While you may give money to good causes, you might not have thought of these unusual charitable donations that can help in surprising ways.
Earlier this year, the charitable donation of a secondhand cell phone changed the life of British man Charlie Hennessy, who was experiencing homelessness at the time. Within 10 days he’d used free Wi-Fi from a local coffee shop to set himself up with a Twitter account, he’d gained nearly 20,000 followers, and he’d been offered jobs, donations and support. “I’ve been extremely lucky,” he tweeted on March 17, 2018. “Many aren’t. Reach out. Be kind. It saved my life.”
The person who donated the phone to Hennessy probably had no idea the simple gift would make such an impact.
Plenty of charities and organizations now collect phones to pass on to people experiencing homelessness or to community initiatives (like this one run by Three), but this is just one of many unexpected charitable donations you can make that could make a big difference in the world. Here are seven more.
1. Mascara wands
Who would’ve thought there’d be a use for your old mascara wands once you finish with them? But next time you’re thinking of chucking them out, remember they have a second use: to help wildlife. The Appalachian Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina runs a Wands for Wildlife charity, using the bristles on the wands to remove fly eggs and larvae from the fur of wild animals. Kimberley Brewster, from the refuge, said there were now “wandraisers” happening all over the world with people, groups and businesses collecting wands and other items to help wildlife.
2. Prom gowns and suits
Many organizations take donations of evening dresses for girls who can’t afford to buy their own gowns to wear to prom. Your charitable donation must be “prom appropriate” and no later than 2008 (unless it’s black), according to Project GLAM — which stands for Granting Lasting Amazing Memories — run by WGIRLS Inc.
Meanwhile, Suited & Booted provides appropriate interview-wear to vulnerable, low-income or unemployed men in London to help them find jobs. As well as the clothes, the organization also helps with things like interview technique. They say: “Stepping into a new suit or outfit not only changes the way others see you, but also changes the way you see yourself.” The organization is always on the lookout for clothing and offers guidance on how to organize a suit drive.
It’s not likely you have a spare leg lying around, but if you have a prosthetic limb you no longer need, then Legs for Africa and Give a Limb are two organizations that will put them to good use. Your charitable donation could change someone’s life immediately. Both organizations also accept donations of money for prosthetics and to help their clients with rehabilitation.
Many of us need new glasses on a regular basis. Our eyesight changes as we age, as do our tastes in style. But what to do with the old ones? Luckily Lions International is always happy to take them off your hands (and face), and will pass them on to their regional recycling centers. On their website you can find drop-off points and make your charitable donation. Your previously-loved glasses will one day be used to help a child learn to read, to help an adult get a job or to give an elderly person more independence.
There are some really great organizations that will take hair. Locks of Love donates hair to financially disadvantaged children in the U.S. and Canada who are suffering from long-term hair loss caused by any medical diagnosis. They give instructions on their website about how to go about having your hair cut so that it will be suitable to donate — with the most important instruction being to have it cut while in a ponytail, as hair swept up off the floor is unusable. Interestingly, even gray hair is accepted: Although all the hairpieces this organization itself makes are used for children, unsuitably colored hair is sold and the profits put back into the charity.
6. Bras and other underwear
Bras are one item of clothing many of us couldn’t imagine would ever get a second life. But in fact, for so many women around the world, it’s also the one item of clothing they desperately need and, unfortunately, cannot afford. The Bra Recyclers is one of many similar organizations that takes your charitable donations to pass on to “women and girls escaping domestic violence, drug addiction, human trafficking and breast cancer survivors.” They ask for “gently used” items and give full instructions on their site of how and where you can donate. Smalls for All partners with a number of organizations, including ones in Kenya and South Africa, and will take your new or gently worn bras. They also ask for donations of new panties and have a link on their site to buy items directly from Amazon to be sent to them.
7. Your voice
This one isn’t quite the same as the charitable donations above, but it could make a big difference to someone’s life. Stephen Hawking was probably the most famous person in the world to use text-to-speech devices to express himself, but according to voice company VocaliD, more than 10 million people in the world live with voicelessness. However, whether those people are old, young, male, female, shy or outgoing, they’ve all had to speak with similar voices. Which is why VolcaliD is collecting voices via its voice bank to create a “unique vocal persona” for each recipient for use with any device that turns text into speech. In other words, voices from around the world, complete with different accents, patterns, pitch and other variations, will help give people without voices some choice as to how they sound. Genius! Visit the company’s website to find out how you can donate your voice from the comfort of your own home: All you need is a computer and a connection.