Right on the Money: Advanced Tips for Soliciting In-Kind Donations

Boxes of toothpaste and other toiletries.

A few years ago, we gave you step-by-step advice on raising in-kind donations. That’s a kind of charitable giving in which people (or businesses) donate goods and services instead of giving cash.

We decided to get in touch with some fundraisers and program staff at family- and youth-serving agencies to see if the tips we shared back then still hold water today. What we found was that folks continue to come up with clever ways to expand on the basics. Read on to find out what else you should be doing, too.  (And read the old article if you need a refresher.)

Make a list. Be specific. For example, “If you just say clothing, you’ll get truckloads” of items you don’t necessarily need, says Jody Turken, who manages stewardship and donor relations at Covenant House California, a youth-serving organization in Los Angeles. To make sure people don’t give you clothing you can’t use, ask for dress pants and career clothing or clean undergarments and socks—whatever it is your clients really need. Also, spell out that whatever you’re asking for needs to be in good condition, Turken says.

Ask for gift cards. Turken says gift cards do double duty. They enable Covenant House to purchase things their young people need, like underwear. They can also be used as incentives for young people who reach important milestones.

Create a wish list on an online retailer’s site. DC Safe, an anti-domestic violence group in Washington, has an Amazon wish list from which people can buy donations online and have them shipped directly to the organization. 
Decide who to ask. Tap your volunteers. Cat Walker, DC Safe’s training and outreach coordinator, says most of her group’s in-kind donations come from volunteers. “They see how the organization works and then they’re more inclined to say, ‘I can see you need XYZ,’” she says.
Ask for the things you need. Don’t give up. Nicholas Brown, senior youth worker at Safe Place Louisville in Louisville, KY, is an ace at getting the young people in his program tickets to ball games and free admission to activities like putt-putt and bowling. Perseverance is his strategy. When he lobbied for tickets from a minor league baseball team, he says, “I got eight no’s before I found the right person to say yes.”

Tell a story. Walker suggests talking or writing about an anonymous client who needs something people could donate. Hearing about a particular person “makes people more willing to give because they see where it’s going to be going,” she says.
Create policies to determine what to keep. Help your neighbors. Turken says that when she’s offered a donation Covenant House can’t use, she often refers the donor to another local organization that might need the item.
Thank your donors. Get youth involved. Turken and Brown suggest having young people hand-make cards to send to donors. Brown also takes his youth to meet the people who made a business’s donation possible, so the young people can say thank you face-to-face.

Extend an invitation. Brown says inviting in-kind donors to your organization’s events, like fundraisers, potlucks and holiday parties, makes a nice gesture of gratitude.
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