Whether you’re spring cleaning or trying to minimize post-holidays clutter, donating used toys can help clear out your home and do some good at the same time. Getting those toys cleaned, assembled, and working is the first step, after which you need to find a place that accepts toy donations.
I always do a big toy clean-out before Christmas, which often leaves me with boxes and bags full of gently used items that can go to a good cause. I like discussing each charity with my kids to explain where their old toys are going. By explaining how other kids can use their previously loved gear, my children get involved in the spirit of giving – and they love to have input as to where we donate their stuff.
By researching your options for donating toys, you can work with your family to choose a way to donate or a specific cause that is most deserving of your donation. Of course, you don’t have to choose just one – divvy up your donations to several different causes if you can’t settle on just one.
Toy Donation Options
1. Resell Charities
Charity thrift stores such as Goodwill and The Salvation Army accept toys and then put them on the store floor for others to buy. Any proceeds they collect from the sale of the toys is put back into programs that benefit the needy right in your own community. However, you should call your local store prior to donating – if there’s a surplus of toys in the store, your donation may be declined. However, if your donation is accepted, it’s a great way to ensure that families have access to low-cost toys while helping to keep funds in your own community.
2. Local Shelters and Children’s Centers
If you know of a shelter or children’s charity in your area, there’s a good chance that it accepts toy donations. After all, kids will be kids, and children who visit shelters can feel more at ease when there are toys nearby. You just need to call ahead, as some charities won’t accept toy donations.
Other places to check include a children’s social services office, your local Boys & Girls Club, and toy drives organized by schools, hospitals, or even grocery or department stores. You can also use the Homeless Shelter Directory to find shelters in your area.
3. Preschools and Nurseries
A local for-profit preschool or nursery may not be an EO (exempt organization), so donating there won’t net you a deduction on your taxes. Still, it’s a selfless gift if you’ve noticed that a preschool is in need of some gently used toys. Just be sure to call before you bring in a donation, as there may be some guidelines to prep toys.
4. Church Charities
Churches are tax-exempt organizations, so you can claim a deduction if you donate old toys to a church nursery. Many religious organizations offer daycares or nurseries to their parishioners, and since the service is often low-cost or free, they’re often in need of toys. It’s a great way to give back, especially if you’ve had an opportunity to take advantage of a church’s childcare services in the past.
If you don’t want or need a tax deduction but wish to get rid of an item quickly, look online. You can use a site such as Freecycle to post items that you’d like to give away. Just be wary of posting personal details, and never share your address. Instead, meet people in public places, such as the parking lot of a supermarket, to hand off the items.
You can also look for online swap meets and charity garage sales using sites such as Facebook and Craigslist. These meets collect donations and then sell the items to benefit a good cause, so it’s an excellent way to get rid of extra stuff.
While local charities may or may not need toys, national charities generally always accept donations. Here are several specific national charities that are looking for goods, such as toys and games.
6. Toys for Tots
While you may associate Toys for Tots with a call for new, unwrapped toys, the Marine-facilitated charity also takes used toys in great shape. If you have a box to donate, head over to the Toys for Tots website, where you can enter your state and schedule a pickup or find a drop-off location. Just keep in mind that used toys may be distributed differently than brand-new items – they may go to shelters or facilities, rather than to individual kids.
If you want to give back but don’t have any new or used toys, Toys for Tots also regularly issues calls for cash donations and warehouse volunteers, which could be an excellent opportunity for you to give back without actually offering a toy donation.
7. Toys “R” Us
Toys “R” Us often has a donation bin at the front entrance of the store where you can place donations, even if you’re not planning to shop there, for distribution to worthy charities. The store also frequently works with Toys for Tots to collect new, unwrapped toys for the holiday season – a great way to repurpose that duplicate action figure from Grandma after the holidays.
8. Ronald McDonald House
I volunteer at a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, so I regularly see families who are able to take advantage of the services The Ronald McDonald House has to offer. The Ronald McDonald House offers lodging and facilities to families whose children are receiving care in a nearby hospital. The House makes it possible for families who may live farther away to be near their little ones in a time of need.
Of course, The Ronald McDonald House offers facilities for entire families, which means it’s continually in need of toys to keep siblings occupied while staying there. You can help by donating your toys to your local chapter. Your kids’ pre-loved stuff could help other children feel more at home when away from their own toys.
9. Loving Hugs or Stuffed Animals for Emergencies
Another deserving type of charity that could use old toys are those that offer children a familiar object in times of emergency. Both Loving Hugs and Stuffed Animals for Emergencies give stuffed toys to kids in crisis situations, whether it’s a natural disaster or while taking an ambulance ride. I’ve found that my kids are especially open to donating their stuff to emergency charities, because it’s something they can understand: The idea of being scared or sad and the comfort of a stuffed animal.
What to Avoid
While most charities are thrilled to receive toy donations, there are several things that you must avoid:
- Don’t Give Broken or Soiled Toys. Most facilities don’t have the ability to clean and repair items, so they may simply be tossed in the garbage if they can’t be put back together quickly.
- Don’t Give Items With Pieces Missing. It’s unlikely that a charity has the ability to locate a replacement.
- Don’t Give Baby Items That Are Designed to Go in a Baby’s Mouth. Pacifiers and bottles usually are not accepted. Some charities don’t accept baby items, period – so if you’re trying to donate strollers, bouncy seats, and the like, call ahead first.
- Don’t Leave Items Unattended. Charities that accept toys often have designated drop-off points or pickup availability, so leaving a box of toys at a charity door is in bad form. At the very least, call ahead and let them know you’re coming.
- Don’t Attempt to Give Used Toys to Hospitals. While they may be able to use a few books and clean items in a waiting room, there are strict hygiene guidelines that must be adhered to when it comes to having toys in patients’ rooms. If you want to donate toys, new items – with tags – are best.
- Don’t Wrap Toys. Make sure your donations are unwrapped and entirely visible.
- Don’t Give Items That Have Been Recalled. Such toys should be returned to the manufacturer, not donated to charity.
Toys and Taxes
You can often claim toy donations as a deduction on your taxes, but you have to do a few things first. To start, catalog all of the items you’re donating by type and what shape they are in. Then, you must specifically donate to a tax-exempt organization. If you’re not sure if a facility can claim exempt organization status, check the IRS EO Select Check tool. Then, ask the organization for a donation receipt when you drop off the toys – you’ll need it for your tax records.
If none of these option work for you, visit DonationTown.org, a website designed to facilitate free donation pickups for charities in your area. By going to the website, you can schedule a pickup and delivery to a charity of your choice simply by inputting your ZIP code.
Wanting to donate old toys is definitely commendable, and there are literally hundreds of deserving charities that could use your help. It can seem overwhelming, but by making the charity selection a family affair, you can get extra toy clutter out of your home while instilling a spirit of giving within your kids.
Which other charities would you suggest for used toy donations?