Important tips for making end of year donations of household goods

During this season of giving, Goodwill of Greater Washington would like to offer 10 useful “Do’s & Don’ts” when making a year end donation of clothing, computers, household goods or vehicles. Goodwill hopes that these recommendations will make the donation process a more convenient and pleasant experience.

When donating clothing, computers, furniture, household goods or vehicles, please DO

1. …try to make your donation as early in the day as possible when lines will be shorter.  Most donation sites are open by 9AM  Donation sites and hours of operation can be found on the DC Goodwill website  If you're not in the DC area, your local Goodwill organization can be found at

2. …try to make your donation Monday through Thursday when the lines will be shorter.  While New Year's Eve falls on a Friday this year, it is a holiday for many, so lines may be longer than usual.  New Year's Eve is always the busiest donation day of the year.

3. …try to make your donations in one trip as the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is the busiest week of the year for donated goods.

4. …remember to get a donation receipt, and make an accurate recording of your donation, as well as a copy of your receipt. You will need this if you wish to claim a tax deduction.

5. …make sure the donation receipt is signed and dated before leaving the donation site. It will save you an unnecessary trip back to the donation site.

6. …remember to check for the closest Goodwill donation site before leaving your home. A complete list of attended donation centers and donation bins and stores can be found on Goodwill of Greater Washington’s free mobile app for the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, or by visiting

7. …sort your donated items as best you can (tie shoelaces together so shoes don’t get separated, put suit jacket and matching pants on same hanger, please fold clothing if possible, etc.). Separated or lost items cannot be resold.

8. …remember to clean out your donated computer of all files, documents, discs and CDs before donating it. Cleaning software can be found at All computers and related equipment donated to DC Goodwill are now recycled:

9. …call Goodwill’s vehicle donation line at 202-715-2636 or visit to schedule a home pickup of your donated automobile.

10. DC Goodwill's home pickup line if you wish to make a very large donation of household goods.  Goodwill now offers both a free home pickup service and a priority home pickup service for a small fee. Visit the DC Goodwill website to schedule a pickup.

Please DON’T

1. …donate large appliances such as dishwashers, freezers, hot water heaters, large refrigerators, stoves, trash compactors, washers or dryers to DC Goodwill. Goodwill doesn’t have the space to store or warehouse such large items. However, other worthwhile organizations such as Habitat for Humanity may accept them.

2. …donate broken, incomplete, severely damaged or other unusable items including furniture, toys, mattresses, box springs; mildewed or soiled clothing; firearms, ammunition, automobile parts, windows, doors or aluminum siding.  A good rule of thumb is “if you wouldn’t give it to a friend or family member, perhaps you shouldn’t give it to a charity.”

3. …drop off items after donation sites have closed for the day unless a blue metal donation bin is provided (this is to protect your donation from the elements and from theft).

4. …donate recalled toys. Please consider the safety of all children. You can visit if you aren't sure if a toy has been recalled.

5. …ask for a 2010 donation receipt if making a donation after December 31, 2010.

6. …ask someone to pick up a donation receipt for you if you forgot to pick one up when you made your donation.

7. …forget to estimate the value of your donation for your taxes (an IRS value estimator can be found at

8. …forget to secure supporting documentation when claiming a tax deduction, such as an IRS form 8283 and/or an independent appraisal on all large donations.

9. …forget that Goodwill is very grateful for your donation and our attendants are working as hard as possible to expedite the donation process. This is a very busy time of year for donated goods, so your patience is appreciated.

10.  ....forget to confirm that the organization to whom you are donating your houseold goods or vehicles is a 501C3 charitable agency.  There are numerous thrift retail businesses and donation bins that claim to be affiliated with charitable agencies, but are actually privately owned, for profit companies.  If you donate to one of these organizations you cannot claim a tax deduction for your donation.

To everyone who donates used goods, cash or services to Goodwill or any other worthwhile charitable organization…thank you and Happy New Year!

What Marketers Should Expect in 2011

Well, 2010 is coming to a close, and traditionally the end of one year brings with it predictions for the New Year. 2010 is no exception. generously provided a handful of marketing predictions for 2011. Following these prophecies by some well respected marketing experts I’ve added a few of my own. Feel free to include your thoughts to the list.

From –

Doug Kessler, Creative Director & Co-Founder, Velocity Partners:
"Lines between sales and marketing will blur, and the functional silos will start to blend into one revenue department. After all, a marketer is just the first salesperson, and a sales dude is just a marketer working a bit lower down the funnel."

Tim Suther, CMO, Acxiom:
"Broadcasting--a strategy based on reach, where targeting and segmentation are limited--will migrate to narrowcasting. Marketers will leverage data to reach the most valuable prospects with greater certainty of message delivery, acceptance, and, most importantly, participation. These narrowcast audiences will be multi-dimensionally defined across shopping, purchasing, and attitudinal behaviors. Utilizing the narrowcasting approach will require a shift in campaigns."

Bill Koleszar, Executive Director, The CMO Institute:
"With the increasing emphasis on transparency and reputation management, CEOs will work to add board members with deep marketing and public relations experience. This will result in additional expectations for already-stretched CMOs relative to increasing and protecting the value of their brands."

Jake Wengroff, Global Director of Corporate Communications, Frost & Sullivan:
"Some companies will actually scale back social media. Here's why: Some strategies are not working. So rather than, say, continuing to keep up a company's blog or collection of blogs by several company executives, companies are going to turn them off or instead have their executives or thought leaders serve as regular or guest bloggers for larger, more well-established sites."

Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director, CMO Council:
"Watch for the dawn of 'Mobile 2.0.' Mobile marketing will push beyond the one-way point to multipoint-message push of first-generation mobile marketing and then evolve into mobile relationship marketing--a multi-touch, bidirectional engagement channel. The quest for targeted, personalized, highly relevant, and localized marketing that seeks to activate customers, foster loyalty, and drive a passive customer into an active buyer will look to manifest in this next generation of mobile."

Steve Rubel, SVP, Director of Insights, Edelman Digital
"In 2011 marketers will begin to realize that return on attention--starting with their share of time per user per month--is a far better way to measure conversions. Reach and impression metrics will slowly fade into the background as supporting data points."

Paul Parkin, Founding Partner, SALT Branding:
"2011 is going to the year of 'brandalism.' Consumers want engagement, and this year they are going to get it--with or without your help. They don't want to just participate in your brands conversation; they want to shape it, control it, sell it, evangelize it, or even destroy it!"

Kate O'Neill, CEO and Founding Partner, [meta]marketer:
"This coming year brings great opportunity for marketing to drive the decision-making process, provide strategic definition around cost and value, and deliver ROI insights for companywide programs. With the data available in most marketing departments, companies can prepare relevant programs to acquire and retain customers profitably, even as customers' motivations shift and they become increasingly savvy online."

Vikram Bhaskaran, Director, Strategy and Business Development, L2:
"In 2011, marketing will get harder--there are only so many brands that people will 'like' and 'follow'--but could also get cheaper as the most innovative brands develop creative programs and generate compelling content, allowing them to build direct relationships with their consumers as opposed to paying ad dollars to media companies."

Brent Dykes, Director, Consulting & Excellence, Adobe Systems:
"More companies will invest in social plugins and Facebook for Websites (Connect) in order to bring Facebook's single sign-on and features to their own Web sites. It's win-win for both sides. Customers use the same features they love on Facebook, and companies can acquire new visitors and gain valuable demographic insights into their customers."

Now just a few 2011 predictions of my own:

1. Companies will begin to place much greater emphasis on the customer experience both on and offline. Consumers are getting weary of sales associates who don’t seem to value their business, and ecommerce sites that make it virtually impossible to get a quick response to a simple question. Management is finally beginning to realize that consumers have far too many options to put up with poor customer service for long.

2. Brick & mortar businesses will pay more attention to brand loyalty online. With geo-based mobile and social media platforms like Yelp, Foursquare and Places allowing online users to instantly influence consumer behavior virtually at the point of sale, companies will proactively seek to impact perceptions by offering greater rewards and incentives to loyal customers and advocates digitally.  (See Donovan Neale-May prediction)

3. Companies will begin to realize that the rewards of corporate social responsibility come from practicing it for the benefit of the customer and community, not for the benefit of the corporate reputation. When CSR is practiced appropriately, the brand benefits will take care of themselves.

What do you think marketers should expect to see in 2011?

CMO vs. CIO: Who rules the digital world at your company?

Last week, I received a call from a colleague in Canada asking for my opinion on the role of IT in the development and management of an organization's digital and web based initiatives.  She was being challenged over that role by her new CIO who felt that the IT department should be managing content as well as technical support.  I told her quickly and candidly that I didn't think IT should play any role at all in the content management of our digital initiatives, and that they should play only a supporting role in the development of those initiatives. I think my exact words were, "they should help ensure that we have the technical resources and bandwidth to achieve our objectives."

Shortly after having this conversation, I stumbled across an interesting article on the animosity between CMOs and CIOs over the challenges of meeting customer expectations in a digital world.  It suddenly dawned on me that this was a real issue for many organizations.

According to a recent study by Accenture and the CMO Council, "69% of marketers said the CMO should be the primary leader of digital marketing, and only 19% of them see the CIO and the IT department important to defining digital marketing strategy. However, 58% of IT executives see themselves as the true champions of digital marketing."

I guess I'm fortunate that I've not experienced these challenges at my organization.  Our CIO and I are both in lockstep on what needs to be done to try and improve the quality of the customer experience both on and offline, and who is responsible for the technical development and content management of our digital initiatives.  We actually share the same primary frustrations as most organizations:  limited time and resources.  Though we have a common vision and work well together.

However, my belief has always been that marketing is the manager of the message and how the message is delivered.  IT's role should be to provide the technical infrastructure and resources necessary to maximize the marketing department's ability to deliver that message in a manner that is most convenient and appealing to the consumer. 

If you can, download the executive summary from the Accenture study linked to above.  I think you'll find it a compelling read.

What role does the CIO play in the development and management of your digital marketing initiatives?  Have you been faced with challenges similar to my colleague's?  If so, what have you done to mitigate the fallout and create a collaborative environment?

Why are you paying to distribute digital coupons?

I've been reading a lot of stories lately about the popularity of online coupon sites like Living Social and Groupon.  As a consumer, I can see why these sites have value.  Who wouldn't want to get substantial discounts at local and national retailers, restaurants, theaters and other businesses?

But do online coupon sites have value for the advertiser?  According to some articles, small businesses that have used the sites are questioning the benefits of offering big discounts in the hopes of converting prospects into customers, when the costs are so high, and their level of control is so low.  Living Social and Groupon charge a huge fee for posting discounts on their sites.  To generate a measurable return, businesses need to start with large margins and/or hope that a significant percentage of consumers who redeem the offers will return at some point ready to pay full price.  The retailer also needs to hope that the coupon offer doesn't alienate the business' loyal customers who are already paying full price and are not being rewarded for doing so.

As a business, one of the competitive advantages of using location based social media platforms like Foursquare or Places is that a retailer can offer digital coupons, at no cost, to anyone who happens to be near one of its locations.  Additionally, the retailer controls the amount of time the discount is offered, how many coupons it wishes to distribute and whether or not it wants to require the user to "check in" multiple times before he or she can access the coupon, thereby significantly increasing the possibility of repeat business. 

While coupon sites like Groupon may presently have more members worldwide (35 million), they don't offer the geographic convenience of geo-based sites like Foursquare.  Granted, Foursquare offers aren't delivered directly to the consumers email inbox, but by simply logging onto a geo-site through a smart phone, a consumer can immediately identify any retailer in his/her vicinity that is offering a special. Therefore, any perceived inconvenience with redeeming the coupon is mitigated by the retailer's proximity to the user.  And there is no 24 hour wait for the coupon download.  It pops up on a smart phone ready to use.  Additionally, if the consumer wants to share his or her experience with friends, they can easily do so on geo-sites; a benefit that sites like Groupon and Living Social don't provide.

So if you're interested in distributing digital coupons to drive new business, don't be misled.  Big coupon sites like Groupon, WOW and Living Social aren't your only options.  Nor are they necessarily your best options. It's only a matter of time before burgeoning platforms like Foursquare or Places become the preferred digital coupon distribution channel for small businesses...and probably even large ones.