Thurston County’s Hidden Sector

Spring cleaning with nonprofits


Spring is finally here! (It started yesterday.)

In addition to enjoying the outdoors, around this time, folks think about spring cleaning. I freely admit that we have a few closets in desperate need of a purge! Whenever people start talking about cleaning out their closets, this inevitably leads to a conversation about donations. Don’t get me wrong, I think donating gently used items is a great way to recycle and support your favorite nonprofit organizations; however, there are times when this can go awry.

I recall visiting a string of warehouses in Florida filled with cleaning supplies. After Hurricane Andrew, someone mentioned in an interview that there was a need for bleach and other disinfectants to clean up after the storms. Americans sent so many cases of these products that many were never used. There was a similar story about socks after Hurricane Katrina. Therefore, before you start tackling the garage or closet, I thought we might briefly discuss donating.

What happens to your clothes after you donate them?

Few nonprofits in the United States collect and redistribute more donated clothes than Goodwill does. Goodwill receives billions of pounds of donations every year, according to Brittany Dickinson, manager of sustainability for Goodwill Industries International.

In 2021 Goodwill handled more than 107 million donations of used goods, totaling around 5.7 billion pounds. Unfortunately, a large portion of donated clothes are typically unsuitable for someone else to wear because they are in poor condition. In the case of a charity such as Goodwill, about half of the donated clothing is suitable for retail. The remaining 50 percent of donations that don’t meet the quality standard are sold in Goodwill outlet stores, such as the one at 4014 Martin Way East in Olympia. These are wholesale establishments that sell items at significantly lower prices, or to salvage dealers who often send your items overseas.

The solution, though, is not to stop donating entirely. Before donating clothing, make sure your clothes are in the best condition possible. Garments should be clean and free of pet hair (very unlikely from our house) or lint. Check any pockets for trash or personal items. If your clothes have rips or missing buttons, try mending and repairing them before donating. A good rule of thumb is if you would not wear an item because of a stain or tear, don’t donate it. Another good practice is to avoid donating clothes that aren’t in season; many nonprofits have very limited space. Instead, wait for the proper time of year when there is more demand for that type of clothing.

What about disaster donations?

As mentioned earlier, tempted as you might be, you also shouldn’t donate clothing, even new items, to disaster-relief efforts unless a reputable organization that is on the ground in the affected area makes a specific request. Most of the clothing that gets donated in the aftermath of disasters isn’t helpful, and relief organizations typically don’t have the resources to clean, organize or make donated clothing usable for people in need.

If you would like to learn more about what might be happening to your donated clothes I recommend “The Conscious Closet,” by Elizabeth L. Cline. You may also want to check resources such as Charity Watch, Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau’s website, which evaluate organizations and provide information about their operations.

Support our local Surfrider Chapters

Olympia Surfrider Chapter & the South Sound Surfrider Chapter Presents:
“Coextinction” on March 31 at the Capitol Theater. “Coextinction” follows filmmakers Gloria Pancrazi and Elena Jean as they expose what it will take to save the last 73 Southern Resident orcas from extinction. Ultimately, their findings reveal how the orcas’ endangerment is fundamentally tied to the collapse of wild salmon populations and centuries of injustice against Indigenous peoples. For tickets or more details click here.

Both Olympia and South Sound Chapters are part of the larger Surfrider Foundation, a grassroots activist network. Chapters such as these are comprised of passionate volunteers working towards a vision of 100% coastal protection. Each chapter is run by a small core team of dedicated volunteers that make up the Executive Committee, which meets monthly to plan events and chapter activities.

The Olympia Surfrider Chapter currently has three open volunteer positions: Volunteer Coordinator, Secretary, and Vice Chair. For more information email with questions or interest.

Want to learn more about nonprofit management?

There is still time to register to attend the 2023 Nonprofit Leaders Conference for Coastal and Southwest Washington which will be held this Friday, March 24 at Ocean Shores Convention Center. This year’s theme of Mission: Possible will address the following topics:
• Communications
• Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
• Fundraising/development
• Nonprofit Management Nuts and Bolts
All sessions will be 90 minutes in length, including Q&A and full disclosure, yours truly will be presenting two sessions. The Nonprofit Leaders Conference for Coastal and SW Washington became an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the summer of 2015.

Volunteer opportunities

Have you ever wanted to work on a television production crew? Or do you have a passion for acting? Thurston Community Media, a nonprofit corporation based in Olympia, is in the early stages of creating a new community-produced entertainment program called Live at Five. The media company is searching for actors and production crew over 18 years of age and the show is expected to start airing this summer. The show’s aim is to produce sketches and digital shorts “written and performed by local media makers and actors, highlighting local cultural heritage, and current events while bringing some family-friendly fun to screens across the area,” according to a news release. Nonprofit arts organization OlyFilm Collective will be producing the show’s digital shorts. For more information or the audition schedule email

Each a sandwich to support local charities.

To celebrate the Jersey Mike’s 13th Annual Month of Giving fundraising campaign, Jersey Mike’s locations across the country are joining forces with more than 200 local charities. In Washington, the company will be supporting Seattle Children’s Hospital (Seattle/Tacoma), Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital (Spokane) and The Arc of the Tri-cities (Yakima/Pasco/Richland/Ken). During the month of March, customers can make donations through the Jersey Mike’s mobile app or onsite. The campaign culminates with the nationwide event, Day of Giving, on Wednesday, March 29, when local Jersey Mike’s owners and operators will donate every single dollar to local charities. Since the first day of giving in 2011, Jersey Mike’s annual Month of Giving has raised more than $67 million for local charities. This year, Jersey Mike’s hopes to exceed last year’s record-breaking national fundraising total of $20 million and help local charities striving to fulfill their missions and make a difference.

Soliciting your ideas

 If you know of a nonprofit that is doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers, or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) celebrates nonprofits!

Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at


2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • KatAshe

    If you are about to donate decent quality women’s or children’s clothing, and good condition children’s toys, games or books, please consider Safe Place. So many of the women and children served by this organization, have had to flee their homes with nothing but the clothes they are wearing.

    Also no longer used G4+ cell phones. The phones are distributed to these families at no cost to use, by cell phone carriers for emergency use.

    Wednesday, March 22 Report this

  • Callie

    Check and see if Ridwell serves your zip. Then your ripped/stained clothing can go right to cloth recycling. They also take batteries, light bulbs, plastic film, check it out

    Callie-who-recycles lots of thing

    Wednesday, March 22 Report this