Used clothing donations

November 20, 2013

Thrift shops, drop-off bins and collection trucks in the neighbourhood make it easy to get rid of goods we don’t want. Both charities and for-profits are major players in the market for used goods, sometimes separately and sometimes in a variety of arrangements. If you care about the charitable benefit your goods provide, be sure you know what it is.

1. Collection trucks. If you’re solicited by phone or mail to set out goods for collection, ask what charity will benefit from your donation, and how. Check out the charity with the local Better Business Bureau at

2. Thrift stores aren’t all run to benefit a charitable cause. While the name of the store may identify the charitable affiliation, charity-sounding names have been used by for-profit stores with no connection to charity. If in doubt, ask the store to identify the charity it’s affiliated with and then contact the charity to verify the arrangements.

3. Drop-off boxes aren’t invariably connected with charities. If there’s a phone number on the bin, call it for information. Expect straight answers. Be wary of names you don’t know or that seem similar to ones you do. Some bins belong to for-profit businesses, but that may not be obvious from the labelling on the bin. Feel free to ask a charity how it is benefiting from a clothes collection. It’s not safe to assume that used clothing will go to the needy, for example; it may be sold to a third party to make rag bond paper or for other purposes.

4. Acceptable/unacceptable donations: Don’t assume that charities welcome all second-hand items. If you have any questions about an item’s acceptability, call the charity and ask.

5. Dumping items that are essentially junk, with the thought that “someone can use them,” is not a charitable act. Disposing of goods that cannot be sold or re-cycled costs charities millions of dollars each year.

Questions to ask if you are considering donation:

Ask the charity or for-profit company which is listed on the drop-off box, or collection truck how your donation will be used?

Will the clothing be distributed in Canada? In some cases clothing will be sold overseas, or used to be made into industrial rags.

If a for-profit company owns the drop-off boxes and collects the clothing, find out how much the charity is actually receiving out of the donations. In some cases, a charity may receive a specific flat dollar amount from the for-profit company based on the clothing tonnage collected. Verify that the charity is still affiliated to the clothing bin by contacting the charity.

Lastly, consider any ad claims that states “all proceeds go to charity.” Notify the Better Business Bureau if you see an advertising claim that is misleading. If you want to file a complaint, email us at We will review all complaints and, if within our purview, contact the advertiser and ask them to substantiate, change, or discontinue the advertisement, so that it meets BBB ethical standards.