Raising funds in the form of in-kind donations may not be as straight forward as simply asking for cash, but can be lucrative and help your group through a slump when cash donations don’t meet expectations. However, in-kind donations are not just an alternative to cash donations, but should be considered year round as an additional way to complement your regular fundraising activities.
(Ideas on where to get in-kind donations.)
Make it easy for the donor to give to you
– The easier you make it for the donor, the more donations you will get. If you have restrictions on when you can pick up items for example, you’re already putting a strain on the donor. Don’t make your donor change his or her schedule – change your schedule to accommodate your donor’s.
– If you nit-pick through items that aren’t perfect, you may come across as not appreciative. Present yourself and your cause as being grateful for the donations you are receiving, even if they’re not perfect. Especially when you first start out, it’s important to keep an open mind and just go with the flow. In time you’ll be able to identify which companies or industries generally have the most useful items to give away.
– If you have room for storage, consider taking items that a donor would like to give you, but you don’t necessarily have any use for. You’ll be doing them a favor and you can sell the items or trade them later on. Just make sure the donor knows that you may be selling them. If you go this route, you have to also make sure you have the volunteer resources to handle and sell these items.
A great example of an organization that takes in-kind donations is Habitat for Humanity. They take just about any building material or home related item. They will happily pick up items from your home or business, store them, and, if they have no immediate need for them, resell them in their ReStores resale outlets to raise funds. If you have a ReStore location nearby, you may be able to pick up some low cost supplies or furniture you may need.
Ways to use in-kind donations
– Support your cause directly. The most popular way is probably using donated goods to help individuals directly, like collecting and donating gently used clothing or canned foods. But whatever your cause may be, you may be able to get the materials you need donated: donated roof shingles and nails to fix up a house for a returning vet; donated trash bags for a river clean-up, etc.
– Offset your operation expenses. This of course depends on what you’ll be able to get donated. But if you can tailor your search for in-kind donations that directly offset office expenses like a computer, printer, paper and other office supplies, you’ll be able to free up more donated funds that can go directly to your cause. Professional services, donated meeting space and public service announcements also usually count as in-kind donations.
– Sell donated goods to raise cash. If you’re planning on holding a silent auction for example, you may be able to solicit donated products, event tickets and so on from local businesses. New businesses may be especially eager to donate goods, gift cards or gift baskets to get their name out.
You may also have a source that can give you good quality items (whatever they may be) that you have no use for. Do not turn these items down. Assuming you have a place to store them, use these items to trade for other items (you can use your local Freecycle group), or you can sell them outright on sites like eBay, or through classifieds. Be sure you let your donor know that you may sell the items for cash or trade them in.
Advertise your need
This may be obvious, but can easily be overlooked! Start with good old fashioned networking with your personal and business contacts and make it known what items you’re looking for. Advertise in your local classifieds, your newsletter, emails, website, your social networking accounts and so forth. You may also have local mixers or meet-ups available to you that are organized by the city or private parties for the purpose of networking and exchanging information.
Simply asking for what you need may be all it takes to attract generous donors. If you run a non-profit, remind donors that their donations might be tax deductible, and that they’ll receive a mention in your newsletter.
Don’t forget to publish a “wish-list” of items that would be useful to you, but leave it open for other items as well, as you may be surprised what can turn up!
Show your appreciation
Beyond saying thank you and sending a thank you note, keep in mind that everyone loves to get something for free! So what can you offer your donors in return for their donations that’s easy for you to give? Considering offering free advertising in your print or email newsletters, your website, a shout out on your social networking accounts, fliers etc. For someone who donates consistently to you every year, consider reserving a special place for them in your newsletter, or give them more advertising space, if it’s feasible.
Documenting in-kind donations
For each in-kind donation you receive, issue a receipt that the donor can keep with their files and keep copies of the receipts and a list of in-kind donations for your own files as well. This will make it much easier for both parties come tax time.
The receipt will act as an acknowledgement that a donation was given/received and should include the name of the person who gave you the donation, their signature, date, description of the item (and possibly a photo), location of the donation and your group’s information. The actual valuation that will be reported to the IRS by each party is up to each party. Consult a tax professional to determine the value of the donated items and expected depreciation, or read IRS publication 561. IRS Publication 526 has information on what type of donations can be deducted.
If your group is not a registered non-profit be sure to disclose this fact well in advance and before any donation takes place. If you’re honest and up front you may receive a donation anyway.
Managing donated items
Because you may be dealing with used items, or items that have been stored for a while, an important consideration for in-kind donations is safety and usability. For example, if you take furniture, opt for the non-upholstered kind, unless you know for sure an upholstered sofa was stored in a clean location and isn’t infested with bugs. You should never take any pillows or other personal items that could cause some kind of infection or infestation. It’s not recommended to take used car seats for children unless you’re sure they’ve never been in an accident. When taking a used computer, make sure all information from the previous owner has been deleted. In short, consider where the items have come from and where and how they’re going to be used.
Initially, asking for in-kind donations will take some effort and strategy, just like asking for cash donations. But in time you will have the frame work of another great way to support your cause in good times and bad. Don’t leave this opportunity to support your cause on the table! If you make looking for in-kind donations a part of your regular fundraising strategy, you will not only help your charitable group succeed, but you will also give more opportunities for people to get to know you and give to your group.
What are some in-kind donations you have received? Please share with us and leave your answer in the comments below!