Oklahoma City Charities Tell Residents To Keep Their Garbage

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May 11, 2011; Source: KFOR | Some charities in and around Oklahoma City are down in the dumps about donations they’ve been receiving from residents. Television station KFOR reports that people have been using charity dropoff bins, meant for items that thrift stops either resell or pass on to those in need, as places to dump items that should have been carted off as garbage.

After spending “the last several months staking out local charities,” the station reported, “you won’t believe what some people call ‘legitimate.'” Donated items include “chewed up children’s toys, urine-stained mattresses, and tattered furniture.” Even though the dropoff bins urge people not to litter, that plea is increasingly ignored.

Annie Doll, owner of a local thrift shop, which lets low-income residents use vouchers for clothing and household items, says, “No matter how much a person is in need or how low their budget, if they get it for free, they also don’t want unusable items. They don’t what shirts with spots or holes or tears.”

Not only do the useless donations rob stores of inventory, but it also costs them to have the worthless items hauled to the dump, where they should have gone in the first place. One nonprofit reportedly will spend $5,000 this year in hauling fees. According to KFOR, things got so bad for one Salvation Army outlet, it no longer lets people drop off items at free-standing bins. Now its dropoff sites have to be manned to prevent people from dumping and running.—Bruce Trachtenberg

  • Keith Oberg

    This is an increasing problem for non-profits receiving in-kind gifts. One solution is to, in effect, charge for the service of putting the item(s) to good use–either charging a fee or, as Bikes for the World does, suggest a specific donation amount. Our non-profit, which collects unwanted bicycles for donation and productive use overseas, suggests a $10/bike financial donation to defray a share of costs in getting a bike to a qualified program. We first did it out of desperation–we were figuratively “drowning in bikes”– and not out of any strategic vision, to cover our increasing shipping and program costs, but soon discovered that (1) donors were generally wiilling to do it, (2) it made us more accountable to the public — we needed to provide good informaiton if we expected a financial contribution, and (3) the QUALITY of the bikes donated actually increased–people with junk came less frequently realizing they had cheaper options elsewhere. The result is that our volunteers are happier (working with better “stuff”), our beneficiaries are happier (and more willing to cover a portion of our expenses), and we are now the nation’s largest program of this type.