Are Your Clothing Donations Really Going to Charity?


Have you ever dropped off clothing at one of those parking lot bins? The ones that say they’re going to a specific charity? Or maybe a charity is calling you and saying they’ll pick up any spare clothes or household goods you don’t want. You dutifully sort through your closet and drawers and select the pieces you don’t want anymore but won’t work at a consignment shop, stuff them into a garbage bag and leave them in what you assume is the hands of a charitable organization.

Except, that’s not really where your things end up. In an in-depth article researched by the CBC, in most cases the bins themselves are being emptied by private collection companies. The drivers are paid by the pound to collect the items, then the collection companies turn around and sell the items — at a profit — to bulk buyers, who will then resell the items to for-profit thrift stores or export the items to the third world for sale.

And what of charity? Where do they get their cut? It’s not clear. Charities sometimes take a flat fee, or perhaps a percentage of the sales. But in many cases, the charity will never even see your items — and they might not even see a penny of the profits from them. A recent court case in Ontario forced a for-profit collection company to open its books, and what it showed was mere pennies ending up in charities, while everyone along the rest of the route rakes it in. One anonymous source was quoted as stating a driver could make “$200,000 a year, easy.”  The judge in the case was shocked, expressing surprise at the “very small portion of the revenue generated from the business being given to certain charities” while the business “produced extraordinary revenue and income for those involved.”

And that business isn’t exactly reputable. The court case mentioned above involved a man in the bin collection business claiming a gun was pulled on him by a competitor. Bins have even been found to have no affiliation whatsoever with the charity they’re claiming to help.

So what do you do? You thought you were giving your things to a good cause; instead you’re lining the pockets of profitmakers. Here’s a few tips to make sure your donations are really being used the way you want them used:

  • Don’t just drop your things in any random bin. Do your research. If a bin says it’s going to charity, contact the local charity to verify.
  • Better yet, find a charity that will accept your donations directly. The Salvation Army processes and sells all of the suitable donations they receive through their thrift stores, generating cash directly for their charitable programs.


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Photo Credit: QUOI media on Flickr.


Veronica M.
Veronica M.2 years ago

I have seen some evidence of this in England. I've gone into a few retail stores, not charity shops, and have seen clothing that looks used and does not have that distinct new smell. TK Maxx even has a used clothing drop-off box right inside their store in Leeds; most of their clothes look used.

.2 years ago

I'd be trampled if all sites gave articles like these awesome articles.Pakistani clothes

Emily G.
Emily G.3 years ago

This is all very silly. The donations are not just about a non-profit good cause and who is the best charitable cause. If it were, it certainly is not Goodwill. Do some research on Goodwill. They have more tremendously high paid executives that any other "charitable" organization in the world! They are behind the agenda to get rid of donation bins across the country. They want NO competition and are using their big name behind the scenes to get city's to ban bins. And the public falls for it. There are a lot of credible donation box companies who are doing great work regardless of supporting a charitable organization. The RECYCLING ASPECT alone is a big enough reason to give people a reason to put their unwanted textiles; clothes, shoes; sheets, in these bins. It doesn't get any easier or convenient and yet over 80% of textiles still go to landfills - costing every city millions in tax payer dollars! Look it up. It is fact. They need to put in place huge fines if you are caught dumping your broken furniture & old toilet outside of a clothing donation bin! It's always a few lazy and ignorant people out there who ruin a great cause. And a huge corporation like Goodwill who is scamming the public. Non profit great cause? No they are not.

Samantha Richardson

No offence to the Salvo's, but I wouldn't want to drop my clothes in their bin. I take offence to their anti-LGBTQ stance.

However, I am sad that the charities do not see the money from the physical donations that people are offering. Hopefully this will open people's eyes and standards will be put in place to make sure the charity actually benefits, not greedy businessmen's pockets!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

Salvation Army, Goodwill and CUOC for the win. That way I KNOW where my donations are going. Also a great idea... I take gently used clothes and toys (I have a 2 yr old) to consignment stores and whatever money I get I use to buy his clothes for the next time... but you could always donate that money to a charity. Every penny helps!

Karen C.
Karen C5 years ago

Shame, shame, shame! There are alternative ways to ensure your used items benefit the people you intended. Why do we have so many people willing to profit off the misfortune of some and the naivety of others?

Elisha D.
Elisha D.5 years ago

..illegal bins and they are really hurting the rest of us who are trying to help our communities. However people like you who do not do their research before writing such strongly worded slander are also hurting cause.
You have 65 comments on your article and now 65 people associate us with these illegal bin companies. I recommend you take down this photo of our bin. And if you would like to call us and do some actual research on this issue I would be happy to speak to you directly.

Elisha D.
Elisha D.5 years ago


I am extremely dissappointed at the misrepresentation of my company on your blog. I am the operations manager of the Breast Cancer Health Fund of Canada and Clothing for Charity.
I must say I find it a little ridiculous that you have written an article urging the public to 'research' the company before they donate their items when you clearly have not.

Clothing for Charity and the Breast Cancer Health Fund has donated over half a million dollars to Breast Cancer education programs, support services and diagnostic equipment. Including over $40,000 alone to the Ottawa Hospital (which I can tell from the picture of the bin is where you are from). We have also purchased a van for the Arnprior Breast Cancer Centre, to transport the patients to and from the hospital to receive their treatments. We are also currently in the process of negotiating a project that will bring another $25,000 to the hospital. These are only our Ottawa intiatives, our home base is in Burlington, ON.
On top of our efforts with Breast Cancer, we also donate a huge amount of clothing to women's shelters and burn units throughout Ontario. This is something that we alone are able to say we do. We sell nothing to local thrift stores. The remainer of the clothing is sold to textile recyclers to fund our Breast Cancer initiatives.
You did no research on the company you used to portray your article on illegitimate charities. And yes, your article is absolutely true. There are tons of i

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe5 years ago

OMG. Is nothing real any more? I see different charity bins around and I thought they were all legit. I guess next time I will call and ask what they take, and then go into the charity itself.

Dr Clue
Dr Clue5 years ago

Many fund raising activities are conducted by those with no relation to the charity they wrap themselves in.

Most telemarketing involving charities are run by individuals who in the past traveled town to town like a carnival , but likely now can run the show from anywhere.

These and other operations often keep 49% and many times that is after expenses.

If the urge hit's you to be charitable, you can nearly double your donation's effect by taking the small moment to do it directly.

Did you really want to watch donkey basket ball or get a bunch of useless coupons or whatever other gimmick?