A guide to making the biggest difference with your donation in the Badger State and beyond.
Still have a bag filled with the remnants of spring cleaning in the trunk of your car? While there’s nothing inherently wrong with giving to Goodwill, your clothes (and other clutter) can often make a greater impact somewhere else.
We compiled a list of organizations around Wisconsin, as well as a handful of national nonprofits with a local presence, that make great places to give because they also give back.
- Becca’s Closet: With the goal of “turning dresses into dreams,” the group gives new and gently used prom dresses to teens who otherwise can’t afford to attend the biggest dance of the school year. The organization has “closets” in 23 states, including two in Wisconsin: Reedsburg and Beloit. Click here to find your nearest location.
- The Buy Nothing Project: On average, only 20% of the clothes donated to thrift stores are resold, and the rest end up in landfills. This app helps eco-minded people find clothing exchange programs that focus on reducing environmental waste in their community.
- Chosen Family Closet: This Waukesha-based non-profit collects gently used baby and children’s clothes to give to families that foster or adopt. It also accepts furniture and toys.
- Dress for Success: The nonprofit’s mission is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support and professional attire. Click here to host or find a donation drive near you.
- Homeless Shelters: An estimated 4,500 people experience homelessness every day in Wisconsin. Socks and underwear are two of the most in-need items at local shelters. Consider donating extra, unopened packs, as well as menstrual care products, which are also in high demand. Click here to find a shelter near you.
- LGBTQ+ Centers: With several options in most communities (click here to find yours), these centers provide free clothes and a safe environment for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Professional clothing is usually in high-demand.
- Refugee Organizations: From Afghanistan to Ukraine, Wisconsin is one of the many states welcoming families who left behind everything to escape violence. Their most basic need is clothes. Click here for a list of the highest-rated charities helping right now.
Gently Used Shoes?
- Soles4Souls: This group teaches people living in poverty how to run their own businesses by reselling shoes. Volunteers have recently organized collection drives in Eau Claire, Manitowoc, and Stevens Point. Learn how to start a shoe drive here or click to request a ‘Sneaker Give Back Kit,’ and the organization will mail you a recyclable plastic bag, tape, and directions to ship your shoes for free.
- Nike Reuse-A-Shoe: Nike’s program recycles athletic shoes specifically, turning them into basketball courts, tracks, and more. Nike accepts all brands of sneakers, just no sandals, dress shoes, or any shoes with metal (like cleats or spikes.) Find a participating Nike store near you.
- Books to Prisoners: This Wisconsin-based nonprofit’s goal is to encourage the pursuit of knowledge and self-betterment to help break the cycle of recidivism. Thesauruses, almanacs, occupational guides, and fiction books are among the most-requested reads.
- The Guest House: This Milwaukee nonprofit addresses all aspects of homelessness and serves more than 1,500 people every year. Currently, they don’t need clothes, but do need puzzle books, adult coloring books, and art supplies.
- Local Foster Care Programs: Kids who are part of the foster care system often have very few belongings, and giving to them not only benefits the children, but allows their foster parents to spend more money on other activities/programs. Click here to find an agency near you.
- Dane Need: This partnership between the Dane County Department of Human Services and the United Way connects nonprofits with people who need help. Many organizations, including the Salvation Army, offer furniture donation pickup right at your doorstep. Click here for more information.
- Habitat for Humanity ReStore: As part of Habitat for Humanity’s efforts to support affordable housing, its ReStore locations sell appliances, furniture, and home goods that are still in good condition to raise money for its mission. Plus, it has more than a dozen locations across the state. Click here to find one near you.
Animal Shelters: Shelters and organizations like the Wisconsin Humane Society need towels, wash cloths, hand towels, sheets, pillowcases, and blankets to keep rescued animals warm. Check with your local center to see what donations they’re accepting right now.
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