Q. We are spring cleaning at our home. Some items are recyclable, what advice may BBB suggest?

A. As we enter the spring months and perhaps develop the courage to clean our closets and consider making in-kind donations to charities of the things we don't use or no longer fit, consider these tips to help avoid being disappointed in how these contributions are used.

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Jim Winsett of the BBB.

Keep, donate or trash?

Don't assume that charities will accept all second- hand items. Usually, they are looking for items in "good" condition. Ripped sweatshirts or torn jeans will likely be rejected. If uncertain about what the charity will accept, contact them before making the gift.

Drop-off collection bins

Most metropolitan areas have a variety of collection bins scattered throughout the community that welcome donated clothing. Don't assume all of them are connected to charity. Be wary of names you don't know or are similar to ones you do. In some cases, a bin may belong to a for-profit company. Take the time to check out the charity name that appears on the bin with or to verify if they meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.

How will donated clothing be used?

Don't assume all donated used goods are distributed to the needy. Sometimes they end up in a charity thrift store to generate revenue for the organization. Or some may sell items to a third party to be converted into rag bond paper. Visit the charities' websites to find out how they intend to use donated clothing.

Collection trucks

Another possibility is that a charity may contact you by phone or mail and ask that you set out goods for collection on a specified date. If so, contact the charity to find out how they will benefit. In some instances, a third party picks up the donated goods and the identified charity only gets a flat fee for each pick-up no matter what is included.


Some donors mistakenly believe the charity will assign values to the goods you donate. Actually, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are properly valuing these gifts. One potential reference is to visit a charity thrift store to identify the typical prices of similar items. For any non-cash contributions totaling over $500, you will need to complete and attach IRS Form 8283 to your next tax return. For more deductibility information, consult an accountant and/or go to: IRS Publication 526: Charitable Contributions.

Get more Wise Giving tips at updates. Visit for additional consumer and business tips.

Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.