Identifying In-Kind Donations Desired and Needed

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Before your organization begins asking for donations, take the time to ask yourself what your organization needs and what you could use. Many organizations create a wish list of in-kind goods and services needed. This list can be used during meetings, posted at your drop-off location or put in newsletters. A wish list helps to focus donors to identify items they can donate. Do not limit your wish list to only what you think the donor organization can offer. Think about both large and small organizations and what materials and goods they each have to offer. You might be surprised what they are willing to donate. Other people willing to donate might be individual community members like landlords, real-estate agents, artists, professionals, friends or co-workers. Also think about groups such as the local library, or school and parent-teacher organizations. These community groups have a wide network of individuals that might be interested in donating. Creating your wish list will help you organize your needs, target the right donors and receive what you need.

Creating a wish list of the in-kind goods and services your organization needs will help focus your donation outreach.

There are many benefits to creating a wish list, or a list of desired or needed items. First, you can use the wish list to reach out to local businesses and volunteers, making each request intentional and specific. Use the list to advertise those needs through a newsletter, website, or by posting a sign at your drop-off center. As you receive items, check them off so that your supporters can see your progress.

You don’t need to accept every in-kind donation that is offered, as you might create a negative relationship if you accept a product or service that you cannot use. If it is a donation that you can’t use or do not have the capacity to manage, gracefully decline the offer. Some donations, though well-intentioned, have hidden costs and pose issues such as requiring time, money, and personnel to process. The wish list allows you and the donor to see what is needed and reduces your chances of receiving a donation that you will not use.

Click to open interactivity Creating A Wish List.

Creating A Wish List.

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It is important to consider both large and small organizations as potential in-kind donors.

While it is important to consider the large, nation-wide companies based in your city or town as potential in-kind donors, before jumping into what can be a long process with large businesses, think of the small business owners in your community as well. Build relationships with small business owners and solicit them first. Don’t be discouraged by rejections – the more organizations you contact, the more people will get to hear your story.

When you do decide to ask a large corporation, do your research first. Many corporations have a giving philosophy and process. Make sure your mission aligns with theirs before you approach them. Both large and small businesses are affected by your work, as the big organizations often employ the people that you are serving, and the smaller organizations sell products to the people that you serve. Understanding what drives these organizations to donate will result in a more productive search for support.

Think about individual community members or groups

Although large and small companies may provide great quantities of donations, think about individuals that you may be able to leverage for specific items. For example, landlords or office property owners often need to remove items that tenants leave behind, including furniture, fixtures, and appliances. Establish a partnership with the individuals so you are the first person they call to get rid of unwanted items. Another idea is library and schools that often refresh their collection of books and may be willing to give away their older or overstocked books to a nonprofit organization.

By networking with people in the community and your own network of friends you might encounter individuals who are interested in helping. Maybe the sister of one of your board members is an accountant and is interested in helping. Or maybe a friend of one of your employees is looking for a community service project for her class. There are many people who might be interested in helping, but they just need someone to steer them in the right direction to get started.

You can also post wanted advertisements on websites such as or Be specific about what you’d like and how the donation will help the people that you serve.