Whether it's household supplies, clothes, or canned goods, be sure to check the charity's guidelines.

Charities and non-profit organizations that provide aid were needed more than ever when the pandemic began, but the majority of them suffered a drop in donations. "It's important to continue to donate because, overall, our food donations have decreased since the pandemic started," explains Karen M. Pozna, director of communications and special events at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. "[As a result] we have had to purchase more product to meet the demand." Now that the country is partially opening up and it's possible to move about again with precautions, donating to your favorite charity can be done in a safe manner.

According to Melony Butler, executive director of Dress for Success Cleveland, the pandemic has indeed changed the way that organizations accept and process donations. "Most organizations are striving to have contactless intake processes and develop methods to ensure clothing is sterilized before putting into circulation," she says. "In addition, organizations are having to purchase products like masks, gloves, and disinfectants, and rearrange spacing to comply with social distance guidelines to maintain safety for their staff, volunteers, and clientele."

Organizations had to pause or temporarily suspend acceptance of donations while they implemented these new procedures. As they begin to reopen their doors, here's how to effectively donate during the pandemic, all according to the advice of our community leaders.

Follow the charity's guidelines for donations.

Visit the organization's website or call them to find out what their needs are before you drop off a donation. If you don't follow procedures, they can reject or discard your donation as a public health measure—which is not what you or they want. For instance, Dress for Success Cleveland is only accepting donations via their Amazon Wish List at the moment, but they plan to resume regular clothing donations by the end of this October. "We are currently planning a partnership with a pickup service which allows us to comply with COVID safety guidelines and our building regulations," Butler says. "We are asking the public to donate dry cleaned or laundered items on hangers only [once clothing donations are continued]. We are unable to accept clothing in boxes or bags."

a contactless delivery of boxed food during the pandemic
Credit: Svetlana Cherruty / Getty Images

Clean and check your items before donating.

You want to donate items that are clean and in fairly good condition. Food items should be non-expired. "Before you donate, we encourage people to check for rust, bulging, or open items," Pozna says, further explaining that nonperishable food in that condition, "cannot be redistributed." Clothing should be washed, dried, and packaged according to the charity's specifications. A basic rule of thumb is to consider what you would want to receive if you were the one in need and make sure that it is something you would want to wear. Ripped, torn, unwashed, stained, or mildew-covered clothing is not acceptable (even before the pandemic).

Donate as often as you can.

If you are able to donate food and clothing, then you should definitely do so. People who have lost their jobs or their homes during the pandemic need your help, and any one of us could face those circumstances in the future. You can give money to charities or donate clothing or food as one of the ways to help people right now. Most importantly, check your items beforehand and prepare your donation however the organization needs it. Call ahead for contactless pickups if they're offered, or schedule a time to drop off your donation.


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