8 Tips for an Easy Goodwill Drop-off

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Photo: Flickr/Mike Mozart

Have you ever put together a Goodwill donation and wondered whether you’re doing it right?

“Do they even take these items? Should I put them all in the same box?” Should I take a receipt?”

Have no fear, we’ve put together some top-notch tips and answered your questions to make sure your next donation is a breeze for both you and your local Goodwill store.

Making a Goodwill donation offers convenience for you, helps other people and is good for the planet. Goodwill stores across the country accept donations of clothes and household items to help fund job training, employment placement services and other community programs.

Generally speaking, there are no firm rules when it comes to getting your donation ready. But while “anything goes” is okay, there are some tips you can apply to help the attendants and sorters at your Goodwill drop-off center get through your donation quickly and safely.

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Photo: Flickr/_e.t

1. If items belong together (think dishes and shoes), donate them together

Brooke Lochore, VP of public relations at Goodwill Big Bend, recommended wrapping a rubber band around pairs of shoes to keep them from getting separated and packing items that belong together in the same box or bag. It’s also helpful to keep items like clothes together, rather than randomly mixed throughout your donation.

2. You can help keep fragile items intact

If you have fragile items, hand them directly to an attendant or package them carefully and label them as fragile to avoid accidental breakage. Broken items lose their value and are tougher to resell. Glass items should never be placed in unattended donation bins, as broken glass can be a safety hazard for Goodwill employees.

3. Use a reusable container to deliver your donation

Bags and cardboard are recycled by most Goodwill facilities, but if you’re looking for a more sustainable method of transport, Goodwill welcomes reusable bags, boxes or even laundry baskets to be used for donations. Just take your container back home with you once your donation has been sorted for a zero-waste option.

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Photo: Flickr/circle face

4. Don’t overpack

Whether you’re using boxes or bags to deliver your donation, resist the urge to overpack them. Items are more likely to be damaged accidentally, and heavy boxes and bags require extra hands for processing. As Lochore simply put it: “Too heavy, two people.”

5. When in doubt, donate

Value is the primary factor in sorting donations. Goodwill can profit the most from items in good-use condition or better.

That said, not all items received are good candidates for the sales floor. Once received, all items donated items are evaluated by Goodwill staff. Rest assured that if an item cannot be resold at Goodwill, in many cases, it may be sold to a recycler for proper disposal.

Clothes and linens, in particular, are received in varying states of quality. Fabric that is ripped or stained can’t be sold in stores but may be sold as bulk salvage on an international rag market. This alternative keeps the material from going to landfills, and offers additional income for Goodwill toward its services. There are now post-consumer recycling markets for many items like books, leather, shoes, glass, cardboard and even stuffed animals.

6. Computer and computer equipment recycling is free at over 2,000 Goodwill locations

Thanks to its partnership with Dell and the Dell Reconnect program, it’s easier than ever to donate your old computers and electronics at Goodwill. Dell Reconnect allows you to drop off any brand in any condition at participating Goodwill locations for free. From there, trained staff evaluates whether each item can be refurbished and resold, or should be responsibly recycled.

“We don’t charge to recycle old computer monitors, like some of the local recyclers do,” said Mickey Nolan, CFO for Goodwill Industries Serving Southeast Nebraska, Inc.

The Dell Reconnect program has responsibly recycled over 324 million pounds of e-waste since 2004.

7. Erase the data or remove your hard drive prior to donating computers and electronics

For those that are ready to recycle their computers and personal electronics, “the main concern is personal data,” said Lochore. This concern is one of the most commonly cited reasons for keeping electronics in home storage instead of donating or recycling them.

If you bought your computer new, it likely included a startup disk that will guide you through the process of wiping your data. However, if you can’t find that 5-year-old disk stashed away in a desk drawer, check out CNET’s Quick Guide to Data Wipeout, which offers a comprehensive handbook to properly retire your old PC or Mac.

8. Document your donation

In addition to all the benefits of donating to Goodwill, your donation may be eligible for tax benefits. In order to document your donation properly, be sure to collect a receipt from the Goodwill attendant.

Take a moment to fill out your receipt while it’s fresh in your mind. The kinds of items you donate, the quantity and their condition all play a role in your donation’s value come tax time.

“Quality counts,” said Lochore, who offered a super-helpful tip when it comes to recording your donation: “Take a picture of your donation — it only takes seconds.” Having a picture to accompany your tax documents can offer additional assistance when you consult with your tax professional in the spring.

Thanks to Goodwill services, over 6.7 million people received career training in 2012 alone. But the value doesn’t stop there. In addition to programs and social initiatives, Goodwill also offers a second life to millions of products and household items.

“The simple act of donating can have an enormous impact on people and the planet,” says Lochore.

Editor’s Note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. Dell is one of these partners.

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