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Where does your donation really go?

There are many ways to give back to the community, and even if you’re not a Rockefeller, you can be charitable by donating used goods to a local non-profit. Yet many of us don’t know where the proceeds from our donations really go. Some of the biggest non-profit thrift stores locally include Goodwill, Salvation Army, Savers and ARC/Value Village.

Savers works a little differently than other thrift stores. The profits from Savers go to over 140 non-profit organizations. These non-profits collect donations of used clothes and household items from people in the community, and for each bag of donations that they give to Savers, they are paid a particular amount. These organizations are also paid a percentage of the profits from items that customers directly donate to the store. Savers promotes itself as the ultimate community service, one that reduces, re-uses, recycles, and gives back to the community both as a business with affordable goods, and with direct funds.
The Savers website says that they have been in business for 60 years, they have supported over 150 non-profit organizations, and in the past decade alone they have given over 1.5 billion dollars to their non-profit partners. For more about Savers, see their website-

This all may be true, but it seems odd that their lengthy website never mentions any of these non-profits by name. There is one link at the bottom of the page to Value Village, suggesting that this is one of their partners. Value Village, also known as ARC, is the name for a group of thrift stores that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since Value Village has its own thrift stores, it is unclear how Savers would help them, and the link between these two organizations is not defined on either of the websites. If you feel strongly about supporting this cause, Value Village is a good place to donate, not only because they give money to people with disabilities, but they also employ people with disabilities and provide skills training that can lead to other work. However, keep in mind that their donation guidelines are a little more strict than other thrift stores, for instance they do not accept electronics. For more information on ARC/ Value Village, see their website.
Another organization that employs people with disabilities is Goodwill, yet a recent expose on Goodwill questions their practices. Somehow, Goodwill has found a loophole in the system, allowing them to pay employees well under minimum wage. Despite making an average of 5 billion dollars a year, Goodwill operates under the slogan “time is money,” and pays employees based upon how fast they work. A supervisor actually stands over the employee with a stopwatch, and if he or she doesn’t put that clothing on a hanger fast enough, the employee may be looking at a paycheck where they get paid 23 cents per hour. Goodwill argues that their employees work simply for the joy of working, and that this is part of the free market system. Yet for a married couple who are both blind and both have college degrees, their work at Goodwill looks less like free-enterprise and more like indentured servitude. For more on this story, see the following link-
Lastly, there is the non-profit that we all know, Salvation Army. Even the person who has never set foot in a thrift store associates Salvation Army with the red kettles and ringing bells outside stores at Christmas time. Yes, it’s true that Salvation Army provides rehabilitation services, employment training and help for people who are homeless. But sadly, this author cannot look at the Salvation Army kettle without being reminded of their evangelical bent and their unrelenting chastisement against the Gay and Lesbian community. This is not one isolated incident, but a pattern of outright prejudice against a large portion of the population. For more information on some of the history of the Salvation Army and their hateful homophobic acts, see the following article-

If you’re feeling frustrated with the acts of some or all of these organization, take heart, you can still donate and feel good about it. First and foremost, it’s important to remember that the mere act of recycling your goods and providing them for sale at a fair price to others is a service in and of itself. Secondly, while some of the above organizations do have flaws, it is also true that they do help some people in some ways, so you have to pick your battles. Lastly, remember that you can donate to smaller more specific organizations who serve people in a way that you support. For example, if I don’t want to support Salvation Army because of their homophobia, I can choose to support The Aliveness Project, a site that helps people who are living with HIV/AIDS, and is always looking for specific donations on their website. For more information see the following link-

Others may want to donate to veterans, food-shelves or an organization that supports their particular belief system. Regardless, if you’re cleaning house and you choose to give your items away rather than throwing them in a landfill, you’re doing something good.

For more information about charitable organizations and where the money goes, see the following link-

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