Well-Intentioned but… A Thought on DIY Donations

*photo above taken from here used under CCC, work is by photographer Victor Bezrukov

Putting in More thoughts

Practical or Unnerving?

“It’s the thought that counts.”

My fellow NPO friends and I often discuss some of “quirky” donations organizations receive. Sometimes we are eager to help, but we may not be mindful of others who have very different life experiences than some of us.

I recall one time, someone who works with the shelter communities mentioned that they’ve received a giant box of gifts during winter. It’s new, it’s warm, it’s plain and simple, which is great! They are….. uh oh!! Ski masks.

The staff and clients all had a good laugh.  No doubt about it, it’s a very kind gesture. On the other hand, some of the shelter clients were joking about how mugging and other crimes would occur thanks to the inspirational ski masks.

What we might forget

Can be really cool under the right circumstances, but definitely not this…

Of course one wouldn’t say that ski masks will increase crime rates, but it’s not exactly a suitable attire either. What we may forget is that there are shelter residence who are coping with severe mental illness. So let’s just say ski masks may not trigger the best association when it comes to safety and comfort.

Choosing the right Material: Personal vs. Facility Laundry Care

Taken from Jillee’s guide on reading laundry symbols

When I think about it, I do take garment care for granted. While I dislike doing laundry, I have access to running water and laundry machines.

SHELTER: Though keeping warm is a huge factor, durability and washability are also very important. Whether it’s a long term or short term stay, a client’s laundry will be machine washed and dried under high heat. This is one of the sterilization process to eliminate germs and bedbugs. While wool can keep someone super warm, one may consider using materials that can withstand heat while preserving its shape & size.


LOWER INCOME FAMILIES or Someone Struggling with Illness: While lower income families may have longer term housing and can handle the “hand wash, lay flat to dry” ordeal, we may wish to consider the time-saving aspect. For example, one of the biggest challenges for a lower-income, single parent family (or even a family caregiver) would be juggling time. If crafters consider using materials that are durable and easy to maintain, chances are families can reduce the time spent on hand washing, mending, or replacing the items especially for kids.

Suggested Yarn Material:

In the spectrum of durability and “washability”, acrylic or acrylic + cotton blend totally wins. For me, I’d tend to use cotton for things like bags and some toys, while using either acrylic or blends for clothing accessories and well… other toys depending.

With 100% cotton yarn, we’d have to be mindful that they may shrink (see shrinking by brand results on Not Your Granny’s Crochet) . Otherwise, mercerized cotton would be a good choice as it had been treated for strength & heat durability.

Going about Gift In Kinds:

There are multiple organizations that will accept handmade items. On the other hand, I’d highly recommend checking with the organizations prior to hosting your kindness-driven DIY party. That’s because most non-profit organizations often have specific needs each year. Needless to say, less suitable items may actually create more work for the already over-loaded staff as they try to coordinate and arrange for redistribution to nearby organizations.

I’ve heard from NPOs where they’ve received some amazing cashmere clothing in the past. Unfortunately none of the clients or community outreach members could use them due to practical issues (mentioned above). Other times it’s due to an odd volume–like 5 leather gloves. No, not even 5 pairs. 5 singles.

sweaterLuckily some organizations have thrift shops to sell the item back to the community in exchange for cash donations. Otherwise, the sentiment would not be too different from getting That-Skillfully-Made-But-Non-Ironic-Genuinely-Ugly-Sweater from my favourite Grandaunt Ping: I love her to death, I appreciate her thought and gesture, but I REALLY don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with it.

If you’d like to donate items made from animal fuzz, do consider giving your handcrafted items to fundraising auctions & craft fairs. This way, organizations can sell your items to someone who can probably afford to do some proper garment care. The sales amount could then assist the charity. It’s a win-win situation!


Through the process of careful consideration, we can learn to become better supporters. With that said, here’s a general guideline:


  • Use easy to maintain, machine washable & dryable fibres for temporary shelters
  • Soft, smooth fibres are recommended especially for children & oncology patients
  • Other materials are probably suitable for more permanent shelters & services such as nursing homes.

For Local Overnight & Temporary Shelters

  • Be mindful of the diverse clientele who are staying at overnight & temporary shelters
  • Simple & practical designs that can survive wear and tear–it doesn’t mean boring, but a lacy scarf won’t survive as well.


  • Find out what the organization need before donating–it’s usually listed on their website or social media. Otherwise you can contact the organization directly and find out what they need.
  • Consider participating in (or even hosting) a fundraising craft fair

All in all, it’s good to think about your target audience, the general pros and cons of your materials & designs, and most importantly, do your research before giving to your favourite charitable organization.

Any thoughts? If you feel that there’s anything I should add/correct, help me become a better supporter and leave me a comment. I’m open to discussion! Happy giving and happy sharing!

Further resources


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