American Red Cross of Lee County

Armed Forces Emergency Services

Disaster Services

International Services

Health and Safety Services
Volunteer Services
Find Out How You Can Help.
Donate Online
Planned Giving
The worst moments often bring out the best in people. Disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes often ignite an outpouring of generosity from individuals and communities who are moved to assist those whose lives have been affected. The images of devastation prompt many to respond by donating goods for the victims. Donations of goods and services, also known as in-kind donations, can be valuable resources on a relief effort. However, misguided in-kind donations can also have the effect of hampering the relief effort if inappropriate or excessive contributions arriving at the disaster site impede the distribution of priority items. To prevent such a situation, the American Red Cross is very careful about the types of in-kind donations it accepts. The information provided here is intended to provide you with some background on how in-kind donations fit into Red Cross disaster relief activities, and information about the most effective ways to help when disaster strikes. An important first step when thinking about donating goods to any relief agency is to determine what their policies are on in-kind donations, and ascertain whether they have a need, or the means, to accept your donation.


Financial donations to the Red Cross are the best way to assist victims of disaster. Monetary contributions enable the Red Cross to purchase the most urgently needed items as close to the disaster site as possible. Purchasing near the disaster site ensures supplies get to victims as quickly as possible, without delays and hefty transportation costs. Because communities hit by disasters generally experience significant economic loss, buying goods locally also helps to stimulate the weakened economy by pumping money back into area businesses.

Donate Now


Unsolicited, spontaneous donations of goods and services from individuals and community groups, though well intentioned, have hidden costs and pose a number of complications for relief efforts. For these reasons, the Red Cross is unable to accept any large collections of items, such as used clothing, hygiene items, furniture, toys, and canned goods. Nor are we able to accept small, individual donations of these items.

Why does the Red Cross discourage donations of collected goods and individual items for disaster relief?

  • Collections of items require valuable and scarce resources such as time, money, and personnel to sort, clean, and distribute them, which come at the expense of the emergency activities relief workers are attempting to perform. The Red Cross has neither the resources, nor the logistical set-up, to properly handle these types of donations, and therefore cannot accept them.
  • In addition, because we have no way of knowing what spontaneous individual donations or unsolicited collections of items will consist of, we cannot ensure there will be enough of a particular item to distribute it equitably, or if the donated products will even be appropriate for the relief effort.
  • Shipping donated goods is also costly and particularly difficult in the aftermath of a disaster, as inroads into disaster sites are often damaged or impassable, and easily clogged with shipments of non-priority items. The Red Cross makes every attempt to procure items locally to save money by minimizing transportation and storage costs. Local procurement also ensures that the items distributed to disaster victims are appropriate for their culture and diet.

Where can donations of collected goods and individual items be most effective?
Individual donations of goods and collections of items are put to their best possible use, and have the greatest impact economically, when they are donated to local charitable organizations within your own community. Donating locally eliminates transportation costs and ensures disaster workers are not overwhelmed with sorting unsolicited donations and are free to perform priority relief activities. Because these local agencies are not operating in the crisis environment that characterizes disaster relief, the charity will have the time sort, clean, and repair goods and identify how and where they can be most beneficial.


The Red Cross will sometimes accept bulk donations of products that are immediately needed on an ongoing disaster relief operation. "Bulk donations" refers to large donations of a single product. Because the quantities required on relief operations are significant, these donations are typically provided by companies that manufacture or distribute the product needed, and have the resources to ship it directly to the disaster site. If your company has a large bulk donation that you think would be appropriate for Red Cross relief efforts, please contact your local Red Cross chapter.


The Red Cross may accept donations of medical equipment or supplies if the product meets a need of a Red Cross relief operation or program. The Red Cross follows guidelines established by the World Health Organization. All donated medications must be at least one-year away from their expiration date. Medications that have been issued to patients but that have not been used, and free samples provided to health care professionals, cannot be accepted for donation as their quality cannot be guaranteed. In addition, returned drugs are very difficult to manage at the receiving end because of packaging issues and the small quantities involved. If you are a company interested in making a bulk donation of medical supplies or equipment, please contact your local Red Cross chapter.


Guidelines for Effective Giving in Support of Disaster Relief
Before beginning any sort of collection drive, it is important to first call a charitable agency and confirm that there is a need for the donation and that they are able to accept it. Several organizations active in disaster relief have published guidelines that offer practical advice on steps that should be taken prior to starting a collection drive or purchasing items to donate to disaster relief.

When Disaster Strikes…
Donations Are Needed

Guide to Appropriate Giving
Making Donations to Help Disaster Victims Overseas

Guidelines for Effective Private Sector International Disaster Assistance

Information About Other Organizations Involved in Disaster Relief
National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Guidelines for Donating Medical Supplies and Equipment

For more information, please contact us directly at (239) 278-3401. 

© Copyright 2001 American Red Cross Lee County Chapter. All Rights Reserved.                            CONTACT US  |  PRIVACY POLICY