Don’t Be Unkind to In-Kind Donations

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    An email read: “I own a catering company and we often donate goods and services to nonprofits in our community … to a generous degree. Frankly, we are discontinuing the practice, [as we’re] just tired of being treated like ‘second class’ donors.”

    Having heard that complaint many times before, I responded:
    I know exactly how you feel. That’s one of the main reasons I wrote my article regarding In-Kind donations. I have, far too often, known of shortsighted nonprofits that deal badly with In-Kind donations, thinking that such products and services, given generously to them, do not represent “real money.”

    And when such In-Kind donations are given some degree of recognition, often nonprofit leaders become contentious, even pugnacious, arguing that the public credit of an In-Kind donation should be cited in terms of the wholesale cost, rather than recognizing the donation for what it would have cost the nonprofit at retail.

    My mantra, in that regard, has always been: “Don’t Be Unkind to In-Kind”

    At the close of a successful capital building campaign with a client, the time to finalize the design/content of the wall plaques of donors’ names … at their respective donation levels, a few top leaders of the organization were indignant when I urged that the donor of paint for the entire interior of the building be placed at the $20,000 level, as that was what the project budget said would have been the cost of the paint to the organization.

    Those leaders insisted that we find out either the wholesale cost, or what it cost to manufacture the paint. I told them in strong terms that such disregard for a truly major gift would be insulting and highly absurd. I felt strongly about the issue, I was insistent … and, thankfully, I won the argument.

    I’ve also had my own personal bad and disappointing experience as a capital campaign consultant. In the final stage of a successful campaign, when I saw that my role, for the most part, was mostly fulfilled, I (with what I considered as philanthropic intent) informed the organization that they didn’t have to pay me for the last month of our contract.

    I soon found out that my In-Kind donation was not regarded by the organization as “real money.” That’s what the Director said when I asked to be named in the organization’s donor publications for the campaign. I was not even an In-Kind donor. To them, I was no donor at all.

    The basic message here is that nonprofits must regard all types of gifts, including those that are “In-Kind,” with the care and consideration they deserve. It’s so easy, and so appropriate, to acknowledge “real” cash and securities properly. But all too often, when it comes to In-Kind gifts, it’s another kettle of fish. It should not be.

    Speaking to all who make those “In-Kind” gifts, maybe it would only take a little reminding on your part regarding the insensitive way the organizations, to which you donated willingly, accepted your generous donations. And it would be worth “asking” why they do not give those gifts the credit and regard they deserve.

    If they don’t get it, discontinue your support, tell them why, then move on to another, worthy, but appreciative, nonprofit organization.

    Certainly, you care about what is good in your community – even if some of the receivers of your In-Kind donations seem to be uncaring, you should reconsider your plan to totally discontinue giving.

    You may feel less fulfilled personally if you discontinue your donations to all nonprofits. Don’t lose that warm-and-fuzzy feeling.

    And, we know there are nonprofits out there that would greatly benefit from your generosity, and at the same time, know how to show it, gratefully and enthusiastically, and treat you as the first-class donor you are.

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