In more than 15 years of working with nonprofits, the Lighthouse Counsel team has been able to increase financial security for its clients in part through the solicitation of free product, service and equipment from community businesses—what is commonly known as in-kind contributions.
Here are some tips we’ve learned that can help you do the same.
Be specific about what you want. Wish lists on websites are nice, but they don’t get to the heart of what can really help your organization. You must identify and visit, face-to-face, specific businesses and individuals, and be clear about what your organization needs.
Recruit key individuals for your facilities or property management committee who can help you access free services, product or equipment. The committee members should be recruited with the understanding that this is only a part of their job and there are no expectations from them or their businesses unless they are comfortable with the participation.
Involve staff and key volunteers in soliciting for in-kind. Let them know what your needs are and identify who has the best connection.
Separate in-kind from your annual campaign. Cash is king. Annual campaigns should take precedence over soliciting a prospect for cash vs. in-kind. I can’t emphasize this enough. In-kind should not be part of an annual campaign. Volunteers should know this when asking for cash. Do not give the prospect the choice during an annual campaign.
When soliciting bids for product, service or equipment, ask for the bid and then for a discount — never when asking for the bid.
Beware of asking your current vendors for in-kind, or even cash in your annual campaign. The donation could show up hidden on your next few invoices. Select only a few trusted vendors to ask for donations.
Accepting donations of used equipment or products is OK, but it’s also OK to decline these donations. They should not be considered in-kind. It’s better to accept unwanted donations and take them to another nonprofit that may want them (Goodwill or the Salvation Army, for example). You also may be able to sell these types of donations to liquidators. Be honest with the donor about what you are going to do.
Recognize your in-kind donors the same way you do cash donors. But, separate them so that the public knows the difference.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In his more than 36 years in fundraising, Dave has overseen more than 20 successful annual and capital campaigns, raising millions of dollars for YMCAs in Ohio, Texas and Florida.
Dave has a wealth of experience in endowment campaigns, membership development, project management, facility operations, board recruitment and public relations. His work with volunteers to elevate the mission of the YMCA earned him the prestigious 2005 North American YMCA Development Organization Eagle Award for fundraising excellence.