Sort Donations Properly by Asking Three Questions

A donor has generously shared a gift with you. As the donor drives away, what is the first thing you do with the donation?

Three Questions

Sorting donations may not be the most exciting topic, but it impacts the whole thrift operation in a huge way. Donations are always the first, and most important, part of a thrift operation. Without them, we can’t do anything. But once we’ve received a donation, what we do with it determines how quickly (and profitably) we can drive sales.

To start the process, ask three quick questions to sort donations properly.

Question One: What is it?

We need to quickly identify what is in each bag or box that is donated. We joke about this step as it usually includes the “sniff” test on the way from the car to the bin. If a donation stinks, it is gone immediately.

As we move from the donor to the bin, we can usually tell if it is a box of hard goods/miscellaneous items or clothing. If it is a mix, it is usually more of one or the other. Sort donations and group similar items together so they can be evaluated more efficiently.

Question Two: Where do we put it?

Not on the floor! I can’t emphasize this step enough. Whether you use shopping carts, pallets + gaylords, or laundry carts, never put a donation on the floor. Placing items on the floor requires your team to touch it again just to take it from point A to point B. And on busy days, it creates unruly piles that must be navigated around. It is so much easier to move donations in a bin.

Question Three: What’s next?

With donations sorted into the right bins, we’re now on the edge of the presort process. In order to make that function as efficient as possible, it is important to consider one last question – what’s next?

  • How do the items get to the next station in a functional manner?
  • Did breakable items get placed so nothing breaks?
  • Were items piled so high they will fall moving from station to station?

Consider where donations are going to be presorted and work to get it there in a functional manner.

Finding the perfect balance between speed and accuracy is key. Every time we touch an item, it costs valuable labor dollars. Answering three quick questions as you move the donation from a donor’s car into your facility starts the process on a path to Do Thrift Better.

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