The Secret Truth About Thrift Stores

When you donate a shirt to Volunteers of America. . . Something magical happens

Turning the stuff you don’t need into a good deed

Remember when Macklemore taught us all about how cool thrift shopping was? We all learned how to pop tags and wear our granddad’s coat.

Wasn’t that fun? But, we didn’t learn important info like where the proceeds go, the different types of thrift shops out there or how our donations are sorted. I guess the word “nonprofit” wouldn’t fit into the song or was too hard to rhyme with. Let’s grab our fur coats and learn the truth about how thrift shoppin’ can give your community hope.

Thrifting is a fun way for you to find unique clothes and household items while supporting your community. Every dollar spent goes to fund programs that help veterans, individuals and families rebuild their lives. Your Volunteers of America thrift shops provide a valuable revenue source to uplift all community members. Because of your support, 23,000 people last year were helped in Ohio and Indiana. That’s a lot of people who got help just from you donating your old t-shirt!

The journey of hope all starts when you donate your clothes and household goods to nonprofit thrift stores like Volunteers of America. To make it super easy to donate your items, Volunteers of America will come pick up your stuff. All you have to do is call or schedule a free home pickup. Donating your stuff saves you time, is tax deductible if you itemize, and most importantly, directly benefits your community. It’s way more fulfilling to give away your items rather than sell them online or at a consignment store. And, we’ll accept your stuff, no matter what brand or if it’s pre-loved.

Next on our journey of hope, your donations are sorted by category, color and condition. The gently used, good-quality clothes and items are put up for sale. They are given a sales tag color based on what week it is. A store manager prices the items, keeping in mind that items need to be priced affordably and reasonably. We’re proud that 80 percent of our sales floor costs less than $1.99.

Some items that can’t be sold in the thrift store (or that haven't sold after six weeks on the sales floor) are recycled. They are compressed into large bales that are then easily moved onto trucks via a forklift. These recycled clothes are sent to different countries abroad to be given to those in need. Again, the proceeds of your donation benefit the community and give others hope. Maybe your donated shirt doesn’t help someone in your neighborhood, but maybe it helps a young boy overseas.

Alas, not all thrift stores are the same. This is the part of our journey that gets a bit serious. Some thrift shops are large corporations that care more about turning a profit than helping others. That’s why it’s important you give your unwanted items to a local nonprofit thrift store rather than donating to large for-profit thrift stores.

When you give to a large corporate thrift store, your donations do not help your community, but rather turn a profit for the business owner. Do you want your old t-shirt to be just a drop in a coffer or bring joy to someone and become their new favorite shirt? Some stores say they do good for the neighborhood but they actually donate only a small percentage of their revenue to a nonprofit. It’s worthwhile to do your homework and be careful about where you donate. Double check how the company that operates the thrift store is structured. Are they a 501(c)(3)nonprofit? Or a for profit corporate business? For-profit thrift stores are not required by most states to disclose their finances. Nonprofits are required by federal law to disclose their finances to the public. So, a quick Google search will show you where the proceeds of your donations are really going.

Donate. Thrift. Give Hope. Repeat.

After you donate your stuff to a thrift store that loves your community as much as you do, treat yo’ self to some great bargains! It’s so enjoyable to browse the racks of clothes with friends and family and help each other find hidden gems. Thrifting is a great way to develop a personal style that’s all your own. When you snag a one-of-a-kind item and your friend compliments you, then you can brag saying it was only 99 cents.

We keep our prices low to not only appeal to bargain-hunters but also as an affordable option for low-income households. With the cost of rent continually increasing, it’s important that clothes and household items are still offered at reasonable costs.

Did you know that the individuals, veterans and families who we serve in our programs are given vouchers to use at our thrift stores? They can stock their new apartment with household essentials, get a warm winter coat, or sturdy shoes for no cost to them. Thrift stores are great for finding items for your house like dishes, cookware or furniture that’s totally affordable.

It shouldn’t be a big secret how thrift stores operate, sort donations or how much they value the clothes and household items donated by community members like you. The proceeds of Volunteers of America thrift stores support life-saving programs for community members in need.

Your donation = hope for your community.