woman's hand carrying blankets

This time of year is a big time to give donations. But smaller nonprofits find themselves in a situation that they never like to be. They receive so many donations that they just can’t hand out for one reason or another. A small nonprofit might have no choice but to throw out your donation. 

There is a lot of reasons for this to happen. The donation might be expired food products or a ripped or torn piece of clothing or something that would not help the demographic they serve. 

As quoted in the Washington Post, Scott Schenkelberg, president, and chief executive of Miriam’s Kitchen, a nonprofit working to end chronic homelessness in the District. “You might think it’s better to have a torn shirt than to have none. But for the people we’re serving, our work is based on relationships built on trust and mutual respect. If we were to offer people items that are obviously not respectful, that can damage the relationship.”

The advise Scott gives is to donate as if you were donating to someone you love. You wouldn’t give your wife or children a torn or dirty gift, would you? 

Here are 6 things to keep in mind when donating this Holiday Season 

  1. Check the expiration dates of the can foods you donate. If it is expired just throw it out, a nonprofit can not share it. If it is close to expiring don’t donate it to a small food bank. Often their stock can remain on their shelves for some time, so it is best to give them at least a month or two before the expiration date. 
  2. Do not donate a dirty or dented can of food. This is a big safety risk for a population that is already at risk for food born illnesses. 
  3. If the clothes you want to donate are torn or stained, consider donating to Good Will since many will buy from the Good Will to repurpose the cloth for some other use. Do not donate dirty or torn clothing to a charity especially a small nonprofit. And keep in mind about who the charity serves. Women’s clothes are no use to a men’s shelter. 
  4. If you are donating toys make sure they have all the pieces and are not broken. 
  5. Check with the charity you would like to donate to and see if they have suggestions for the kinds of things they need. They might have an Amazon Wishlist that you can buy from on their website. 
  6. When in doubt ASK! Call, Email, research just don’t assume. 

The people these nonprofits serve are sometimes at the lowest point in their life. Treating them with the respect you would give your own loved one will go a long way to helping change the circumstances of their life. As Scott Schenkelberg says,” the notion that “beggars can’t be choosers” is demeaning. “The people we serve have so few choices in their lives,” he says. “They’re told to go here, there, all over for resources. In fact, they might most need the power of making a choice — even a small one — but the choice has to be a positive and meaningful one. Giving them a choice between a red shirt and a blue shirt is empowering. Giving them a choice between a torn red shirt and no shirt isn’t a choice at all.”

Quotes for Scott Schenkelberg are from the Washington Post Article written by Amy Freeman