching anyway, right? So instead of making Google more and more popular (is that possible) and earning Swagbucks (yeah...I do it too), use Dreamer, Do Great Good , GoodSearch , and/or Livoogle.

6. Body Parts:
Don't laugh. I'm serious.

But I'm not talking about your big toe. I mean blood, plasma, platelets...all those things that various blood banks across the country are always in need of are a great donation. It takes a minor amount of time on your part. You don't need anything you don't already have. You get a free cholesterol screening and juice and cookies along with your donation. And if you give during a drive you might score a free tshirt. But you're giving life. Literally. Blood and its components don't last very long so the need is constant. Search one of these national blood banks for a donation location near you: United Blood Services or American Red Cross. Also you might want to search (use one of the search engines above!) for a local blood bank.

Or you can donate hair. If you have 8 inches of hair (or more) that you can cut off you can donate it to Beautiful Lengths (free wigs for female cancer patients), Locks of Love (hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children 18 suffering from long term hair loss from any diagnosis), or Wigs for Kids (12 inch minimum - creates custom hairpieces for children with hair loss).

7. Shop for Free and Donate Items:
I have discussed many times through my pharmacy and grocery shopping posts of old that I would frequently use coupons, sales, and rebates to score items for free. It's great to get something you need for free, but what happens when they keep putting peanut butter on sale and you can get it for free with a mail in rebate or coupons, but you have a peanut allergy (totally a hypothetical rarely get peanut butter for free!)? You can still "buy" it for free and donate it. I've done this with a lot of grocery items and personal care products. If I don't like a brand of shampoo and don't need shampoo for free, it goes in my donation pile that gets sent to our church's pantry once a month. Just do a search (remember those search engines listed above!) for Free Walgreens or Free at CVS or the like and you'll hit THOUSANDS of websites and blogs telling you what you can get free this week. Go "buy" these and donate them.

8. Your Time:
All of the above organizations (and thousand more) would love your money and your gifts. What they are usually desperate for though is volunteers. Find an organization that really grabs your heart and then ask how you can volunteer. Maybe you can love on pets, mentor a child, cook a meal, build a house, mow a lawn, clean an apartment, tutor a child, sort through donations, or a number of other tasks. You don't have to be particularly gifted in any field. There is always something to do and usually two hands are needed for that task. Maybe you can sort mail, run errands, do some filing, clean a pet cage, help people fill out forms, vacuum a non-profit's office building, or serve a meal.

There are so many needs in this world. Many of them on the other side of the world. Many of them next door to you and me.

Give someone a hand even if you don't feel you have much to give. You will both be blessed for it.

  • If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one. - Mother Theresa
  • If you have much, give of your wealth; If you have little, give of your heart - Arab Proverb
  • They who give have all things; they who withhold have nothing - Hindu Proverb
  • Don't say that you want to give, but go ahead and give! You'll never catch up with a mere hope. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Some people give time, some money, some their skills and connections, some literally give their life's blood. But everyone has something to give. - Barbara Bush
  • I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver. - Maya Angelou
  • No one has ever become poor by giving. - Anne Frank
  • A handful of pine-seed will cover mountains with the green majesty of forests. I too will set my face to the wind and throw my handful of seed on high. - Fiona Macleod
  • I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. - C. S. Lewis

Photo credit: dolmansaxlil


  1. Hi! I'm your newest follower from the Wednesday link up. Lovely blog:) You can find me at

  2. Welcome, Hanna! Glad to have you along for the ride!

  3. Nice list. Always good to think of others who are truly in need.

    One thing that can be nice to donate are kids toys, particularly for infants/young children, where the toys can be timeless at least to some degree. I have done that with some of my oldest's baby toys, and it felt good to know that another young child might get some enjoyment out of these items.

  4. @Squirrelers--I totally agree. We haven't done a lot of that ourselves b/c we hung on to our son's baby toys to pass along to our daughter. Now that we're done having children, this will become much more a part of our practices!