What are gifts "in kind"?

A gift 'in kind' is goods or services provided by a business at reduced or no cost. For example, a plumbing company may decide to waive their fees for installing a sink in your new building. A local art gallery might provide an item for your silent auction. The types of in kind gifts that are available are limited only by your imagination and your community.

One way to seek in kind gifts is by playing a kind of match game. Look at your needs and try to match them up with companies that provide those kinds of services. Start off by focusing on companies where you have a personal relationship with someone with decision making authority.

What companies should you approach?

Once you have your list, begin to reach out to each one. One of the major challenges with this type of fundraising is that business owners (the people who typically are able to say, 'yes') are busy. You'll have to be very persistent in trying to get through to them and make your requests known.

When you're thinking about companies that you can approach for in kind gifts, it's important to do your research. Larger companies (especially public companies that are listed on the stock exchange) will often have a community relations department that handles all philanthropic activity. If that's the case, you might be required to go through their grant submission process. Read more about grant writing here.

Other large businesses give some level of discretion to their store or plant managers. You'll just have to hit the streets and start asking people to find out. If the person that you're asking doesn't know the answer, ask them to who does. Follow the trail of breadcrumbs until you find the decision maker.

Tax consequences

When asking a potential donor for an in kind gift, bear in mind the tax consequences for the donor. (Note - I'm not a tax attorney. You should double check all of these things with a competent accountant or tax attorney) According to tax law, a donor is able to deduct the fair market value of any physical good or asset donated. This works out well for many businesses. The fair market value of their donations is often significantly higher than their cost.

The value of donated services, on the other hand, is not generally tax deductible. A lawyer who donates pro-bono legal work to your organization doesn't get a tax deduction for their time. They just get a warm fuzzy feeling of being able to do something good. That is sometimes enough, if the professional you're talking to is deeply connected to your mission.

Types of in kind gifts

Like I said, the type of in kind gifts you can get are limited only by your imagination and your willingness to put yourself in front of new people. If you haven't done this kind of fundraising, here are some ideas that have worked for others.

Real estate

I'll start with a big one. You have to remember that you're only limited in your fundraising by your courage. Do you know a big real estate developer that owns a perfect plat of land or a building? Explain your mission, tell them how their property would be a perfect fit, and ask them to donate it. You'd be surprised how much real estate is donated for the use of non-profits. Even if they won't donate it outright, they might be willing to do a bargain sale or a long-term, low cost lease.

Legal Services

Some lawyers are willing to serve as pro-bono counsel for organizations they feel passionate about, especially if they are invited to sit on the board.

Accounting Services

Like lawyers, some accountants will be willing to provide pro-bono consulting services. This is not, however, a good idea for auditors, who need to be independent and properly paid for their services.

Building trades

Contractors, electricians, plumbers, painters, architects, and other building trades will sometimes donate their time and expertise to help with a project that needs to be done. Even if they aren't able to do it completely for free, they might be able to cut you a break and do the project at their cost.

Marketing exposure

Some TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, and other media outlets will be willing to donate free advertising for your ministry, program, or event. Google grants, the free internet advertising grant provided by Google, is a great example of this.

Alcohol and food

Restaurants and beverage vendors will sometimes donate products for an event in exchange for public recognition of their donation. Success with this kind of request depends heavily on the relationship what you have with the vendor and how passionate they are about your mission.

Sports and entertainment memorabilia

If you do the research and make the phone calls, you can get signed items from some of your favorite sports and entertainment icons. This depends a lot on whether the person is philanthropically inclined or not. If you want an item or photograph signed, you'll usually need to talk to their publicist or manager, and then mail the item you want signed to the appropriate location. It can take a long time for the objects to get back to you, so if you want one of these objects to be part of your silent auction, give yourself at least six months lead time.

Repair supplies and appliances

Some hardware stores will donate supplies or appliances if you can provide evidence of your tax exempt status.

Vacation packages

While not exactly a gift in kind, some travel organizations will provide a discounted travel package that you can use for a silent or live auction. You set the reserve price (the lowest price for the package) at a price higher than the cost, and then pocket the difference between the cost and the total raised. You can also ask one of your major donors to donate a weekend at their beach house, if they own one.

Gift certificates

Many restaurants, retail stores, and personal service businesses (like spas, nail salons, and hair dressers) will donate a gift certificate to a charity if asked. The face values on these certificates is typically fairly modest, in the $50-100 range. You can take multiple gift certificates and put them into a gift basket to create a higher value item. Because of the relatively low monetary return on this kind of gift, it's best if you can use volunteers to ask businesses for these types of gifts.

Amazon Wish List

For more mundane items like office supplies or personal care products (for a homeless shelter, for instance), you can create an Amazon wish list and publicize it on your website. This is typically done only by smaller organizations, but it can work if you invest some time in it.

Looking for more articles about corporate giving? Try these:

Check out The Fundraiser's Playbook for a full list of fundraising articles.

Would you like to learn more about raising money for Church and Ministry? Check out Letters From The Almoner, now available on Amazon.com.
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