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  • Unlocking Generosity: Steps to Inspiring In-Kind Donations

Running a nonprofit means you’ll need to inspire generosity to garner monetary support from your donors. Then, you’ll need to manage your finances well to ensure that your beneficiaries receive the help they need.

Although your supporters want to help power your mission, there are a multitude of reasons why they might not be able to make a monetary gift. However, they might be excited to gift non-monetary, or in-kind donations instead. Not only will supporters be able to help your nonprofit with in-kind donations, but they’ll also be supporting our planet through recycling, making it an enticing option for eco-conscious individuals.

In this guide, we’ll teach you how to unlock the generosity of your donors by inspiring them to make in-kind donations. Let’s begin!

1. Evaluate your needs.

The first step to accepting in-kind donations is to evaluate your needs. Ask yourself, what does your nonprofit need to fulfill your mission aside from money? This isn’t limited to items crucial for your nonprofit’s cause and can include capacity-building items as well.

In general, in-kind donations include the following:

  • Goods. When most nonprofit professionals think of in-kind gifts, they think of necessary goods and items for their cause, such as food for a soup kitchen. However, you don’t have to stop there! For example, if you’re planning to host an auction event, Winspire recommends collecting items from your supporters and combining them into themed gift baskets. With these in-kind gifts, you’ll be able to offer more auction items at your event, resulting in greater funds for your nonprofit.
  • Facilities and equipment. In-kind donations aren’t limited to items—they can be anything non-monetary. Consider asking major donors for the use of any facilities and venues for your next event. For lower-level donors, ask if they have any pertinent equipment that they would be willing to donate, such as office furniture, photography or video equipment, or even old vehicles.
  • Volunteer time. With the value of volunteer time estimated to be almost $32 per hour, your supporters’ time can make a significant impact on your nonprofit. Ask supporters local to your headquarters to help out with tasks such as event setup to reduce the burden on your staff.
  • Services. Businesses with an interest in corporate philanthropy are sometimes willing to offer their services as donations to nonprofits. For example, a legal firm might take on a nonprofit’s case pro bono. Or, a large restaurant company might be willing to cater your nonprofit’s next event.
  • Software and technology. When it comes to capacity-building, donations of software and technology are incredibly helpful for nonprofits. Computers and printers empower your team members to work faster and more efficiently, and software allows you to incorporate automation into your existing processes.

As you make a list of non-monetary gifts that would be helpful for your nonprofit, consider each of the different types of in-kind donations and how they would be beneficial. For example, if you’re looking for a place to store clothing donations you collected for a clothing thrift shopping event, consider adding a storage facility or venue to your list.

2. Make donating convenient.

After you’ve identified what types of in-kind donations you’d like to receive, you’ll need to make donating convenient for your supporters. After all, making a financial donation usually requires them to simply fill out a donation form online and make a payment with a credit or debit card. Making an in-kind gift, on the other hand, is a more involved process.

To make in-kind donating more convenient, you should:

  • Clearly provide information. Outline the specific in-kind donations your nonprofit will accept on your website. Consider creating a section on your donation page dedicated to in-kind donations, so that any generous supporters will easily be able to find information about how to donate these gifts. As people make these donations and your needs change, don’t forget to update your wishlist so it stays accurate.
  • Establish drop-off locations. For physical items, establish easy-to-access drop-off locations where local supporters can leave their donations. For supporters that aren’t local to your nonprofit’s headquarters, provide a mailing address where they can send smaller items.
  • Offer pickups. If you’d like to make things even more convenient for your donors, offer to pick up in-kind donations instead of asking them to make their way to a drop-off point. Although this may be more time-consuming for your team members, the convenience that you offer to your supporters will be unmatched and may lead to an increase in donations.

You can also add structure to in-kind donations and help donors understand their relevance through an event. For example, if your nonprofit works with people experiencing homelessness, host a clothing drive. That way, your supporters will have a concrete idea of what type of donations you’ll accept, and you’ll be able to directly benefit your beneficiaries.

You can also partner with different organizations to accept items that your nonprofit wouldn’t be able to use on its own. For example, you could accept in-kind donations of recyclable items such as aluminum cans or plastic bottles. Then, you can turn in these items to a recycling center, which will pay your nonprofit per pound collected. To simplify things for your nonprofit, some organizations like Phill the Box (which purchases recycled clothing) will provide you with donation boxes. They’ll take care of pickup and send you a check for the amount of clothing your supporters donated.

3. Recognize in-kind donors.

Much like you recognize donors who made monetary gifts, it’s important to recognize in-kind donors too, whether they volunteered their time or gifted an item to your nonprofit. Show your gratitude in the following ways:

  • Handwritten letter. Handwritten donor thank-you letters are a heartfelt way to show your in-kind donors that you value their contributions. Or, if you aren’t able to send a letter through direct mail, you can always send an email instead!
  • Social media shoutout. Highlight your in-kind donors on your social media pages to show your appreciation for their support. This might even encourage other supporters to make in-kind gifts, as they’ll want to be recognized similarly.
  • Donor wall of fame. Although donor walls of fame usually reflect financial gifts, include in-kind gifts in your eligibility consideration for donors that make it onto the wall. For example, if a donor allows you to use the country club they own for a series of events, add them to your donor wall of fame.
  • Recognition events. It’s a best practice to host events recognizing and showing gratitude to donors of all levels. Whether it’s an informal dinner or a fancy gala, invite in-kind donors to participate as well!

As you brainstorm ways to show your appreciation for in-kind donors, keep in mind that you want them to understand that your nonprofit values their gifts as much as financial donations. That way, they’ll feel encouraged to make donations again in the future. And, with proper donor stewardship, they may even make financial contributions on top of in-kind gifts!

4. Form partnerships.

In-kind donations from individuals are great and can help your nonprofit accumulate the supplies you need to fulfill your mission. However, to supercharge your in-kind donation strategy and receive valuable, in-demand gifts, consider forming partnerships with businesses. 

Corporate giving programs take many forms, and one popular type is offering nonprofits in-kind donations of their products and services. For example, Salesforce’s Power of Us program provides nonprofits with free and discounted CRM software licenses they can use to improve their organizations’ technology.  Nonprofits should take advantage of accessible in-kind donation programs offered by large companies like Salesforce, but your organization can take it a step further by forming personalized partnerships with local businesses. 

Identify businesses in your community that your nonprofit could potentially form a lasting partnership with to continue receiving goods and services long-term. When evaluating potential partnerships, consider the following factors:

  • Potential donations. What can the business offer you? For in-kind donations, this will take the form of products, services, or even building space. For example, an animal shelter might partner with a pet supplies store to receive low-cost pet food, or an office building might provide venue space for your nonprofit’s annual lecture series. 
  • Affinity for giving. Research businesses’ giving history before reaching out. Do they have a philanthropic mission statement? Have they worked with nonprofits like yours before? Do they already offer an in-kind donation, volunteer, or workplace giving program? Businesses that have supported similar causes in the past and offer corporate social responsibility programs are far more likely to be receptive to your nonprofit’s pitch for a partnership. 
  • Personal connections. Does anyone at your nonprofit have a connection to a business or influential community member who may be interested in helping your organization? Ask staff and board members to reach out to potential partners within their personal networks. Starting these conversations with a formal introduction from a trusted source is far easier than cold calling. 

Additionally, consider what your nonprofit can offer these benefits in exchange for their donations before approaching them. After all, corporate philanthropy is a business decision, and potential partners want to know how supporting your nonprofit will help them expand and improve their operations. 

In-kind donations are an often-overlooked yet beneficial type of gift for nonprofits. Whether you’re looking for a venue for your next fundraising event or computers to increase team efficiency, be sure to advertise to your audience that you’re looking for in-kind donations. The more supporters that know about the opportunity, the more likely you’ll receive in-kind gifts that further your mission!

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