Charitable contributions need to consider end user

Don’t let donations go into stagnation

Donating items that one may not need is encouraged, but it is crucial to ensure that those items have not reached the end of their useful life.

Robert Kerr, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army in the Prairie region says that it is frustrating when they are not able to use donations they receive.

“Either it (the donation) is broken or poses a health risk, or it has reached the end of its useful life,” he says. “That is disappointing, because we want to help as many people as possible.”

A good tip to ensure that donations make it to someone who can benefit from the item is to think of the end user. Generally, donors do not know who will receive the items that they give away, but it might not be very difficult to picture different people in the community who might benefit from donations.

It can help to imagine an actual person, either someone similar, somebody from a different culture or an individual with dietary restrictions, while donating. Kerr suggests asking questions like “Will this help someone? Would I be able to use this if I was in need?”

People often give donations with the intention of helping others. Their hearts are often in the right place. But what about the items themselves? Are they the right items for the end user? The holiday season is a popular time for donations.

The Salvation Army, for example, conducts a large targeted campaign annually requesting toys for Christmas.

“The biggest challenge we have is ensuring that donors understand these need to be new or unopened toys,” he says, emphasizing that the Salvation Army would not want any child to receive a used gift at Christmas.

People should also be considerate when donating food. Food donations should be non-perishable items. Donated food items should be able to sit on a shelf and not be past their best-before dates.

Another thing to keep in mind is that food donations should be easy to prepare. Some people do not have a microwave or an oven. There are also people whose cultures are different and thus may not know what certain foods are.      

“The bottom line is that we want to ensure we are able to give people food that they are able to cook and to eat,” Kerr says.

Donating is not just about bundling up items that one does not need and leaving
them at the nearest drop-off location. It is also about ensuring that the donated items are in a position to be used.

More people are considering donating instead of throwing items into the trash while cleaning their homes. Keeping these tips in mind could certainly help ascertain that donation recipients are able to use the items given to them.

Of course, cash donations to philanthropic organizations are also welcome as an alternative.

Cash donations “ensure that the Salvation Army has exactly what we need to meet the needs of the people we serve,” Kerr says.

Published in Volume 72, Number 13 of The Uniter (January 11, 2018)

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