The following article was published in The Times Record on 5/5/19 and written by Jennifer Iacovelli, Tedford Housing’s director of development.
It may or may not feel like spring when this article publishes. The calendar says April, but we live in Maine. The only thing that’s inevitable right now is the potholes.
Regardless, the sunshine is brightening our days and the snow is slowly melting its way out of our lives, with the exception of those piles of snow in the darkest areas of our yards.
With spring often comes spring cleaning. While Tedford Housing enjoys a steady stream of in-kind donations year round, we tend to see an increase in these donations around spring time. (For those not familiar with the term, in-kind donations are those non-cash donations of goods or services.)
I’ve had to call in some of my trusty volunteers to help sort donations of sheets, towels, baking sheets and other household items more than a few times since January. According to some media reports, nonprofits have seen a spike in in-kind donations due to the popularity of the Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The show is centered on the idea of decluttering one’s space and, to some extent, their lives at the same time.
Kondo encourages her clients to “tidy up” in their houses by category, holding items in their hands to see if they “spark joy” to them. If the items don’t spark joy, then it is time to let them go. While I can’t make a direct correlation between the show and the amount of donations we currently have in the admin office at Tedford Housing, I do know that we are the beneficiary of many of our neighbor’s efforts to declutter.
If more people are getting rid of their unwanted household items, this can be a good thing for nonprofits. As I write this, we have several individuals and families moving out of our shelters and into permanent housing. These donations from decluttering neighbors help give our clients a new start with actual dishes for their kitchens, towels for their bathrooms and sheet sets for their beds.
As a nonprofit professional who handles donations in her organization, I challenge you to use the same method for donating as you would for tidying up with Marie Kondo. You may not want to hold every unwanted item in your house and ask if it sparks joy for a certain organization, but some parameters around donating these items to make the most impact could be helpful to those who find themselves wondering what to do once they have a big pile of joy-less (for you) items.
If you are not a seasoned in-kind donor, the first step you may want to take is to figure out which organization you want to support with your donation and visit their website. If you don’t have an organization in mind, think of a cause you want to support (e.g., housing, food security, animal welfare, environment, etc.) and do a quick google search for organizations near you. Many organizations will list items they will accept – and not accept – as donations. This research can save you a bit of time and ensure you find a good match for your items.
Conversely, you could also google the item you have and the word donation in your area (i.e., “clothes donation in Brunswick”). In addition to the organization’s website, you may also check their social media accounts to see if they post their most needed items. (I do so on Tedford’s Facebook page from time to time and see other orgs, like Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, doing the same. We often share each other’s lists too!)
Once you figure out where you want your donation to go, the next step is to figure out when and where to drop off your donation. Keep in mind that some organizations, like Tedford, have more than one location and some locations may not have the staffing or the space to accept donations. (I accept donations for Tedford at our admin office during business hours and distribute the items to those who need it most from there.)
I love helping donors make the most of their donation. Though I can’t speak for all development directors, I love when people contact me directly about a donation. I can’t tell you how often I hear “I want to make sure my donation helps someone who truly needs it.” Oftentimes a donation, though not needed in their home, does have some sentimental value to the donor. If we don’t take the items in question, I will do my best to steer them to an organization that does need their donation. Even random sheets in questionable condition may be welcomed with open arms at an animal shelter! When in doubt, just ask someone who handles donations on a daily basis. We’re happy to help you “tidy up.”