What is an in-kind donation?
Posted on August 31, 2009 at 1:59 pm
An in-kind donation is giving something besides money.
An in-kind donation could be donating goods, such as
- a store donating trash bags to a cleanup project,
- a restaurant donating food for a community event
- an individual donating their used clothes to the local thrift store.
An in-kind donation could also be donating your time or professional services. This could include
- regular volunteers at museums
- an accountant doing the taxes for a non-profit
- company staff helping to plant trees on company time.
All of these things benefit the non-profit but are not financial donations. The estimated value of in-kind donations can often be used as the organizations contribution to a matching grant. For instance if an organization seeks a grant of 50,000 for an after school program, the granting foundation may require that the organization provide half the grant through fund raising or in-kind donations. Thus the hours of any volunteers helping with the program, any donated craft supplies or food could be counted as their contribution.
Guidelines for Donated Goods
- Before donating anything contact the charity or get on their website to determine which items are needed and which are not. Make sure that everything you collect for donation fits their specifications. (Donating lightweight cotton sleeping bags for homeless people may seem like a great idea, but cotton sleeping bags lead to hypothermia and frostbite in cold, wet conditions and could be worse than no donation)
- Anything in really bad condition is not needed, please dispose of it on your own. (All too often people empty out their garage or house and take everything to the charity. This forces the charity to use staff time to separate good from bad items and then dispose of unusable items. This can actually cost the charity more than they gain from accepting your donation.)
- Understand that the item you donated may be sold at a charity auction rather than used directly by the charity
As a general rule, goods should never be donated internationally. (see postings 5 questions you should ask before donating goods overseas and Worst in-kind donations)
- Donated goods often go unused because they are inappropriate to the local climate, culture, or religion
- Donating goods may undermine the local economy by giving away goods that local people are desperately trying to sell to support their families
- Donated goods may cost more to ship or clear customs than they cost to buy locally.
If an item is needed and not available locally than it would be far more sustainable and helpful to the local economy to assist local people in making and selling the goods themselves.
Donated time and expertise
- Many local charities are in need of dedicated and skilled volunteers. This can be a great way to contribute to your hometown while also expanding your skills and social life.
- The longer you volunteer for an organization the more varied the work choices. If you only volunteer for a day or two then you will be put on simple tasks that anyone could do without supervision.
- If the charity has to dedicate staff time and expertise to helping you volunteer then ensure that your volunteer enough hours so that you give more to the organization than it used in training and supervising you.
- If you have an area of specialty you think would benefit and organization then let them know about it. But be prepared for them to kindly turn down your offer if it doesn’t fit with their current plans or needs.
- You will probably not get a volunteer position with a large aid agency because volunteers can be more of a liability than an asset (see Guideline #4 for volunteering overseas)
- Understand that if you do not speak the local language or know the local culture, you will be more helpful in the office than in the field. Small aid agencies often have the need for skilled volunteers that can help meet pressing needs or build the capacity of their local staff.
- Do not volunteer to do work that a local person could be paid to do. By working for free you are taking potential jobs out of the local labor market, if a local person were to do the work instead they would earn a wage with which to feed, clothe and care for their family, decreasing the number of people needing aid. (see post Guideline #2 for volunteering overseas)
- See also Guideline #1 to volunteering Overseas and Guideline #3 for volunteering overseas
The following was submitted in the comment section but is worth including in the body of this article.
fields of work this is increasingly possible to do even remotely without having to travel.
This can be highly desirable if the technical assistance is relevant, of quality and not available locally. Ideally this should also contribute to knowledge transfer/local capacity building.”