A shipping container is unlocked in Africa and out spills a tangled mess of busted medical equipment. “Junk for Jesus” they call it. Donations that might have been gathered for the right reasons, but don’t help the needy. There are ways to improve the quality of your generosity. Often the most valuable gift is your time, a little karmic investment that could help change the world.

f02a.jpg (9252 bytes)What, then, constitutes a good medical donation? The answer depends on whom you ask. International Aid Inc. (Spring Lake, Mich.), a nonprofit relief and development agency, defines it as “a company’s quality surplus inventories. They may be returns, trade-ins, a discontinued line, overruns, etc.”

Some humanitarian organizations, however, refuse to accept used equipment at all for distribution in developing nations. The World Bank Group (Washington, D.C.), a coalition of development organizations, says secondhand goods have a short life, maintenance is a waste of time and money, no training, warrantees, or support are available, and there are contamination issues.

So that tax bonanza you were salivating over — like, an absolutely legal deduction of up to twice your cost — may be squashed by the reality of finding a willing recipient. Or your conscience. There’s a donor’s golden rule: No lemons! If it wasn’t good enough for you, it isn’t good enough for them.

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