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Section 11. Soliciting Contributions and In-kind Support

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  • What do we mean by contributions and in-kind support?

  • Why should you solicit contributions and in-kind support?

  • When should you solicit contributions and in-kind support?

  • How can you solicit contributions and in-kind support?

Obtaining support through successful grants and submitted proposals is important to the financial sustainability of many community organizations. However, we all know competition for grants can be tough. You may consider what types of other resources may be available within the community. This section will give you some guidelines on different types of contributions and in-kind support. Additionally, it will help identify their potential sources, and provide guidance for how to obtain these supports.

What do we mean by contributions and in-kind support?

Contributions are donations of money from individuals, businesses, and other organizations in the community. Much of the funding for many non-profits comes from public funds – i.e., from taxes – and is distributed by some level of government. Public funds are limited, however, and most organizations must look for other sources of funding. Private foundations and United Way campaigns are often a second source of funds, but many smaller organizations (and some larger ones as well) aren’t eligible for these monies. Contributions may help meet the funding needed in order to run their day-to-day operations.

Types of contributions

The idea of contributions sounds simple – it’s money that people, businesses, or groups give your organization. That’s essentially right, but there are a lot of variations. Some contributions are tax-deductible (that means you can subtract the amount of the contribution from the amount of money you pay taxes on, at least in the U.S.) and some are not, depending on the tax status of the receiving organization, what it uses the money for, and whether or not donors get anything in return.

Some organizations encourage donors to make larger donations by allowing them to spread the donations out over a period of time – often a year, but sometimes a longer or shorter period. Contributors may specifically give money to an organization’s endowment, or to a particular fund or a particular activity. They might encourage others to give in memory of a loved one who has died, or in honor of an important occasion – a wedding, an anniversary, a milestone birthday, a retirement.

Organizations may ask for small contributions differently than large ones, and may find creative ways to solicit funds. Major donors, those who give large amounts of money, may be treated differently, for instance, and offered some special recognition for their generosity. Contributors may be offered something – membership, recognition, a monthly organizational newsletter, a small gift donated by a business supporter (coffee mugs are perhaps the most common of these) – in return for their contribution.

Some contributions are paired with a purchase. Tickets to a special performance might cost $50.00 each, $25.00 of which is the ticket cost, and the other $25.00 of which is a contribution to the sponsoring organization. (In that case, the donor can only take a tax deduction for $25.00, the amount of the contribution.) Major donors may get preferred seats at these events, or have dinner with the performers.

Depending on the size and needs of your organization, you may want to think about whether to pursue major donors or not. Community contributions are typically in the $10.00 to $100.00 range, with a few of up to perhaps $500.00. Major donors to large organizations and institutions may give millions, although a major donor for most community-based organizations would probably contribute a few thousand – say, $2,000.00 to $5,000.00. The questions for any small organization are that of how much time and effort it takes to get a donation of that size, and whether it has the resources to invest in what may or may not be a successful effort.

Major donors generally have to be courted. Universities offer them the opportunity to name buildings or whole departments, wine and dine them at the best restaurants, and make them Overseers or Trustees. You probably don’t have the capacity to do any of those things, but you can meet with them, introduce them to your organization and its work, conduct guided tours of facilities and programs, and offer conversation with participants and staff. You might also discuss financial arrangements that can provide the best tax advantages for the donor. (You’ll probably need a lawyer or accountant to help you with this.) If you have the time, energy, and connections for this, it may be worth it. If it will detract from the quality of the organization’s work – unless it holds a promise of a really major donation, one that could advance the organization to another level – it’s probably not worth it.

In-kind support is a way for your group to collect resources other than money. Instead of buying everything with cash, you can look for donations from community members. In-kind resources, or non-cash contributions, might be things you'd otherwise pay for, or they might be things that money just can't buy. When someone volunteers to give you a service, supplies, or free help, you're receiving in-kind support. You can look for in-kind support both from within your organization's members, and from your local community.

Community organizations need resources to put their plans into action. One of these resources is, of course, cash money. But that money may not always be available, and some donors – people, groups, or businesses – may feel more comfortable donating something other than cash. In-kind support should not be seen as a second best to direct monetary donations, but as an equally important part of the resource pool available to your group.

Most likely, your group already receives a lot of in-kind support. Does another organization do your mailings for you? Do you share space with a Chamber of Commerce or other group? Can you use their photocopier? These are all examples of in-kind support, examples that you may or may not be counting as donations to your group.

So seeking in-kind support should be an integral part of your plan for action and sustainability. If your group is going to succeed, you'll want more than just money: you'll want goods, people, and services, too.

Types of in-kind support

Let's take a look at the three basic types of in-kind donations: goods, services, and people.

Goods are just about anything that isn't money - for example, a car, paper, equipment, or furniture. Goods are a vital non-cash resource for any organization. You can find goods everywhere: in homes, businesses, governments, and civic groups. They can be used or surplus, or they can be new products and merchandise. They can also be loaned, or they can be purchased cooperatively with another group.

Goods are a money substitute. Cash and in-kind resources such as goods make up a total resource package. 

Some examples:

  • Equipment and furniture, including computers and photocopiers.
  • Supplies, including paper, filing folders, and other necessary office supplies.
  • Space, including maintenance and utilities.
  • Food that people bring to your regular meetings

Services are often grouped with goods as in-kind gifts. Many overlook services because, with few exceptions, services are not tax deductible as a charitable contribution. Some companies deduct the time used in performing a charitable service as a normal business expense. Others consider community service a business function and keep no record of its performance. Yet, services are a major source of support to successful nonprofit groups.

Corporations are the best-known contributors, but the giving of services is undoubtedly a community-wide practice. Small businesses, vendors, colleges, other nonprofits, individual professionals, and tradespeople all have services to offer. Everyone providing services for a fee is probably also providing it free, or at a discount, to some worthy cause. 

Examples of services include:

  • Printing
  • Website hosting
  • Transportation

People are the key to all resources in most service-oriented nonprofit groups. People resources are persons giving their time free of charge, for a small fee, or for payment by a third party on a nonprofit's behalf. Anyone who offers your group technical assistance or consultation, or who provides financial services and bookkeeping, or who volunteers to be a member of your board, is making an in-kind donation to your group.

People resources are not only volunteers. People do volunteer their services, but employers may "loan" their paid employees to work on community efforts.

Because people are everywhere, know everyone and do everything, their resource potential is unlimited. The challenge is to discover how to use the most people, in the best combination, to your organization's greatest advantage. Some possible ways – besides volunteering to help provide services, as they may in an educational or recreational organization, for example – that people can help your operation:

  • Clerical help.
  • Child care for special events.
  • Fundraising.
  • Legal, accounting, or other professional services

Examples of in-kind support:

  • Having your local high school or town government – if they have a printing department – print your group's invitations to a community-wide meeting.
  • Housing your group meetings in a building of the local state college. Having access to the college's photocopiers, and receiving help from them in doing your mailings.
  • Having coalition members bring snacks and drinks to a meeting.
  • Asking store owners to donate items for use in a fundraising raffle.
  • Inviting skilled volunteers, such as carpenters, painters, or a local handyman, to fix up donated street-level office space that your coalition will use.
  • Receiving old office furniture from a law firm that’s redecorating its own offices.

Why should you solicit contributions and in-kind support?

To increase your overall resources. The more resources your group has, the more power you have to get things done, and to make your work effective. Cash is, obviously, a major resource, since it gives you access to what you need.  While many groups and individuals can't donate cash or feel uncomfortable about doing so, they’d be happy, if asked, to give supplies, space, or time. Since community groups often need these kinds of resources, this can be a great match. Your group will be closer to meeting its goals when it has the necessary resources to put its plans in motion.

To help build community support for your work. When people or organizations donate money, a computer, or some staff time, their connection to your cause grows stronger. They have more of a stake in seeing you succeed. So it's not only funds, goods, and services you are receiving; you are getting good will in the bargain, and developing new allies, too.

To find other sources of support, sources you might not have known about before. By using supporters’ connections, you might be able to acquire their support as well. In this way, both your in-kind resources and overall community support can grow. Your new supporters may be able to help you later on in ways no one could have anticipated.

To acquire resources that come with no strings attached. You can spend money you get from local contributors in any way you find necessary to support the operation of the organization. Many public and foundation funders limit the amount of their money that organizations can spend on operational costs – administrative salaries, rent, clerical functions, etc. For some organizations, community contributions may be the only way to fund these costs, but unrestricted funds – money you can use for whatever you want – are valuable to any organization, and can give you the freedom to run the best program possible.

To obtain items, equipment, etc., that you might otherwise have no access to. Furniture, copiers, computer updates, and other similar items that you simply wouldn’t be able to afford, and perhaps wouldn’t be allowed to buy with other funds, can sometimes come from community sources. Firms updating their state-of-the-art technology might be getting rid of computers and other equipment that are far more advanced than the older machines you’re using. An accounting firm that needs to impress clients may be discarding furniture that’s both better-looking and in much better condition than the chairs you scrounged from the dump four years ago. If they give them to you, rather than throwing them away, they can take a tax write-off, have the satisfaction of being environmentally responsible by recycling their cast-offs, and provide a community service, all at the same time.

To increase your local match. Many public and foundation funders require that organizations provide matching funds from the community or other sources in order to be eligible. Usually both cash contributions and in-kind donations from the community can be used for this purpose.

The purpose of requiring a match is to show that the organization has community support, and can continue to run its programs, at least to some extent, whether or not the funder continues its grants. Matches can vary from small amounts – 10% of the funder’s grant, perhaps – to as much as 100% (we’ll give you $100.00 if you come up with another $100.00.) If you have more than one grant that requires a match, local contributions can be extremely important, because funds can only be used to match a single grant. The more local cash and in-kind contributions you have, the more other funding you may be eligible for.

When should you solicit contributions and in-kind support?

You're probably already receiving different kinds of in-kind support for your group. When your group is beginning a new project, you may need some new resources. This is the right time to determine exactly what types of support your group needs. Take an inventory – a "resources inventory" – of your group. Then use brainstorming to determine which members of your community might be able to donate some or all of these resources.

Take advantage of situations that you know exist or are coming up.  If there’s a business that’s moving or renovating its space, it may be willing to donate furniture and other goods that it would otherwise throw away. A new business might want to generate good will in the community by providing some in-kind goods or services. The founding of a local chapter of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) could provide opportunities for free professional services.

Contributions are a different matter. Asking for money donations is sometimes a matter of timing, but opinions differ as to what that means. Many organizations solicit funds from the community during holiday seasons – Christmas in the U.S., but this varies in other countries, depending on the culture – when people are feeling generous. Others feel that, because everyone else asks at holiday time, they’ll be better off waiting till later or starting earlier. Still others run regular campaigns once or twice (or more times) a year.

Some organizations try to time community fundraising campaigns to national awareness days or weeks for their issue. Others may gear them to specific times in the life of their programs – the beginning of training courses, the start of school, flu season, etc..

All of this can be further complicated by restrictions on fundraising activity. Community United Ways, which fund many U.S. non-profits, prohibit organizations receiving their funds from fundraising during the United Way campaign (usually a month or two in the fall), and from individually soliciting businesses that regularly donate to the United Way. Other funders may impose similar restrictions, and you may also be limited by when you have the volunteer and other resources you need to raise funds in the community.

One way to think about community contributions is to determine when you need them the most. Many funders make grants that cover a year, but may only give out the money at certain times (a quarter of it at the beginning of each three-month period, for instance). In addition, other sources of funding – fundraising events, United Way – may only provide money at certain times. Contracts often require proof that organizations have spent money before they can get reimbursed. All these factors can have a huge effect on an organization’s cash flow.

Cash flow – the actual flow of spendable cash through the organization, as opposed to money you’re owed or owe to someone else – can be as important to your finances as the total amount of money in your budget. If you're owed $500.00 by your friend, but he hasn't paid you yet, and you only have $5.00 in the bank, that's a cash flow issue.  You can't pay your bills while your friend owes you money. Your organization may have a big check coming in December, but if it’s still October and you can’t pay the phone bill, that check isn’t much good to you at the moment. Timing your solicitation of community contributions to your cash flow needs can help you get through the times between funding and other payments, and keep your cash flow steady.

How can you solicit contributions?

Asking for money from the community can take a variety of forms. The very first thing you should do is make a plan for soliciting contributions. If you plan well, your request will go much more smoothly, and is more likely to yield the results you hope for.  The elements of a community fundraising plan include:

Recruit the people you need to help with the campaign.  These include those who will make personal appeals to friends and family members, those who’ll furnish names and addresses of potential contributors (see below), and those who can help with logistics – assembling a mailing, data entry, making phone calls, etc.. Make sure you have more than enough people lined up ahead of time (some will drop out, get sick, or otherwise be unavailable when the time comes), and that they know what you want them to do and when.

Make a list.  Most organizations start by compiling a list of current and potential donors. These usually include:

  • People who’ve had some direct experience with the organization: current and former participants, volunteers, board members, etc..
  • People who have direct contact with the organization: staff and board members of organizations it works with, local officials, officers of firms and banks with which it does business.
  • Community members, including businesses and organizations that have given money in the past.
  • Businesses that have been helpful or have made in-kind contributions.
  • Lists compiled by staff and/or board members, and sometimes volunteers as well. These are people to whom they’d be willing to sign letters or make a personal appeal. Such lists may include family members, business associates, social acquaintances, and friends and neighbors.

These lists are often entered into one of a number of computer databases specifically designed as fundraising tools. They allow you – in addition to recording basic information such as addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses – to keep track of such things as when and how a potential funder was last contacted, by whom, and what the result was. Depending on their features, they may also allow you to identify people in specific ways (former volunteer, physician, particularly interested in maternal/child health) so that you can match your appeal to their interests.

Fundraising software varies from shareware or freeware versions that record only minimal information to expensive and extremely comprehensive packages that do everything but call your cell phone when it’s time to ask a particular donor for more money. It’s important to choose a package within your price range that most closely meets your needs.

Decide what method(s) you’re going to use to solicit contributions Depending on your resources and the kind of message you want to send, there are several possibilities for getting your “ask” out to the community.

  • Direct mail. This is probably the most common solicitation method for nonprofits. It involves composing one or more fundraising letters – either a single general letter, or a few different letters targeted either to raising funds for different programs or to appealing to specific types of donors – and mailing them to the people on your list. If staff and board members have submitted names, ask them to include a brief, handwritten personal note on the letters to each of the people they’ve suggested. If you have the capacity, each letter, even if it’s general, should be addressed internally as well as on the envelope to the specific person it’s being sent to (“Dear Dr. Smith,” as opposed to “Dear Friends.” Even a simple software program should allow you to do this.) A large mailing can be sent quite cheaply in the U.S. if you have a bulk mail permit.

Mailings require a certain amount of work. First, obviously, the letter itself has to be written. A fundraising letter has to strike exactly the right tone. The best are upbeat, emphasizing the good work the organization is doing, the great results it gets, and the good things that can happen for participants and the community as a result of the donor’s contribution. Letters should be short (a page or so), and should start with a “grabber” – a personal story or an interesting description or piece of information that will keep people reading. The “ask” should be early in the letter, if not in the first sentence, so that the reader is clear on the purpose, and should be positive – explaining what great things the funds will support – rather than negative – stressing how much trouble the organization will be in if the reader doesn’t contribute. It should also stress the benefits to the donor – satisfaction, the improvement of the community, tax advantages.

The other effort that a direct mailing needs is the actual preparation and mailing of the letters. In addition to the letter, a solicitation may include a brochure, a return envelope, and/or some other piece of mail from the organization (a program schedule, for instance). All of this has to be stuffed into envelopes, and the envelopes have to be addressed – usually with mailing labels or by being printed, but sometimes by hand – and pre-sorted by zip code if they’re being bulk mailed. (Your pre-sorting lowers the postage price even more.) It’s not unusual for a relatively small community-based organization to have a mailing list of 5,000 or more, so stuffing, addressing, and sorting a mailing is a big job.

One time-honored way of getting out a mailing is to hold a stuffing party. Stock your office or a large room in someone’s home with coffee, other drinks, and snacks, and invite staff, volunteers, board members, and participants to set up an assembly line to get it all done. A group of people – the more, the better – working together can get a mailing ready in an afternoon or evening, and have a good time in the process.

Another possibility is finding another group that will benefit by doing your mailing. Adult clubhouse programs, designed to provide meaningful tasks for people who can’t work at typical jobs because of mental illness, often take on mailings. Residential programs for youth criminal offenders can be another source of help. (Adolescents work for food, and are often a great deal faster than adults at these tasks. Kids in residential programs are usually happy for the chance to get out into the community.)

  • Phone solicitation. Many organizations, either instead of, or along with, direct mail, use the telephone as a way to reach potential donors. Larger organizations may do the calling themselves, or may hire telemarketing firms to do the calling, but smaller ones usually rely on staff, participants, board members, and volunteers to man the phones. Often, a business or larger nonprofit will let a small organization use its phone system to do the calling. The goal of each call is to obtain a pledge of support in a given amount.

Phone solicitations or phone-a-thons, like mailings, take some preparation and work to complete. Someone needs to write a script, emphasizing the points that need to be made by the caller, and giving those new to the process a guide to what to say and how to say it. (See Tools for a sample phone solicitation script.)

Callers then have to be trained, becoming familiar with the script, and getting a chance to make practice calls. Training should also cover how to handle difficult calls, how to take and record pledges, what information to get from people, whom to pass the phone to or whom to check with if they’re asked questions they can’t answer, etc.

A specific issue concerns people who prefer not to be called. Some consider phone solicitation an invasion of privacy, and can become annoyed, or even angry, at being called, even by an organization that they normally support. You obviously should avoid calling anyone who, according to your records, has asked not to be called. Unfortunately, not everyone who feels that way will necessarily have had the chance to tell you so, and some who did may have slipped through the cracks.

If a caller reaches one of these individuals, how he handles the call may determine whether the person will, or will continue to, support the organization. He should know, therefore, that the appropriate reaction is to apologize sincerely, and promise to make sure that the individual’s name is taken off the calling list. The organization should have a procedure that callers can follow right then and there to make that happen.

Within a day or two after the phone solicitation, the organization will have to follow up on each pledge with a letter, usually complete with a return envelope, reminding the donor of the amount of her pledge and asking her to fulfill it, and thanking her for her support. (The U.S. Internal Revenue Service requires an acknowledgment naming the receiving organization, the amount, and the date of the contribution in order for anyone who donates $250.00 or more to a registered tax-exempt organization to receive a tax deduction. These letters should only be sent after the money is in hand.)

  • E-mail solicitation. With the advent of MoveOn.org and other similar organizations, e-mail solicitation has become a common method of asking for support.  It has its drawbacks – many people find it annoying, and e-mails can easily get lost or ignored in an inbox – but it has the distinct advantage of being able to reach a large number of people with a single click of a mouse, and it can also direct people to your website, if you have one, for more information.  It’s probably most effective when it’s carefully targeted – aimed at people who’ve already been supportive, or who at least are familiar with the organization. E-mail fundraising letters should be real letters, not the no-caps, no-grammar, who-cares-how-it’s-spelled e-mails that you might send to your friends. They should be as carefully composed as direct-mail appeals, and carefully arranged on the page as well, with some thought to their appearance on the page, and to their being easily downloaded and read. They should be short, to the point, and simple to respond to
  • Personal solicitation. Probably most effective of all, there’s personal, face-to-face solicitation by board members and others connected to the organization. This is so important, especially for attracting major donors – those who regularly contribute large sums – that nonprofit board members are often recruited either because they are able to give large sums of money, or because they have connections to those who can. Board members are often expected to ask their friends to contribute, especially if those friends are used to donating large sums to charitable causes. It’s much harder to say no when your cousin or your business partner tells you that there’s a worthy organization he wants you to support than when you get a letter in the mail.
  • Other methods of solicitation.There are other possibilities, generally impersonal, and some only usable by larger organizations. These include advertisements in major newspapers or on radio and TV; telethons or live shows featuring celebrities; charity events (dinners, orchestra performances, concerts, etc., where services are donated and all or most of the admission fees go to the sponsoring nonprofit); and call-ins like those famously conducted by public radio and TV stations for their own fundraising.  Website fundraising that’s not specifically tied to an e-mail campaign can be effective for organizations that attract a lot of traffic to their websites. Organizational newsletters and similar publications that go to a list of supporters and public service announcements are among alternative methods that can be used by smaller organizations.

You might use any one or any combination of these methods. Many organizations, for instance, combine direct mail and phone calls. The calls often increase the amount of direct mail contributions.

Decide on the timing of the solicitation. We’ve already discussed timing your requests to contributions to your cash-flow needs, as well as the considerations of season. Some organizations solicit only once a year, some twice or three times. Others make requests throughout the year. You’ll have to decide what works best for your organization.

One possibility is to think about when the worst times to ask for money are. If the major employer in your community shuts down for vacation in August, that’s going to be a bad time to send out a mailing. If many in the community work seasonally – in construction, at a ski resort – time your requests to when they’re earning money: they may have enough to give at other times, but may not feel they do. Summer is generally a bad time to solicit contributions, because many people take their vacations then, and are saving money to make sure they’ll have enough to both finance their vacation activities and carry them through the period until they go back to work. If you’re a United Way member organization, you can’t send out an appeal during the United Way campaign (usually in October and November.)

The other feature of timing is to set a deadline for completing the preparations for your solicitation, and get it done on time. Among other things, many contributors keep track of their yearly contributions, and expect to donate to specific causes at specific times. If your fundraising appeal is at a regular time, many donors will expect to see it – will be waiting for it, in fact – and that increases the chances that they’ll respond to it.

Get your appeal out. Actually carry out your plans. Draft your letter, assemble your mailing, and cart the pre-sorted mail to the post office (Tip: it helps if you contact the postmaster, or whoever is in charge of bulk mailings, first. She can then tell you when the best time to arrive is, and can help getting everything in order when you get there), send out your e-mail appeal, make your phone calls, etc..

Track the results. There are a number of questions you’ll want to answer as money starts coming in – or, more importantly, doesn’t – from your solicitation.

  • What is the flow like? Typically, the flow of contributions peaks in the second or third week after you send out a mailing, levels out for a week or so, and then drops off fairly quickly.  Is that the pattern here? Understanding the pattern of returns will give you some basis for projecting your results well before they’re all in.
  • What is the percentage of people contributing? If you sent out a message – whether mail, phone, e-mail, or some other communication – to 5,000 people, how many actually contributed?
  • How much did you receive, compared to the cost of the appeal?  No fundraising is free. At the very least, it costs a certain amount in staff salaries. The time spent in recruiting volunteers to help, planning, setting up, etc., can run to many hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the size and scope of the campaign. Bulk mail permits have a cost, and a large bulk mailing can run to several hundred dollars, or even more.  The question here is whether the return justified the cost.
  • Are contributions from specific individuals increasing, decreasing, or staying the same?  Are you losing the loyalty of your supporters, or are they becoming more committed as time goes on?
  • Are there particular parts of the community or particular elements of the population that contribute more generously?
  • Is this campaign more, less, or similarly effective compared to campaigns at other times of year?

The answers to these and similar questions will contribute to planning for future successful community fundraising.

Follow up. After all the money has come in or been pledged, you’re not done.

There are several details that still have to be attended to.

  • Send out pledge reminders and envelopes. Anyone who pledged over the phone, online, or otherwise should get a letter thanking her for her pledge, reminding her of the amount, telling her how to make out her check, and giving her any other information she might need in order to fulfill her pledge. You might also have a plan for a second reminder after a certain amount of time with no response. (There may be some people who simply don’t honor their pledges, although it will probably be a small number. There’s nothing you can do about that – it’s just part of the normal fundraising world.)
  • Thank everyone who sent a contribution. Each contributor – including those who honored their pledges – should get a personally addressed letter (again, even a simple software program should allow you to do this easily) thanking them for their contribution, specifying the amount (for tax purposes), and telling them something important about what they’re supporting. (“Each $20.00 contribution will make it possible for us to feed 10 children for a week.”)
  • Make sure to record all the details of every contribution. If you’re using fundraising software, that means entering all new contributors with the appropriate information and comments (the more information, the better; it makes it easier to personalize your next request), and updating all former supporters.  If you’re using paper files, you’ll need to do the same, although it might be more work.
  • Clean your files. One touchstone that many fundraisers use is that you keep people in your file for three years with no contribution, whether they were former supporters or new names. After three years, you can assume that they won’t ever contribute, and you can clear them out. You should also clear your files of anyone who you know has died, moved away, or is otherwise no longer available, and correct any changes of vital information – address, phone, last name (marriage), etc. – that you’ve gotten from the current campaign.

Plan the next fundraising appeal. Now that you’ve gathered all the information from request for community contributions, it’s time to start planning your next one. Use everything you’ve learned from this one to make the next one more effective, and to increase the number of your community supporters.

How can you solicit in-kind support?

Non-cash resources can help your community organization just as cash resources can. Here's how to begin your campaign to collect in-kind support:

Before You Begin

During a meeting of your organization, discuss your non-cash resource needs. Think about soliciting in-kind support in order to replace your current money spending. What kinds of things could you ask for rather than pay for?

For example, instead of spending $50 a month faxing things from the copy shop, could you ask an office supply store to donate a used or surplus fax machine? Rather than paying a typist to prepare your newsletter, would the community college in town agree to do your typing?

Planning to Solicit In-Kind Support

Plan how you will approach various members of your community and ask for non-cash resources. Do your members have good contacts with particular businesses, companies, institutions, or individuals? Balance the costs to your organization (how much time and money you will spend) with risks and benefits of the search (potential loss or gain of resources or good will). If your risks are too great, revise your plan to solicit less. Think positively and creatively!  The worst someone can tell you is "No!" Although you might feel scared at first about asking corporations for donations, in some ways, seeking in-kind support is less intimidating than asking for cash. At least some businesses, corporations, or larger organizations are looking for smaller groups to donate to. Why? Often it's a tax write-off, and it shows their involvement and generosity to their host community. And after all, if they are going to be making donations anyway, why not have them be to you?

Take a look at Tool #2 in this section, the in-kind donor prospect profile. Prepare these worksheets before you make your pitch to potential donors, and you'll be better prepared and focused.

Set clear goals for your group's campaign. If you don't know where you're going, you won't be able to congratulate yourselves when you get there! Assign specific people to solicit particular groups, particularly those where they already have contacts. A lot of in-kind support you get will come from local contacts. In other words, the support will come from the relationships you've already established with people in your community. If they know and trust you, they will want to support you. The moral is to take the time to develop and cultivate such relationships, and to make them reciprocal. Everyone will profit in the long run.

While Soliciting

Your group will want to regularly discuss its progress in building resources. If your proposal doesn't work with a particular group, try it with someone else. Keep track of your successes and failures, and measure your progress.

After Soliciting

When you receive an in-kind donation, put a dollar value on it! When that community college typed your newsletter, estimate what it used to cost you when paid a typist to prepare the newsletter. Perhaps he spent 6 hours on the newsletter and charged you $180. When the college agrees to have its secretary prepare the newsletter, you've just made $180 -- by not having to spend it all! Keep a careful accounting of the dollar values of your in-kind solicitations. This will be important for your group when you apply for grants and when you compile your annual financial records. Use Tool #1 at the end of this section, the worksheet for tracking in-kind donations. Make sure one person in your group is responsible for creating these worksheets each month, tabulating the total dollar value of the month's donations, and writing thank you notes to your donors.

Many grants require that your group raise a certain number of matching dollars -- they'll give you $5,000 if you can earn $5,000 on your own. Often you'll be able to count in-kind donations (sometimes called "soft money") as at least part of this sum. Even if your grant applications don't ask for matching dollars, in-kind contributions are an impressive demonstration of community support for your group. When funders see that people in your community are willing to donate services and goods to your group, they know your group has strong local support. You're also showing that your group feels that it owns itself and is ready to manage its own affairs.

Print Resources

Jackson, D. and Maddy, W. (1992). Building coalitions reference manual. Columbus, OH: Ohio Center for Action on Coalition Development, Ohio State University.

McCullough, C. (1993). PR in a pinch: A handbook for organizations with no time, no tools, and no money! Fall River, MA: Greater Fall River Health and Human Services Coalition.

Siek, G. P. and Smith, P. Extra resources for a coalition. (Available from Ohio State University Extension, 3 Agriculture Administration Bldg., 2120 Fyffe Rd., Columbus Ohio 43210-1084)

Student Activities Resource Office."Budget and Financing", in Resource Sheets. (Available from Student Activities Resource Office, The University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-5216)

Possible providers of donations of industrial goods:

National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources (NAIER), at 560 McClure Street, Galesburg, IL 614011. Telephone 1-800-562-0955, fax (309) 343-3519. This group collects new donated items from large corporations and sends them to interested nonprofits and schools for an annual fee plus shipping and handling.

Gifts in Kind America at 700 North Fairfax Street, Suite 300, Alexandria, VA 22314. Telephone 703-836-2121, fax 703-549-1481. This group, affiliated with the United Way, works much like NAIER.

B.A.R.T.E.R., a local version of the above in Minnesota; National Materials Exchange Network in Washington State; CALMAX in California.

Materials for the Arts (an artistic version of the above) at 410 West 16th Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10011. Telephone (212) 255-5924. Fax (212) 924-1925.

Local co-ops, materials exchange programs or clearinghouses

Local programs which list executive-type people who will consult to non-profit boards (in Boston, this is done through a United Way program called "Board Bank")

SCORE, the federal program for retired executives

"Discover Total Resources," a free booklet from the Mellon Bank, pp.20-28.

Grantsmanship Center Magazine, published by the Grantsmanship Center. Get a free subscription by requesting it on letterhead at PO Box 17220, Los Angeles, CA 90017. Telephone (213) 482-9860.

ARDI booklet on "Resources for Non-Profits."

University-community programs, as listed in "University-Community Partnerships: Current Practices," available in two volumes from HUD User at 1-800-245-2691. $5.00 per volume.

Give-and-Take: The Complete Tax Incentive Guide and the Approved Methods for Donating and Accepting Gifts of Inventory, 4th edition. Order from 501(c)(3 ) Monthly Letter, PO Box 6401, Evanston, IL 60204. Telephone (312) 864-4624.

Online Resources

CapTerra.com, a fundraising software directory. This directory appears to have three tiers: software vendors that sponsor the site; vendors that pay for inclusion; and vendors that either pay a smaller amount or don’t pay anything (it’s not clear which of these is the case.) As a result, don’t assume that this is a comprehensive list, although it’s quite extensive.

The Fundraising Coach

Fundraising Software. A website about selecting fundraising software.

Selecting Fundraising Software,” from Tech Soup. This is more than five years old, so much of the info is out of date. The advice on how to shop for software is still relevant, however.

“A User’s Guide to Selecting Fundraising Software,” by Corinne Waldenmayer.  Again, over five years old, but good general information about how to go about choosing.