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Rather than donating clothing to American charities, let's create a charity that gives it directly to the worlds poorest.

When clothing is donated to charities, it is usually sold for pennies a pound, and after several middlemen, sold to the world's poorest at a large markup. Not particularly efficient or charitable. Why not eliminate the middlemen?
With a one-way distribution system already in place, a retailer like WalMart or Target could collect used clothing in stores, consolidate at distribution centers, and send a shipping container filled with fifty-eight thousand pounds of clothing to Africa for less than ten cents a pound, The containers could then be donated to existing charities.
Charities could distribute clothes directly to those in need, or they could create microbanks for women. A woman would receive a "loan" of ten pounds of clothing which she then sells and returns two dollars to the charity, while making a profit of between five and twenty dollars.
One container, a five to six thousand dollar investment, creates over five thousand loans worth up to one hundred thousand, while raising over ten thousand for the charity. The charity also receives am empty container to sell or convert into a school or clinic.
By introducing more clothing to Africa, the program would probably also drive the cost of clothing down for everyone, saving millions for those who can afford it least. In the end, everyone benefits.
Africans benefit from loans and cheaper clothing.
Charities receive new funding.
Retailers receive positive publicity with little cost and oversight.
Consumers have an easier time donating clothing while gaining
closet space.

A much more efficient system than what exists now.

  • Jan 19 2012: .
    Just make sure that the you're not inavertantly destroying the clothing market in the country you're sending them to.
    Severel regions in Africa had the beginning stages of flourishing clothing markets, but the introduction to free clothes near enough eliminated it.
    You'd be surprised how many charities actually do more harm than good due to a lack foresight.
    • Jan 21 2012: Thank you and very good point. In my limited travel in third-world countries, the used clothing market is already thriving in much of the world. This changes how the clothing reaches the existing markets, but doesn't and shouldn't create new markets.
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    Jan 19 2012: I love that idea.. a blow to us thrift shoppers..but a brilliant idea.

    The clothing donated to Goodwill or the Salvatio Army isn't usually free so doesn't reach the poorest and often not accessible to those who may need it..our nearest Goodwill to the island is an hour away. The same chainns are enrously donating at all these ceters but the clothing isn't reachig the poorest ad neediest.

    The shorter and more direct the chain the more likely the end user will be the inteded user. Is any one doing this?

    We actually have a very short very direct chain on our island called 'Community Clothes Closet' folks just drop off their gently used clothing and it is managed by church volunteers and given away at two weekly "markets". where the clothing is hung and dispalyed as in a stor eor goodwill.

    I heard an estmate that 30% of the island is clothed 100% from the Clothes Closet.

    We also have a realted youth centered enterprise called "The Queens Closet" strated and maaged by a young woman with Downes Syndrome who collects contibutionsof fancy dress clthing ..for proms, weddings, interviews etc...also all free.

    Both are the same idea as yours but very very local. in our cse from donated bag o of goodies to "market" to use in a matter of hours.
    • Jan 25 2012: always nice to hear from a Mainiiac. Sounds like a great little island you live on.

      Not to worry thrift shoppers, America buys billions of pieces of clothing, plenty for America's thrift shops and the world's poorest.