In addition to volunteering I donate my odds and sods (the kids old clothing, spare food) to a local crisis centre. A lot of the time the easiest option for us is to donate stuff by putting it in a charity bin but I prefer donating to the crisis centre for a few reasons;
– donating using a bin removes you physically and emotionally from the people you are donating to, and seeing how the donations are used. While it’s so easy, and handy, and you can always find a bin no matter what the hour! you don’t have to think about what would be useful or what a reasonable quality level is for donated goods.
– charity shops sell all their goods for a small price. But that price, particularly around where I live is often out of the reach of people who honestly need the goods. The charity stores are trying to maximise revenue from ‘thrifters’ who resell goods, but those in genuine need might find they cannot afford the $3 for new shoes so that they can send their kids to school in shoes the next day. Rents are sky high, and the wait for public housing is over 7 years in my city. Crisis centres offer people a small amount of free goods each week or fortnight (5 or 10 usually) and finding school shoes, decent baby clothing or a lunchbox is a boon to some families.
– The crisis centres will donate the unsold goods back to the larger charity chains.
– The larger charity chains operate as businesses – but often without the same checks and balances a government run service will have. Locally we have seen issues with them on selling goods for less than reasonable prices. I know the crisis centres are not running as businesses but serving genuine crisises.
As a result of donating to my crisis centre I’m picking up slightly different things to donate. Recently I found some boys undies on a sale at Kmart, so I picked up a spare 3pair set in a few sizes for the donating to the centre, and when the big washing powder box was on sale I picked some of that up to. (The local laundromat, which is the only option to clean your clothes without a washing machine, charges $1 a scoop for about 7c of washing powder so I know the crisis centre can get about 90 scoops out of the big box for people to access). By making more effort to see what people need I can make a difference to them beyond donating another can of baked beans.
In terms of my initial project, I’m still transferring my discretionary spending into charity, but focusing in a slightly different way this month. The 4 packs of 3pairs boys undies = the price of a cheapie Ulta3 nail polish. A super box of laundry powder = price of a OPI nail polish. Seeing like that makes me realise that I have it pretty good in my life, to be able to chose which way to spend this money and not be scraping around to clothe and feed my boys.