9 Things You Need to Rethink About How You Donate

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing that you have done your fair share of buying an extra canned good to donate to a local shelter. Maybe you make it a regular duty to drop your old clothes off at a donation site. But what if you were missing the small things? Little things you could do to make a bigger impact when you decide to give to those in need? Homeless shelters across the world are missing small, but key materials to help their organizations maximize their effect.

It doesn’t take a monumental effort to make a monumental impact in someone’s life, especially if those people happen to be down on their luck. So let’s nail down some of the small adjustments you can make to be sure that your spirit of giving is reaching its full potential.

  1. Save up and donate your used grocery bags.

Plastic-BagsMany of the people who come to shelters have had the burden of moving around a lot. So they need to limit the amount of items they can keep with them, while also making them resistant against any type of weather. Plastic grocery bags are a great resource to help sort their things and keep them dry.

These are also useful for the shelters themselves, and they’re used to package and distribute food and donated items to the women who visit them.

  1. Socks and underwear—least donated item

The least donated items at most homeless shelters are new socks and underwear. It is wonderful that many people think of shelters when getting rid of their old clothes and household items, but the power of receiving a brand new package of socks or underwear is immeasurable.

UndiesJust think about the last time you opened a new package of socks. Did you pull them out, shove them up to your nose, and smell as hard as you could? Did you tirelessly thank the person that handed them to you? Did you begin to cry? These are all reactions that the YWCA has witnessed to women staying in shelters. Often, shelters rely on donations to then pass on to residents – if an item is not being donated, the people living in shelter must figure out how to do without that item.

  1. Spare some Tupperware

In addition to keeping leftovers fresh after residents cook a meal, storage containers are used to keep their things safe and organized. There is limited space in one person’s designated area within a shelter, so having everything together and organized in storage containers is the best set-up.

  1. Laundry Detergent pods

Laundry-detergent-pods-jpgLaundry Detergent pods are a fantastic alternative to donating large containers of liquid detergent. Pods are easier for the shelter itself to distribute – they come prepackaged with just the right amount of detergent, no measuring or refilling required!

  1. Wet wipes

When you think about it, wet wipes are so versatile when it comes to what they can clean. When you are on the move seeking shelter, having access to wet wipes is important to help keep yourself and your belongings clean.

The best option for this item would be multiple small packages of wet wipes, so that the shelter can distribute the sealed packages among its residents.

  1. Cans with pull tabs

Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to remember. How many times have we reached into our kitchen utensil drawer, pulled out a can opener, and started making dinner?

cansWhen you’re fleeing a crisis situation, your first thought isn’t, “I better grab a can opener!” Many women living in shelter do not have this simple tool and it becomes problematic when all they receive is canned food with no way of opening. When you are buying canned goods to donate, just look for items with pull tabs for easy opening. Make your food donation count – not add extra work for the people you’re serving!

  1. Registry

If you have a big event like a wedding, baby shower, or even birthday coming up and you are unsure of what to ask for, think of a shelter! Putting items on a registry that can be donated is becoming more and more popular. If you have many guests coming that will all want to bring a gift, throw some extra towels, appliances, or diapers on your wedding or baby shower registry. After all, there are only so many toasters you can have in your house without people thinking you’re crazy.

  1. Own a business? Donate marketing!

MarketingDoes your business have a credit at the local print shop for large orders? Do you plan to buy some radio ads to ramp up holiday buying? Donate a portion of your marketing to a local shelter! Shelters seldom have extra money in the budget for marketing, but their message is so important. The weather is getting colder, and shelters want to make sure every family has a warm, safe place to stay. That donated radio ad could be the source of housing for a family seeking shelter.

  1. Contact your local shelter!

The truth is every shelter has its own distinct items that they are currently undersupplied for, and it would be in your best interest to contact them either by visiting a webpage, calling, or just stopping in. Knowing exactly what your community’s needs are is the best way to make an impact.

Giving back always feels good, but it’s better to know for sure that your gifts are doing the most that they can to help. Remember to also look out for local community events that support your community’s homeless shelter. At the YWCA Central Indiana, consider donating to the Gifts of Gratitude and benefit the women and children living at the YWCA. Donations range from $1 to $250 and our goal is to receive every donation on our Gratitude Tree.


by Jessie Stubbeman, YWCA Central Indiana Intern