Charity on the Cheap: Donating school supplies

It occured to me last night that I will have access to more free school supplies than my adopted/sponsored family will need. So I hit up Freecycle, Craigslist and Google for some ideas and got lucky with the ol’ Googler. Those of you who like to donate things instead of money are going to love what I found:

While many of you may have heard of a site called Donors Choose, where teachers list projects or supplies for you to fund at whatever level you want, I found a site that works a little differently and more in line with how I like to give domestically: Teachers list things they need and, while you can give money to fund the purchase of such things, this service seems geared more towards the direct donation of goods, and even gives tips on safely meeting up for the delivery. I plugged in my zip code and the type of items I wanted to donate and found a public primary school and a non-profit after-school/summer-school day care center in need of school supplies, including the extreme basics like pencils, just a 7-minute walk from my home.

There are tons of ways to get heaps of school supplies for free or what looks to me like sub-wholesale prices at CVS, Walgreens and Staples – other places too, no doubt, but these are the only ones I have easy access to in Manhattan. Anyway, these sales are right now, when most teachers aren’t pulling in paychecks, and families that are barely making it would rather put $3 towards milk and toilet paper that they need right now than a great deal on 5-subject notebooks and folders that won’t be needed for 6 weeks. In conjunction with ILoveSchools, this presents a great opportunity for those of us out there who:

  • Prefer giving things rather than money.
  • Really want a community connection. I’ve come across a lot of people who don’t like giving internationally or even nationally – they want to make a difference locally.
  • Don’t have a lot of money to spare for charity and think that $5 won’t do much anyway. Well, if you take that $5 to Walgreens today, you could walk out of there with 5 x 10ct packs of Papermate Pens, 10 highlighters, 5 x 10ct packs of pencils, 5 rulers and 2 bottles of glue without a single coupon or “Register Reward”. Want to make it even better? Before buying any of those things, do 5 transactions on their special G2 Pilot gel ink pen deal (love those pens!) – 2ct pack for $1, get $1 back in Register Rewards (no card or club membership required – really easy to do as long as you remember to just buy one pack at a time). Then buy all the other stuff with those RRs. Your donation is then increased by 10 high-quality pens for the teacher, for no extra cash except maybe tax (they change what is and isn’t taxed so often in NYC that I have no idea). That’s a decent sack of goodies for $5.03! And I talked a friend through 3 transactions at CVS the other day where $5 got her 2 packs of loose leaf paper, 2 packs of pens, 2 assignment pads and 2 Speedstick deos – and she has $6 of store credit (ECBs) to spend on things next week. That $5 is going to get recycled through all the back-to-school sales and will likely produce over $100 worth of donated supplies by Labor Day.
  • Are worried about being scammed. What in the world could anyone do with 2-cent pens that would make you feel cheated? These things have no street resale value or prestige attached, and honestly if someone is that desperate for so little money that they’ll attempt it, they can have at it. 
  • Hesitate and yet are curious about very personal giving. You are giving to the teacher, who is really the middleman. While it saves them from dipping into their pockets, the beneficiaries of your efforts are actually the students. It removes the layer of weirdness I know a lot of you anticipate feeling in a situation like the one I’m in with giving food and household supplies to Ayten every week.
  • Salivate at an opportunity to make a donation that goes 100% to the project/need and 0% to administrative costs. Hey, this blog does fall under the PF umbrella – so why not mention the whole “bang for your buck” angle?

Give it a shot, blog about it, and be sure to let me know that you’ve done it. Trust me, it’s FUN.

4 Responses

  1. Thanks for the link. I am going to send it to my daughter’s teacher (her school is not link there yet – but I know they need supplies).

    And Walgreen’s has a crazy back to school sale going on right now. Thanks for the reminder that i need to stop by there tonight. – I found some soilders that need pens, soap, toothbrushes, etc… thought I’d go pack a box and send it over.

    • I know, the sales are crazy. If you do CVS, they’ve got 5 things a week free, like, every week, but I think this coming week has even more than that. I swear, every family with a CVS nearby should be working this, even if they never do another deal. You don’t need coupons, just the card – then just recycle the same few bucks weekly. Very, very cool.

  2. This is awesome! Although I have no kids, I have been doing the school supplies at CVS for about 3 weeks and have a huge pile of stuff (I can’t resist free!) I just checked out the website and found a teacher at the high school I graduated from needing exactly what I had!! I am thrilled to be able to do this and thanks so much for the information.

    PS I love your blog —

  3. Very neat, I found a few teachers in my area looking for supplies. I wish I saw this earlier cause last weekend when we cleaned out the garage we threw away some school supplies 😦

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