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Many charities accept almost any donation—they are grateful that someone would think to help them, and the people they champion are so in need.
That’s not to say there aren’t gifts that prove challenging. Here are a few:
■ Presidential Peeps. The Capital Area Food Bank focuses on procuring good-quality, nutritional food. Still, “today’s offer of pork rinds might be tomorrow’s offer of chicken,” says chief operating officer Brian Smith. This theory was put to the test a few years back when the White House’s annual Easter Egg Roll was rained out. Four pallets of Peeps—about 13,000 marshmallow treats—arrived at the food bank. Eventually the Peeps landed at agencies with children’s programs.
■ Priced to move. Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County’s ReStore can’t take every donation because of its small space, but the shop recently accepted an offer of illuminated outdoor speakers that retail for $499 each. “We didn’t know anything about the donation or how it was going to come,” says ReStore’s Adeela Abbasi. It ended up being 300 boxes they call the “black island,” as most remain stacked in the middle of the store. Volunteers had to spend hours removing any reference to the manufacturer from the boxes. They’re hoping a big price drop—$45 each, or $20 with a purchase of $50 or more—will help sell the speakers.
■ When all else fails. Goodwill Industries has received its share of challenging donations. “A few years ago, the Kemper Open changed to the FBR Capital Open to the Booz Allen Classic,” says Goodwill’s Brendan Hurley. Goodwill was given 500 FBR Capital Open golf shirts. Eventually they were given away as prizes. “They were nice shirts,” he says, “for an event that no longer existed.”
■ The gift that keeps on taking. Linda Robertson of Inova Health System Foundation in Falls Church says her organization accepted a timeshare in the mountains of Virginia that has ended up costing Inova about $400 a year. “We’ve attempted to market it to employees, but we’re getting no interest,” she says. Robertson says charities have to be careful when accepting timeshares, which can be worth less than when they were purchased. “It would have to be a golden type of thing,” she says. “Vail at Christmas might be a great gift.”
>>Want more ways to do good? Check out our full charity package.