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Lynn Steinberg
by Lynn Steinberg

The 4 Best Ways to Secure In-Kind Donations for Your Next Event

When your nonprofit hosts an event to raise money for your cause, board members become energized. Events draw in large donations, networking opportunities and the chance to share your mission with a wider audience. Many events include silent and live auctions of goods or services donated by large and small companies. These types of donations are called in-kind donations. Some board members and volunteers are hesitant to ask for in-kind donations, but they shouldn’t be. It is a simple process that will become more comfortable if you follow these four steps:

1. Identifying Donors:

  • ‍Nonprofit board members should have a network of people they have built relationships with over time. These relationships are often with friends, business owners, co-workers and community members. Inform your board of this expectation and regularly ask how they are engaging their networks about the mission of your work.
  • Organize and do not duplicate. Hold a meeting focused on identifying potential businesses for in-kind donations. Avoid multiple team members reaching out to the same business. Discuss the type of event being held; who will be at your event, and deliberately target businesses that will mostly likely donate.
  • Decide and document who will reach out and if they will do so in person, via an email, phone call, or online submission form.
  • Confirm that your mission and values line up with the companies you are approaching for in-kind donations.
  • Many larger companies have in-kind donation submission forms on their websites. Be aware of the proper protocol before asking for an in-kind donation.

2. Asking for the Donation:

  • If your board is regularly engaged with friends, business owners, co-workers and community members this should be relatively comfortable.
  • In-person asks should be carefully crafted and authentic. Let the business know the details of the event and inform them about your need for in-kind donations.
  • Be positive and prepared. Have all marketing materials related to the event and a donation request form with you. Share it enthusiastically.
  • Be prepared with a list of items or services and the quantities of each that you are asking for. Randomness will not help too much. Make a list of what you want before you meet and ask for it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for more. If the business offers a $50 gift card, kindly inform them what impact a $100 gift card will have for your organization. Donors want to understand the cause they are supporting and want their donations to make a measurable difference.
  • Emails should be brief, yet informative. They should never appear canned. Spending time crafting individual emails will pay off better than sending out mass amounts of impersonal emails.
  • Identify yourself and a shared connection or experience in the beginning of your email. Be real.
  • Include links to the nonprofit’s website and relevant social media accounts.
  • Include your mission statement and what project the event is raising money for. Make sure to share the impact the money raised will have in the community, state, country, or world.
  • Emails should also be specific about what is being asked for. If you want a company to donate $250 worth of coffee, ask for it and let them know what this donation will do for your cause.
  • All emails should be branded with your nonprofit logo and your professional signature. Consider attaching a donation request form that is branded to your organization.

Regardless of how you ask for in-kind donations from large and small businesses, let them know what they will receive in return besides helping the mission of your organization. Let them know:

  1. How many social media mentions will they receive and on what social media channels.
  2. If their name will be mentioned on any marketing materials at the event.
  3. If they will they be included in a press release or blog post related to the event.

3. Documenting In-Kind Donations:

This is important for tax purposes. Talk to your accountant to learn more about which donations require documentation. All businesses should be sent a copy of an in-kind donation form. This will streamline the process of recording, reporting, and acknowledging gifts. The form should include:

  • A description of the gift
  • The date the gift was received
  • The contact information of the donor
  • The estimated value of the gift
  • The name of the staff member who is knowledgeable about the gift

Appoint a board member who is responsible for collecting and reporting in-kind donation forms to your accountant. All board members should know what their role is when managing the in-kind donation process. Keep track of which donations were collected by each board member and acknowledge them at your next board meeting. Organize forms in an online folder and make sure board members have access to them for future reference.

4. Thanking Businesses for In-Kind Donations:

This is an important part of the in-kind donation process. Whoever secured the donation should send a written thank you note to the business along with the in-kind donation form. The handwritten note should include:

  1. How much money their donation raised. Give a direct example of how that money will have an impact.
  2. A copy of the in-kind donation form for tax purposes. This is an important and professional step to take.
  3. Your business card

Be persistent and don’t be discouraged by rejections – the more businesses you contact, the more people will get to hear your story. Keep your network informed of your ongoing work and regularly refer friends, colleagues and co-workers to their businesses. Networking, professionalism and organization will pay off when securing in-kind donations for your next nonprofit event.

Side note: Ever heard of Google's nonprofit program?

Did you know Google provides nonprofits with $10,000 per month in free advertising credit? This program is known as Google Grants and it's available to almost every 501c3 nonprofit organization. Learn how we can help you get the most out of the Google Grant program. Click below to get started!
There's a smarter way to do Google Grants.

Lynn Steinberg

Lynn Steinberg
Lynn is a freelance writer who helps nonprofits create online content. She is a board member and marketing consultant at Roots Ethiopia. Her work was published in "The Adoptee Survival Guide: Adoptees Share Their Wisdom and Tools." She lives in Chapel Hill, NC with her husband and four children.

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