For Immediate Release - February 09, 2010

Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office Advises Consumers on Clothing Donation Bins

BOSTON - In response to recent reports of confusion regarding the use of clothing collected via "clothing donation bins," Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office reminds the public to do their homework before making what they believe to be a "charitable" donation to such bins. Bins for the collection of used clothing, toys and other household items can be found in parking lots and other public locations. However, such collection bins do not always have a charitable purpose, despite the use of the word "donate" frequently used in the marketing of these bins. In fact, the companies who place and market these bins often resell the clothing, and while such practices are permitted, potential donors should be aware that their donations may not contribute to charitable purposes.

"For-profit companies engaged in the business of collecting and re-selling clothes and other household items routinely depend upon the public's desire to be charitable to build their businesses," said Attorney General Coakley. "While we strongly encourage members of the public to donate to charitable causes, people should not assume that their clothing donations will be used for such purposes. If you are simply looking for a convenient way to dispose of used clothes, any collection bin set out for such purpose will do. If however, you want your donation to advance a charitable purpose, we suggest that you check to see if they have registered with our office."

Some for-profit companies promise or imply that a portion of the proceeds will support charitable organizations or causes. For-profit companies are not legally required to make a minimum contribution to charity, however those companies that do claim a portion of the proceeds will go to a charity must register with the Attorney General's Office as a commercial co-venturer. Commercial co-venturers are also required to report the results of their charitable appeal in annual statements submitted to the Attorney General's Office, which include the actual amounts contributed to the charitable cause, on an annual basis.

For consumers who want to ensure that their clothing donation is going to a charitable cause, the Attorney General's Office advises the public to follow these few simple steps:

  • If a company seeking your donation states, explicitly or implicitly, that a portion of the proceeds will advance a charitable organization or cause, do your homework. Make sure the company has registered with the Division as a commercial co-venturer. Consumers can call the Public Charities Division to confirm if a for-profit is registered with our office at 617-727-2200 ext. 2101.
  • Do not hesitate to contact the company and ask how much of the value of your donation will be dedicated to charitable causes.
  • In most cases where the recipient is not a charity, the percentage contributed to charitable purposes is small. Consider whether that contribution level is acceptable to you.

The Attorney General's Office, through its Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division, is responsible for overseeing the public's interest in the Commonwealth's non-profit charitable organizations. Massachusetts general laws require public charities to register and file annual reports with the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division of the Office of the Attorney General and copies of these reports are available to the public on our website.