As a nonprofit professional, you know all about maximizing revenue for your organization. From acquiring recurring gifts to connecting with major donors to soliciting small business sponsorships, you’ve done it all. However, financial gifts aren’t the only donations helpful for your organization — in-kind gifts are another avenue for your audience to directly support your work.

If you’re interested in increasing the number of in-kind donations made to your nonprofit, this is the guide for you. We’ll cover four top strategies for inspiring more in-kind gifts and getting the support you need for your mission. Let’s get started!

Why are in-kind gifts useful?

In-kind gifts are any non-monetary donation made to nonprofits or causes. Usually, these fall into one of two categories:

  • Goods, which are usually physical materials that mission-driven organizations use to enhance their work.
  • Services, which are donations of time or expertise to perform a service that a nonprofit would otherwise have to pay for.

For example, when supporters volunteer at your nonprofit, they’re actually making an in-kind donation. Volunteer time can be considered a service, as volunteers are lending their time to help your organization meet its goals.

In-kind gifts are useful to nonprofits because they:

  • Are cost-effective. Many nonprofits accept in-kind donations of items that they would otherwise need to purchase. For example, a nonprofit relocating its headquarters may request donations of office supplies and furniture. This reduces the overall cost of the move, allowing them to allocate more of their budget to their beneficiaries.
  • Increase giving. A portion of your supporters or target audience are dedicated to your mission but may not be able or willing to make a financial contribution. If your nonprofit accepts in-kind gifts, these individuals will be able to make a gift where they normally wouldn’t, boosting giving among your supporter base.
  • Are sustainable. With in-kind donations (goods in particular), your nonprofit can reuse and give new life to items that may otherwise be thrown away. This allows your organization to reduce your carbon footprint and support a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future.

Additionally, some nonprofits rely on in-kind gifts as part of their organizational model. For example, nonprofit thrift stores rely on in-kind donations of clothing, furniture, and more to supply inventory. Food banks are another example, as they rely on in-kind donations of nonperishable food to provide to their beneficiaries.

1. Create a donation wish list.

Start by creating a donation wish list that includes all the in-kind gifts your nonprofit will accept. In particular, consider the goods and services you need:

  • Consistently. For example, if you run a nonprofit dedicated to delivering school supplies to families in need, you may frequently need pens, pencils, notebooks, and textbooks.
  • In the near future. Consider your upcoming campaigns and events — and the goods and services you will need to succeed. For instance, if you’re planning on hosting a fundraising auction, you may request supporters to donate items for that event.
  • Long-term. You may also ask for long-term or capacity-building gifts for your nonprofit. For example, you could request the services of a software or technology consultant to help you select fundraising solutions.

Aside from the types of in-kind donations you’ll accept, state any specifically excluded in-kind gifts and your requirements for the items’ conditions. For instance, if you’re unable to accept items above a certain size due to storage limitations, state that. Or, if you’re only willing to accept items that are in new or like new condition, state that as well.

After creating your wishlist, publish it on your nonprofit’s website so your supporters can always refer back to it for more information about how to donate in-kind gifts.

2. Establish a convenient donation process.

In-kind donations can be more difficult for donors to make than financial donations, so one of the keys to increasing in-kind gifts is to make your donation process convenient. Usually, the in-kind donation process takes one of two forms:

  • Drop-off. For drop-offs, be sure to set a specific location that supporters can easily navigate to to leave their items. You may also set specific times for supporters to drop off their donations, ensuring there is a staff member or volunteer onsite during those periods to assist and sort through items.
  • Pickup. Pickups are generally harder for nonprofits to arrange, but when it comes to convenience for donors, it’s the way to go. When supporters contact you about donating, set a specific time to pick up their items. That way, they won’t have to deal with the hassle of transporting the items.

After collecting or receiving in-kind donations, organize and log them to keep accurate track of the items your organization has at its disposal. ThriftCart recommends purchasing software with dedicated inventory management features to make this process easier. If your nonprofit runs a store to generate an additional revenue stream, these features often appear in point of sale software, which you may already be using.

3. Promote in-kind donations to supporters.

Unless you’re a nonprofit that requires in-kind donations to function, your supporters likely aren’t aware that these gifts will be helpful for your organization. Spread awareness about in-kind gifts to your supporters by promoting them through:

  • Your nonprofit website. Aside from adding your donation wishlist to your “donate” or “ways to give” page, you can mention your need for in-kind gifts throughout your website’s content. Link these mentions back to your donation page so that supporters can read more about making such a gift.
  • Flyers and posters. Large nonprofits, such as Goodwill, that accept in-kind donations will market their need for donations through flyers, posters, and even billboards. Your nonprofit can do the same. Be sure to briefly describe what kind of goods or services you’re looking for and include a QR code to your online donation page for more information.
  • Email newsletters. When you begin accepting in-kind donations, announce it in an email newsletter to your dedicated supporters. Don’t be afraid to remind them every few months, especially if your priorities for in-kind gifts change.
  • Text messages. For time-bound or urgent in-kind donation requests, text or SMS marketing is your best bet. Send a short message to supporters letting them know that you’re looking for in-kind gifts. Be sure to include a shortened link to your donation wishlist so they can easily get more information.
  • Social media. With the popularity of social media, it’s only natural that your nonprofit should promote its efforts on these platforms. In particular, try Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to maximize your reach and the support you garner.

Be sure to market through your donors’ preferred channels, but don’t be scared to use channels aimed at a wider audience as well. In-kind donations are a great opportunity to inspire generosity in individuals who may not have the means to make a financial contribution, yet still want to aid your mission.

4. Show appreciation for in-kind donors.

One of the key aspects of a fundraising development plan is facilitating stronger donor engagement to improve retention. While you may already have retention strategies in place for supporters who make financial contributions, make sure that your gratitude extends to in-kind donors.

Be sure to thank in-kind donors with email messages or visually appealing eCards to communicate your appreciation for their generosity. Additionally, send follow-up messages with more opportunities to get involved. This could range from inviting them to a donor appreciation event to informing them about upcoming campaigns.

Take it a step further and show donors that you value them by asking for their feedback about the in-kind donation process. For goods, this could mean asking how they found their drop-off or pickup experiences. For services and volunteer time, send out a survey with questions aimed at improving the structure of making such a gift. Be sure to implement the feedback you get to truly communicate to donors that you are listening.

In-kind gifts are an extremely valuable type of donation. With them, you’ll inspire greater support and have more budget to allocate to your beneficiaries. If your nonprofit has the capacity or desire to accept this type of donation, it’s well worth it for you to sit down and brainstorm how to make it possible.