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Maximize Your Goodwill Donation with These 6 Steps

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 24 January 2017 20:47

No cleaning spree is complete without a trip to Goodwill. Donating your stuff is a great way to reduce waste while making make room for new stuff. As an added bonus, you can also claim the donation on your taxes. And, if you donate enough, you may be able to increase your tax return or decrease the amount you owe. Unfortunately, it’s more complicated than driving in and dropping off your things. I developed this six step guide when moving to Madison. Now, I use it every spring!

Step 1: Gather Stuff to Donate

Before you show up with a truck full of ineligible items, it’s important to understand which items Goodwill can accept and which items are better off at the dump. Items that you can take to Goodwill include new and gently used:


  • Jewelry, watches, and other accessories

  • Clothing except for undergarments

  • Board games, toys, balls, rackets, and other sporting equipment

  • Books, CDs, vinyl records, DVDs, VHSs, and video games

  • Dishes, cups, utensils, and other kitchenware

  • Blankets, curtains, and other linens

  • Lamps, small appliances, and other electronics

  • Manual or power tools

  • Decorations, chachkies, knickknacks, and other household stuff

  • All furniture except mattresses and box springs

  • Personal vehicles

  • Personal computers and electronic


The list of items you cannot donate is much shorter. Avoid donating:


  • Cribs, car seats, and other products with national safety standards

  • Anything that comes in a bottle (drain cleaner, shampoo, perfume, etc.)

  • Old car parts, including tires and batteries

  • Large appliances (anything that needs a dolly)

  • Mattresses or box springs

  • Carpet, plumbing, and other home improvement materials

  • Weapons of any kind, including knives

  • Recyclables, trash, and broken items


For a complete list, check out this Goodwill blog from Wisconsin.

Step 2: Take Pictures of Your Stuff

Next, take pictures of your things. This is not required by the IRS, but it’s a good idea to cover your back. If you’re ever audited, it will benefit you to provide proof of your donation. If you’re interested, this Intuit forum has more information for your reading pleasure.

Step 3: Estimate the Value of Your Stuff

US law prevents donation centers from placing a value on the items you donate. You will need to do this yourself before you go to the donation center. Fortunately, Goodwill Industries created this nifty PDF to help you calculate the value of your things. If you don’t have time to write down your estimates, you can use the pictures you took in step two at a later date.

Step 4: Sell High-Value Items (Optional)

You’ve already laid out your things and estimated their value. If you have time, consider holding an indoor yard sale. It’s a fast and easy way to make quick cash. Check out this blog with tips and tricks to help you get started.

Step 5: Transport Your Stuff to the Donation Center

The last step is to transport your things to the donation center. If you took my advice in step four, you can use the money you made to hire local movers. If not, call up your friends and ask them for help. If they need persuasion, offer to trade them some of the items. When you get to the donation center, a clerk will help you unload your truck. After you hand over the items, the clerk will give you a blank receipt. Keep this for the next step.

Step 6: Report Your Donation to the IRS

The last step is to report your donation to the IRS. If you took my advice in step two, you can fill in the receipt in a matter of minutes. Save it until the next tax season. When January rolls around, submit this receipt with your the rest of your tax return.


That’s it! You just got rid of clutter, made some extra money, added a donation to your tax return, and supported your local community. How does it feel?

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