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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Central Oklahoma
BBB Warns Back to School Donors
August 16, 2012

Back to School Donations


If you’ve been anywhere near a department store or mall recently, you know that it’s Back to School time.  Many retailers and schools agree to post donation boxes so that shoppers can support disadvantaged students or give teachers a boost by donating generic products like pens, paper, and other standard school supplies.  The effort is certainly of mutual benefit; schools need the materials and the store bumps up its numbers with extra sales. 


Everyone loves the “warm fuzzy” they get from making such donations, and some companies will organize special drives to contribute to schools at practically every level, either by donating cash, products, or even used computers to the school of their choice.  That’s all great news for schools, but potential donors would do well to check with the principal prior to making donations to make sure that the items are needed and appropriate for the school.  A few times in recent years, generous companies with the best of intentions have dropped off donations of used equipment that became a burden to the schools because the items could not be used by students for various reasons and the administrator was stuck with disposing of the shipment.  In at least one case, the principal was able to “relocate” the donations to other schools in the district, but in others, schools have been left holding the bag for disposal fees.  Even those donation boxes can become a headache for principals when donors, with the best of intentions, go beyond the content requested.  Some schools have received deliveries of school uniforms or winter clothing; while students may be deserving and very much in need of the items, the burden then is placed on the school’s administration as to how to distribute the items.  Adding to the problem, only a few well-meaning donors might go “off script” and toss in a pair of sneakers.  Two or three pairs might be more of a problem, in terms of distribution, than a truckload. 


n  Some schools, particularly those in areas known to attract indigent students, have special programs to outfit those students with everything from paper clips to shoes or uniforms.  Such programs may be administered through the school’s PTA or another parents’ group.  A call to the principal will direct you to the right people.

n  Clear any special donations through the principal.

n  Contact the principal if you plan to donate items in bulk.  While teachers and students both might be excited to see a truckload of supplies show up on their doorsteps, the school might have a loading dock or other means of receiving materials that will minimize the disruption and maximize excitement.


Obviously, teachers and school administrators appreciate all the help they can get from their communities.  The BBB encourages both businesses and consumers to support their local schools as much as possible, with the knowledge that schools do appreciate whatever assistance translates to a more fulfilling experience for their students.  The BBB’s motto for charitable giving remains in play:  Give with your head as well as your heart.  A little generosity can make a huge difference to a teacher or student, but make sure your investment in our future counts as much as possible.  Also, keep in mind that such donations may be deductible; check with your accountant to find out what documentation would be necessary to take advantage of your own generosity.