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To give or not to give goods to a charity

Throughout the year, community members often ask us how they can best make a difference for students in need.

“Is it better to donate clothing and school supplies or cash?”

At the Halton Learning Foundation, we’re grateful for this question because it reminds us there are so many individuals and businesses in the Halton community who want to help kids who are less fortunate. It’s tempting to respond that whether you donate items or funds, you’re helping low-income students to succeed.

But there are a couple of good reasons some charities prefer cash donations to help vulnerable children and families.

Efficiency: Physical donations like clothing and school supplies need to be sorted, transported and distributed, which can take more time than using cash or gift cards to purchase only items that are needed. Although in-kind donations may be perfect for some charities, other organizations do not have the space or the resources to facilitate them.

For the latter, cash donations can be more efficient, allowing staff to spend more time raising funds or getting help to those who need it.

Suitability: Although people always have the best intentions, there is a good chance the donated supplies are not what’s needed.

With four growing kids and a minimum-wage salary, Burlington mom Denise struggles every year to come up with additional funds for back-to-school items.

“I don’t want people to think I’m not grateful for donations, but the downside is you get what someone has chosen for you, and they don’t know my kids. I still have to purchase many things and end up re-donating what we can’t use.”
Personal donations are even trickier. Older kids, especially, just want to fit in, and they may be embarrassed by clothing or backpacks that simply aren’t suitable for them.

As much fun as it can be to shop for others, when it comes to charitable donations it’s always best to check with your preferred charity first to see whether in-kind goods or cash donations will make the most difference to those you want to help.