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Want to Be Charitable With Your Old Information Technology? Here’s Three Things to Think About Before You Donate

Donating your company’s old technology products seems like a great idea. You rid your company of unwanted electronics, and you get back a gracious acknowledgement from the charity—maybe even a receipt for your taxes. Even EPA talks about it in a positive way on their website: “Donating used electronics for reuse extends the lives of valuable products. Recycling electronics prevents valuable materials from going into the waste stream.”


The agency even cites some powerful statistics in support of reuse:

– “Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year.”

– “For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.”

Certainly more than ever, nonprofits need our support. GuideStar’s October 2012 survey on “The Effect of the Economy on the Nonprofit Sector” shows that donations are tracking fairly closely with the economy’s “tepid recovery from the ‘Great Recession.'” On top of this, according to GuideStar, “At the same time that about two-thirds of organizations were experiencing decreasing or stagnant contributions, they were experiencing an increase in demand for their services, with 38 percent reporting that demand had increased modestly and 26 percent reporting that demand had increased greatly.”

But is a direct donation of your used IT the best option for you and your targeted charity? Here are three things to consider.

  1. Can the charity really use your equipment? As an electronics recycler who works with both charities and those who donate to them, Southeastern Data has found that there is a misconception among donors about the value of their used electronics to charities. You should ask yourself if the equipment is so old that no one can effectively use it or if it needs repair or upgrade. If so, the charity is likely to be burdened with the recycling task you were avoiding. (In which case, please see #2.) Even if your used items are in good working condition, tough economic times have prompted nonprofits to reduce staff—including IT personnel. Will your equipment mean one more different platform to support?
  2. Are you protected?  Nonprofits are not in the business of eWaste management. They most likely will not have the processes that a certified eWaste recycling company has to properly and consistently remove company markings and securely wipe data devices. And if the nonprofit finds that they cannot use your electronics, how will they dispose of them?  Despite their good intentions, it is not likely that a charitable organization will have the same concern for and apply the same resources you would to protect your reputation and your business.
  3. Would money be a better option? Most likely, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Money means the nonprofit gets to choose what works best for their organization. But does this defeat the original purpose of your donation? It doesn’t have to. You can sell your equipment and donate the proceeds. This is precisely the reason that Southeastern Data has developed a fundraising program. We protect companies from improper handing and data leaks, use established remarketing channels to get best value for the used electronics, and donate the shared revenue from the sale to your charity in your name. Please see Community Involvment for more information.

Before donating your used electronics, check with the nonprofit to see what they really need. Then follow these tips:

  • Protect yourself with proper data wiping and markings removal.
  • Because software is licensed to the purchaser, make sure that you properly manage any licensing issues so that you do not get anyone into trouble.
  • If your equipment needs upgrades or minor repairs, consider making those before donating.
  • If money seems to offer the greatest benefit, consider donating your portion of the revenue from remarketing your equipment rather than the equipment itself.

Smart recycling benefits the environment, your company, your charity, and the community it serves. What a great thing to do!

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