The State of Tennessee is cracking down on people taking advantage of your generosity. The Secretary of State is focusing on donation bins and enforcing a new law that requires more transparency from the organizations that own them.
Starting November 2, companies using donation bins must have proper labeling or remove the bin until it is in compliance. Organizations not in compliance could face fines up to $5,000 per violation.
"We have spent the last three months helping organizations get in compliance, but the time has come to ensure this is enforced," said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. "The law mandates bin operators disclose invaluable information that lets Tennesseans know exactly where their donation is going before they drop anything inside a bin."
Hargett says many organizations are following the new law, but 600 of the 2,500 bins statewide are not in compliance. At least one bin operator has left the state because of the new statute and Hargett's office says a handful of others are threatening to leave.
Hargett says state investigators are having trouble tracking down the owners of Greenhouse Chattanooga bins that are set up in multiple locations, including Cummings Highway. The bins accept clothes and shoe donations and include a phone number and a website. But no one is answering the phone when the state calls and the website URL is expired. Channel 3 also had trouble tracking down a representative of Greenhouse Chattanooga. State investigators left a written notice taped to the bins as a last resort.
"There's no information out there about who Greenhouse Chattanooga is, what those donations are being used for and we're all about protecting Tennessee consumers," Hargett said. "Tennessee has been shown to be one of the most generous states in the country so we have a lot of people who want to donate their time, money and goods that they place in these bins. And what we really feel is important is you're about to be a educated consumer with your charitable giving."
T.C.A. §48-101-513(m) outlines specific labeling guidelines that are now required for non-profit organizations, for-profit organizations and professional solicitors, which provide donors with multiple ways to contact the organization(s) that are collecting donations. Each bin must be emptied every two weeks, and any items left outside must be removed within 24 hours. The law also requires that bin operators get notarized permission for placement from property owners or leaseholders.
If you spot a donation bin you want checked out in Tennessee, snap a picture and post it to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag "#BinCheck." Be sure to include the bin's approximate location. You can also call the Secretary of State's office at (615) 741-2555 or go to sos.tn.gov/charitable/donation-bins for more information.