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How to donate household items: 7 charities that pick up furniture

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So the saying goes — one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. If you’re thinking of getting rid of some household items, sharing those resources with local organizations can give your stuff a second chance at life.

Donating used items to charity can help members in your community who need them most, and it can be as easy as scheduling a home pickup online. Charities will pick up everything from secondhand clothes to automobiles, at no cost to you.

Whether you’re streamlining your belongings before a move or simply decluttering your home, this guide has got you covered. Learn how and where to donate used items, plus the benefits to you and your community. We’ve also included COVID-19 updates so you can learn how to donate safely. Use these jump-to links below to easily navigate this article:

Where to donate furniture and other household goods

While putting stuff on the curb may seem like the easiest solution when cleaning, there’s a better way to get rid of household goods you no longer need. Many nonprofit organizations offer free pickup services, all you need to do is schedule an appointment online.

There’s no reason to toss items such as furniture and appliances when there are so many organizations that will pick up the items for free. Often, you’ll even get a tax incentive for donating — meaning your good deed may actually put some money back in your pocket, too.

Here are the best places to donate your household items that also offer free pickup:

  • The Salvation Army
  • Goodwill
  • The Arc
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • The Furniture Bank Network
  • AMVETS National Service Foundation
  • GreenDrop
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1. The Salvation Army

There is a Salvation Army in almost every U.S. ZIP code, and the organization assists more than 23 million Americans each year. The organization is dedicated to helping those living in poverty by feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and more.

Salvation Army Thrift Stores resells items at bargain prices; the funds from these sales help feed and clothe those who need it most.

Household items The Salvation Army accepts: Clothing, electronics, furniture, linens, jewelry, books, some mattresses and more.

How to donate: You can schedule a pickup or drop items off at your nearest drop-off location.

COVID-19 update: The Salvation Army thrift stores are continuing to accept in-kind donations. Here is a COVID-19 essentials list of items in demand right now.

2. Goodwill Industries

Goodwill believes in the power of work as a solution to the poverty crisis. Their mission is to help people overcome challenges, build skills, find jobs and grow their careers. Donations help support critical job placement in your local community.

Items that you donate will be resold in Goodwill Thrift Stores; the funds then go towards Goodwill services.

Household items Goodwill accepts: Vehicles, clothing and accessories, tools, books, games, electronics, housewares and more.

How to donate: Most Goodwill locations offer pickup services for larger items, such as furniture or appliances. There are also drop-off locations where you can deliver smaller items.

COVID-19 update: Almost every Goodwill store is back up and running with new safety protocols in place. You can also shop online from the comfort and safety of home.

3. The Arc

If you are interested in helping those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, consider donating to The Arc. This organization works with the government to develop programs and services for developmentally challenged people. With hundreds of chapters throughout the U.S., their thrift stores accept a wide array of household items and clothing donations.

Household items The Arc accepts: Clothes, household goods, linens, kitchenware, cars and more.

How to donate: Contact your local chapter to see if they accept donations and schedule a pickup or delivery.

COVID-19 update: The Arc is deemed an essential business and is still accepting donations. Team members will pick up donations from customers' cars, and quarantine items for 72 hours or more.

4. Habitat for Humanity

This international organization is dedicated to helping families build and improve their homes. Habitat ReStores around the world accept donations including furniture, appliances and building materials. The donations are then resold to members in their local communities who can give items a second life.

Household items Habitat for Humanity accepts: Household furniture, appliances and building materials.

How to donate: Find your nearest Habitat ReStore and schedule a pickup.

COVID-19 update: Many Habitat ReStores have reopened and are accepting donations. Face coverings and masks are required to enter any Habitat ReStore. Check your ZIP code to see if your nearest location is operating.

5. The Furniture Bank Network

If you are interested in working with a local charity on your furniture donation, The Furniture Bank Network (FBN) will help connect you to nearby organizations. This self-organized network helps nonprofits start new furniture banks in their communities, offering “best practice” reference materials and more.

Household items The Furniture Bank Network accepts: Furniture, appliances, electronics, home goods and more.

How to donate: Find a furniture bank near you to learn about their pickup and drop-off services.

COVID-19 update: Pickup services are continuing during COVID-19, but drop-off services are closed due to overhead costs. Items that are picked up will be quarantined for 48 hours before redistributing to families in need.

6. AMVETS National Service Foundation

Support veterans through the AMVETS National Service Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting patriotism through community and youth-oriented programs. The AMVETS Thrift Stores accept donated goods to then resell them at a low cost to help veterans and their families.

Household items AMVETS National Service Foundation accepts: Household goods, small appliances, toys, clothing and more.

How to donate: You can schedule a pickup online here or find a nearby donation box. Regardless of the weather, an AMVETS volunteer will swing by to scoop up your donations.

COVID-19 update: Contact your local AMVETS chapter for the latest pandemic updates.

7. GreenDrop

GreenDrop helps convert donated items into critical dollars for organizations such as the American Red Cross, Military Order of the Purple Heart and National Federation of the Blind. They aim to make donating as easy as possible through scheduled pickups or drop-offs facilitated by an attendant. The best part? You can specify which organization you’d like to benefit from your donation. Donations are then sold by the charity to an affiliate company or thrift operator.

Household items GreenDrop accepts: Household items less than 50 pounds, such as clothing, kitchenware, toys, books, sporting goods and small furniture. See a complete list of acceptable items here.

How to donate: You can schedule a home pickup or bring your items to a GreenDrop location. You will then be provided a tax receipt from your selected charity.

COVID-19 update: GreenDrop is still accepting donations during COVID-19 but requests that you seal donated items in a bag or box.

Household items that can (and can’t) be donated to charity

Organizations will accept many of the items in your home as donations, as long as they're in good condition. Even if you don’t think an item has much value, chances are that it can be reused in new ways. For example, animal shelters will accept used linens and blankets and convert them into wash rags or bedding for pets.

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Common household items to consider donating:

  • Clothing and accessories (such as shoes and bags)
  • Linens and blankets (such as bedding and bath towels)
  • Kitchenware (such as pots and pans, utensils)
  • Books and entertainment (such as records and board games)
  • Vehicles (such as cars and scooters)
  • Sporting equipment (such as helmets and basketballs)
  • Nonperishable food (such as canned food and coffee)
  • Power tools and small tools (such as saws and drills)
  • Office equipment (such as printers and monitors)

Household items typically not accepted by charities:

  • Damaged items (such as clothes with tears or appliances that don’t work)
  • Commonly recalled items (such as car seats, cribs and strollers)
  • Items that can grow mold (such as humidifiers)
  • Mattresses and box springs

How to donate your car a reputable charity in 9 steps

‘Bout done with that old set of wheels? Donate your car! Organizations around the country will be happy to take it off your hands. If you have car you can’t sell (or even if you could sell it) consider donating it, either out of the goodness of your warm and fuzzy heart, because of the likely sizable tax break you’ll receive, or a little bit of both.

  1. Check the charity’s rating with an independent watchdog like Charity Navigator or BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “Though each watchdog has its own system for assessing charities, they all use similar criteria. For example, CharityWatch says that for a group to have a satisfactory rating, at least 60 percent of its spending should go to the charity’s programs. To garner its top rating, 75 percent of a group’s expenses must be used for its programs, and its fundraising costs cannot exceed 25 percent of the money it raises,” writes Consumer Reports. Be wary of any donation offers that seem too good to be true.
  2. Find out what the charity will do with your car and any funds they receive from its sale. You can ask the charity directly, and you can (and should) review their financial reports to see what percentage of funds goes toward administrative costs and what percentage goes toward helping those in need. (A list of several national vehicle donation charities and their stats can be found here).
  3. Donate your vehicle directly to the charitable organization of your choice and avoid using a third party as they just dilute the funds.
  4. Drive your car to the charity rather than using a towing service if you can. This will help ensure that more funds will go to help those in need. Some vehicle donation charities are able to cover the cost of towing for a small fee, so if your car doesn’t run, you might still consider them. Just understand the details ahead of time.
  5. Transfer the vehicle’s title upon donation. Don’t leave the assignment of ownership line blank (even if the charity asks you to) because you could be liable for parking tickets or even blamed in a crash after your donation.
  6. Cancel insurance coverage on the vehicle you’re donating. Not to worry – it’s not complicated. Donating your car is no different than selling it to a private individual or dealership. “Once the title is transferred over, then the former owner (you) no longer has any ‘insurable interest’ on the vehicle. That is, you’re no longer at risk of being on the proverbial ‘hook’ for any damage caused to or by the vehicle.” Canceling your policy may result in a refund from your insurance company, too.
  7. Remove your license plates and return them to the DMV yourself before donating your vehicle.
  8. Get a receipt from your donation – and hold on to it. Charity Watch says that non-cash donations are one of the biggest triggers for an IRS audit, so you’ll want to have (and keep) all your paperwork in order.
  9. Request privacy. Charities often share or sell donor info, so if you don’t want to end up on a million lists, request privacy, says Consumer Reports.

National charities for donating your car

Charity Cars

Charity Cars supports veterans and disadvantaged families as they transition from dependency to self-sufficiency. Unlike other vehicle donation organizations, Charity Cars doesn’t sell donated vehicles and then donate the profits to a charity program. Instead, Charity Cars refurbishes donated vehicles to ensure safety and reliability and gives them to a family in need to help them get to work. They also often pay for insurance, license plates, and vehicle servicing. If your car can’t be used by the program, it will be sold, and Charity Cars will use the funds to continue their programs.

How to donate your car to Charity Cars:

  • Fill out the online form (or call toll-free 1-800-242-7489).
  • Arrange for vehicle pick-up (usually within 24 hours).
  • Receive a tax-deductible receipt.
  • Charity Cars gets top marks from Charity Navigator overall, for their financials (94% of donations go directly to helping those in need), and for their transparency.

Kars 4 Kids

Funds from donated vehicle sales go toward the Kars 4 Kids charity program, which aims to positively impact a child’s life and education. Vehicles in almost all conditions are accepted (including those that don’t run or can’t pass the emissions test).

How to donate your car to Kars 4 Kids:

  • Fill out the donation form online
  • Kars 4 Kids will contact you to set up a pick-up time.
  • You’ll be mailed a tax receipt and a vacation voucher. (This is for a 2-night, 3-day hotel stay in one of many popular U.S. destinations, but be aware that if you receive something in return for your
  • donation then you might not be eligible for a tax deduction of the full amount. Check with the good ol’ IRS).

Kars 4 Kids handles vehicle pick-up and sale themselves, which, they say, means more of your donation goes toward helping children. You can see Kars 4 Kids’ charity stats here.

 

Cars for MADD

Cars for MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) collects funds from donated vehicles and contributes them toward helping victims and survivors impacted by drunk driving. Vehicles in almost any condition are accepted.

How to donate your car to MADD:

  • Fill out the online form.
  • MADD will pick up your vehicle from one of several locations in almost every state plus D.C. and will tow it at no cost to you.
  • All donations are tax-deductible. MADD will send you a donation receipt that you’ll use when preparing your taxes.

 

Note also those national and international charities like Make-A-Wish and the Humane Society function differently in different states. For example, the Connecticut Humane Society gets excellent watchdog reviews as does the Hawaii Make-A-Wish organization, but the same charities in other states might not fare as well.

You can also use a company like Donate for Charity, Inc, a nationwide car donation program that promises to maximize both your donation and the size of your take refund. Donate for Charity Inc has a BBB rating of A+, but it isn’t a nonprofit or a charity, though they promise that 70-80% of your donation will go to your chosen charity. Not bad, but not the highest rates, either.

Other smaller charities that accept vehicle donations exist, and if you find a local organization you’d like to support just make sure to follow the above advice and ensure they’re reputable.

 

How to Save on Taxes by Donating Your Car

Unfortunately for the paperwork-averse among us, when you donate your car to a charity your tax deduction isn’t automatic, nor is it guaranteed. You’ll have to take a few important steps before you feel that relief come tax season.

Tax deduction detail (this IRS guide will walk you through each step):

  1. Make sure the charity is a 501(c)(3) organization or that it is able to receive tax-deductible charitable donations (the IRS has the details), otherwise you won’t be able to claim the deduction. Look up the charity yourself or ask them for these forms.
  2. You may deduct the Fair (or True) Market Value of your donated vehicle up to $500, and you (the donor, not the charity) must determine the FMV. Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book are reliable resources.
  3. If the charity uses your vehicle for their program (as with Charity Cars), you can deduct the Fair Market Value.
  4. If the charity sells the vehicle for more than the FMV, you can use the higher amount for your deduction.
  5. If your car is worth more than $5,000, you’ll need an independent appraisal.
  6. In order to claim the vehicle donation to a charity, you’ll have to itemize your deductions on Schedule A of Form 1040, rather than using the standard tax form.

If you want to claim your vehicle donation on your 2016 taxes, you’ll have to complete your gift before the New Year. There are just a few days left to save on your 2016 taxes, but you can of course still donate any time afterwards and save on the following year’s taxes. And, good will never has an expiration date.

6 Benefits of donating to charity

Whether you are downsizing during a move or just doing some spring cleaning, consider donating your gently used goods to give them a new home.

Here are some benefits of donating to charity:

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1. Help a family in need

Donating items to nonprofit organizations helps those less fortunate. All of the missions listed in our guide above use the donations to improve the lives of fellow Americans who have fallen on hard times and/or suffer from long-term disabilities. 

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2. Increase your happiness

Have you heard of “the helpers’ high”? This phenomenon describes the state of euphoria reported by those who participate in charitable activities. Psychologists believe that showing care and compassion through acts of service can be the key to a joyful life.

Similarly, a Harvard study found that giving money to someone else made participants happier than they would have been spending it on themselves. Doing good deeds makes us feel good about ourselves and our impact on the world.

3. Declutter your home

You can bring positivity into your home by simply cleaning up. Cluttered spaces can cause anxiety and even make it harder to sleep at night — if you’re feeling stressed at home lately, consider donating items.

Turn clothing donations into an activity with this printable paddle craft. Try on clothes in your closet and let loved ones cast their vote on whether you should keep an item or give it away. Items that are worse for wear should probably be tossed rather than donated.

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4. Promote eco-friendly choices

Donating used household items allows them to become part of a circular economy, where items are manufactured, used for as long as possible and then recycled. This diverts waste from landfills, reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

The more high quality goods that are donated to thrift stores, the more community members are encouraged to buy secondhand items.

5. Claim donations on your taxes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows you to claim a charitable deduction for household item donations gifted to an approved charity. You can deduct the fair market value of your donated item, but your charity cannot by law tell you what your items are worth so it's up to you to determine this. Many organizations, such as Goodwill, have a “Value Guide” of average prices for items in good condition.

If you make a large donation of $5,000 or more, you will need to fill out Form 8283 on the IRS Tax Forms website. New in 2020, you can claim up to $300 in donations without having to itemize.

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6. Motivate your friends and family

Kindness is contagious. One small donation can send off a ripple effect if you share your generosity with others. Educate loved ones on how easy donating can be and encourage them to get involved — you can even send them this guide to get started.

Giving your items a second chance at life can help those in need while increasing your own happiness. It also diverts trash from landfills and promotes eco-friendly purchasing habits. No matter where you are in the U.S., there should be a nearby organization willing to accept your donations and even pick them up for free.

 

If you donate valuable items, you’ll likely want to get an expert appraisal so you can know the true value of your donation. You may also want to update your personal property coverage limit, since high value items that are donated will no longer need coverage.

Sources:
USA.Gov

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