I wrote, "They are donating clothing.", thinking it would be a better translation. I assumed donne and donate came from the same Latin base, anyways. Could you use donne to mean 'to donate' in conversation? Or is there another word for 'donate' and my attempt at translating was misguided?
This sentence should really be "They are giving clothing away". It's usual to use either "away" or an indirect object: "They are giving clothing to their cousins"; "They are giving their cousins clothing". All of these sentences use "donner" in French.
The only sentences I can think of that just use "giving" is when it's a part of the body: "They are giving blood"; "They are giving a kidney".
faire un don = donate. It narrows donner/to give down to the act of donation.
donner aux pauvres = to give to the poor
With regard to other posts in this thread, if I give you a ten per cent return on your investment, it definitely isn't a donation. If I give you a Christmas present, you probably wouldn't call it a donation.
By convention "ils" is used when "they" is referring to a mixed group - even if that is a group of twenty women and one man. However it is a convention - I am sure there are French speakers who do use "elles" to make a point.
Using "elles" for a mixed group would probably get up the nose of some people but I don't think it is actually grammatically incorrect.
But Dulolingo actually suggests that it can mean "are showing" so this is contradictory
Not a contradiction. Just different uses.
They are giving/showing clothes are two different things. In some very narrow contexts they can replace each other but not in most.
They are showing you the opportunity. They are giving you the opportunity. Here, they can be the same thing, but not necessarily. In English, in this context, you can sometimes interchange showing and giving. As long as I am the same person showing the opportunity as well as providing it, then it can be interchanged. But if I am merely showing you what someone else is providing then they can not replace each other.
The drop down definitions are not providing words that mean exactly the same thing in all circumstances. They list words that could be possibly be used to mean sort of the same thing depending on context and who is speaking.
It is your job as student to learn which is the most appropriate for whatever context there is in the example. Usually the top most choice in the menu is the most appropriate for that example. Sometimes it is the only choice that works. Sometimes they all work.