There’s nothing wrong with donating good, used items is there? The answer to this question might surprise you. In some instances a donation can cause more harm than good. I know it may be hard to grasp that concept, but a pictorial on Foreign Policy magazine's website helps give you and I — people who donate to charities around the world — a glimpse into why we need to pay more attention to what we donate and where these donations will end up.


Here’s a bit from the pictorial’s introduction, which features an image of an Afghani man eating a Pop-Tart:


“Everyone likes a breakfast pastry, but in 2002, the U.S. was sharply criticized for airlifting millions of Pop-Tarts into Afghanistan, much of which ended up on the black market. In many cases, writes Foreign Policy's Charles Kenny in Haiti Doesn't Need Your Old T-Shirt, this kind of aid ends up undermining the local economy rather than helping it.” Source: Foreign Policy


Examples of charitable giving gone wrong highlighted in the pictorial include:


  • The importation of losing Super Bowl team T-shirts can harm local textile economies
  • Donating teddy bears to children suffering from tuberculosis instead of helping fund an increase in medicine availability for the disease
  • Sending goods instead of money after a catastrophe like the earthquake in Haiti

I know that I don’t put a lot of thought into my non-cash charitable giving. Sure, I’ll think about which charity would most benefit from a given item but not much beyond that. I’m not trying to be an absent-minded giver, but until I read this article I never realized that I needed to put more thought into the giving process. Anyone who donates items to a nonprofit organization, especially an international organization, should make sure that the items being donated are not only useful but in demand and won’t have negative drawbacks for the receiving organization or country.


For more examples of these drawbacks, visit

Charitable giving gone wrong
A look at some of the ways charitable giving does more harm than good.