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Understanding In-Kind Donations: What Is an In-Kind Donation and How Does It Benefit Charities?

Written by
Quinn Wilder
April 3, 2024
5 mins
volunteers handling in kind donations

What is an in-kind donation? It’s a vital form of charity, involving the contribution of goods, services, or expertise to nonprofits. These non-cash contributions can significantly aid an organization’s mission. This article provides insight into the forms in-kind donations take and their importance to the philanthropic community.

Key Takeaways

  • In-kind donations include a wide array of non-monetary gifts such as goods, services, time, and expertise, playing a critical role in supporting nonprofits’ missions and operations.
  • Accepting in-kind donations can significantly reduce nonprofits’ operating expenses, diversify support beyond cash donations, and encourage community involvement, but it requires careful management and a clear acceptance policy.
  • Nonprofits and donors should be aware of the tax implications of in-kind donations, with nonprofits needing to value these donations properly and acknowledge them according to IRS guidelines.

Defining In-Kind Donations


When we think of donations, cash contributions often come to mind. However, there’s a whole spectrum of generosity beyond a monetary contribution: gifts known as in-kind donations. These non-monetary donations, crucial to many nonprofits, encompass a variety of forms, including:

  • Physical goods
  • Services
  • Time
  • Expertise

The beauty of in-kind donations lies in their diversity and ability to provide tangible resources that directly support nonprofit activities.

In the world of philanthropy, in-kind donations represent a vital lifeline for organizations striving to make a difference. Acceptance of in-kind gifts allows nonprofits to tap into their communities’ goodwill and convert donated items and expertise into tangible results. Let’s break down these donations into two main categories: goods and products, and services and expertise.

Goods and Products

Imagine the joy on a child’s face when they receive a new book, or the relief of families when they are given essential supplies after a disaster. These scenarios underscore the importance of donated goods and products as in-kind contributions. From bottled water and nonperishable food items for relief efforts to office equipment for daily operations, the range of physical goods that can be donated is extensive. Not to mention the specialized items like sports equipment for youth programs or auction prizes that can be used for fundraising events.

The generosity of donors in providing tangible materials can be a game-changer for nonprofits. Whether it’s unopened dog food for animal shelters or used books for libraries, these kinds of donations directly fulfill the needs of organizations and the individuals they serve. By leveraging these physical gifts, nonprofits can channel more of their funds toward their core mission, amplifying the impact of every dollar spent.

Services and Expertise

Beyond tangible goods, in-kind donations also encompass the invaluable gift of services and expertise. Pro bono legal services, marketing support, accounting services, or strategic planning assistance are often invaluable in-kind donations to nonprofits, given by professionals contributing their time and skills for the greater good. These services, provided without the usual fee, represent a significant cost saving for nonprofits, allowing them to access high-level expertise that might otherwise be out of reach.

Volunteer hours, particularly when volunteers contribute specialized skills, also constitute valuable in-kind donations aside from professional services. This could be a web developer creating a new website for a nonprofit or an accountant offering financial guidance. The contribution of expertise is just as crucial as physical items, helping organizations build capacity and achieve their objectives more efficiently.

Advantages of In-Kind Donations for Nonprofits

volunteers handling in kind donations

In-kind donations do more than merely fill a gap; they create fresh opportunities. By accepting in-kind gifts, nonprofits can significantly offset operating costs, which often consume a large portion of their budgets. This financial reprieve lets them direct more resources toward their core mission, whether that’s feeding the hungry, educating children, or preserving the environment. Moreover, these donations can serve as additional revenue, enabling organizations to undertake activities that might otherwise be financially unfeasible.

The beauty of in-kind giving also lies in its inclusivity. It allows a broader range of supporters to contribute, including those who may not have the financial capacity to make cash donations. This democratization of philanthropy not only broadens the donor base but also fosters a stronger sense of community involvement, as donors see their specific contributions put to use. Collectively, in-kind donations strengthen nonprofit capabilities, fostering sustainable engagement and stretching resources further than cash alone could.

Challenges and Considerations with In-Kind Donations

volunteers handling in kind donations

In-kind donations, although beneficial for nonprofits, also present unique challenges. Some of these challenges include:

  • Ensuring that donations align with the organization’s mission and strategy
  • Managing an influx of unsolicited or misaligned donations
  • Straining resources and diverting focus from primary goals
  • Dealing with logistical considerations such as storage capacity and maintenance for large donations, like vehicles or real estate

These challenges can pose significant hurdles for nonprofit organizations.

A clear gift acceptance policy is essential in dealing with these complexities. Such a policy helps nonprofits by:

  • Articulating which donations are appropriate
  • Setting conditions for acceptance that align with their goals and capabilities
  • Providing a framework to decline unsuitable donations gracefully In addition, having well-defined gift acceptance policies can further streamline the process for organizations.

This ensures that every in-kind gift accepted contributes positively to the nonprofit’s mission.

Establishing an Effective Gift Acceptance Policy


An effective gift acceptance policy forms the foundation of a successful in-kind donation program. This policy should be a comprehensive document that outlines the types of gifts accepted by the nonprofit, the conditions under which they will be received, and the process for acknowledging these contributions. It is essential to clarify the definition of a gift, extending beyond cash to include various forms of support, for example, and to establish the authority within the organization to accept gifts.

Transparency is key when communicating the gift acceptance policy to supporters. Nonprofits should utilize their websites, donor communications, and management tools to articulate what can be donated and how. Moreover, the gift policy must outline how the nonprofit will recognize donors, emphasizing the importance of prompt and appropriate acknowledgment to maintain solid donor relationships.

Valuing and Documenting In-Kind Donations

volunteers handling in kind donations

Determining the value of in-kind donations and monitoring them is of utmost importance. Nonprofits should assign a fair market value to these gifts, reflecting what they would pay on the open market or the going rate for services. This valuation, following the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s definition of fair value, is recorded in the nonprofit’s financial records, distinguishing in-kind donations in a separate revenue account.

Documentation doesn’t end with valuation. For donations exceeding $250 in value, nonprofits must issue acknowledgment letters to donors, ensuring they are aware of the tax form requirements and, in some cases, the need for additional paperwork and a qualified appraisal. Employing a donor database or customer relationship management (CRM) system can help track these donations and issue acknowledgments promptly, keeping the documentation process streamlined and compliant.

Soliciting and Securing In-Kind Donations

volunteers handling in kind donations

Effectively soliciting in-kind donations requires a clear grasp of the nonprofit’s needs and strategic community engagement. Nonprofits often turn to their closest allies first, such as board members, staff, and volunteers, to tap into their networks for potential donations. Additionally, organizations can harness the power of their online presence, using their donation websites, social media, and email campaigns to make targeted appeals for in-kind gifts.

For larger in-kind donations, personalized letters can be particularly effective, especially when seeking items like technology or high-value services. Nonprofits should ensure that donors understand the significant impact their contributions can make and that the benefits of these gifts align with the organization’s mission. This clarity not only motivates donors but also ensures that the in-kind donations received truly enhance the nonprofit’s ability to serve its cause.

Identifying Needs and Creating a Wishlist

A wishlist serves as a beacon for potential donors, guiding them toward the specific needs of a  nonprofit organization Creating a wishlist, especially on platforms like Amazon, empowers supporters to select and send items directly to the organization, streamlining the donation process. These lists can be managed dynamically, removing items as they are received in sufficient quantities, and updating needs in real time.

Nonprofits should prominently feature their ongoing needs on a dedicated webpage, along with clear instructions for donors regarding drop-offs or contributions. This visibility not only facilitates the donation process but also encourages donor engagement, as supporters can easily see how their in-kind gifts fit into the larger mission of the organization.

Engaging Board Members and Volunteers

The personal networks of board members and volunteers can be a goldmine for in-kind donations. These individuals often have connections to businesses or professionals who can provide the specific goods or services a nonprofit requires. By engaging them in the solicitation process, nonprofits can leverage these relationships to secure donations that might not be accessible through other channels.

Tailored outreach, such as individual letters to potential donors, can be particularly effective when board members and volunteers utilize their contacts for in-kind needs. This personal touch can make all the difference in securing valuable contributions, as it adds a level of trust and commitment to the request.

Building Partnerships with Local Businesses and Corporations

Forming partnerships with local businesses and corporations can be fundamental to a nonprofit’s in-kind donation strategy. Many companies prefer to offer in-kind contributions, which not only support the nonprofit’s work but also provide the business with opportunities for brand promotion and community engagement. Such partnerships can yield a variety of in-kind donations, including:

  • Auction items
  • Supplies for events
  • Services such as graphic design or printing
  • Venue space for events
  • Volunteer support

These partnerships create a mutually beneficial relationship, allowing the nonprofit to fulfill its mission while also providing the business with positive exposure and community involvement.

To forge these partnerships effectively, nonprofits should align their needs with the products or services of local businesses whose values resonate with their mission. Working with companies that share a commitment to the local community can lead to more substantial and ongoing support, including in-kind donations that are both impactful and relevant.

Reporting and Tax Implications of In-Kind Donations


Both nonprofits and donors must comprehend the tax and other reporting requirements and intricacies of in-kind donations for tax purposes. Donors should be aware that while their time cannot be deducted, goods that support volunteer work can be tax-deductible. However, they bear the responsibility of determining the fair market value of their donations and should consult a tax professional for guidance.

From the nonprofit’s perspective, they must provide written acknowledgment for in-kind contributions valued at $250 or more, as per IRS guidelines. Additionally, these donations must be reported on the organization’s Form 990 to ensure compliance with tax regulations. Both parties should seek the advice of tax experts due to the unique accounting required for in-kind gifts.

Promoting and Celebrating In-Kind Donations

volunteers handling in kind donations

Promotion and celebration of in-kind donations express gratitude for donor generosity while motivating others to give. Creative initiatives like “Wish List Wednesdays” can highlight specific needs and engage supporters every week. Additionally, showcasing successful partnerships through webinars or classes can further highlight the importance of in-kind gifts.

Sharing the stories and outcomes of in-kind donations can have a powerful impact. By illustrating how these contributions directly benefit the nonprofit’s work, with supporting quotes or statistics, organizations can inspire both current and potential volunteers to offer their support, be it in-kind or financial. Celebrating these successes reinforces the value of in-kind partnerships and demonstrates the tangible outcomes of donors’ generosity.

Work with Event.Gives

In the digital age, platforms like Event.Gives have emerged as valuable tools for managing in-kind donations. Our free and innovative platform offers nonprofits an efficient way to showcase their needs, promote their wishlists, and facilitate the donation process. By using such technology, organizations can streamline their in-kind donation management, ensuring they receive the items they need while providing a positive experience for donors.

Utilizing Event.Gives for your fundraising event enables nonprofits to:

  • Broaden their reach and impact
  • Attract a more diverse group of potential supporters
  • Simplify the donation process
  • Make it easier for donors to contribute
  • Celebrate and acknowledge valuable gifts

Our platform’s features are designed to achieve these goals!


As we’ve journeyed through the multifaceted world of in-kind donations, it’s clear that these non-cash gifts are more than just items or services; they are pivotal resources that empower nonprofits to achieve greater impact. From the practical considerations of establishing a gift acceptance policy to the strategic solicitation of in-kind contributions, nonprofits can leverage and accept these donations to advance their missions while engaging a diverse community of supporters. Let’s embrace the spirit of in-kind giving and unlock the potential it holds for creating positive change.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between cash and in-kind donations?

The main difference between cash and in-kind donations is that cash donations are money given directly to an organization, while in-kind donations are non-monetary items, such as goods or services, given to be used by the organization. While cash donations are straightforward, in-kind donations require assigning a value for accounting and reporting purposes.

What is an example of an in-kind contribution?

In-kind contributions can include items like food, clothing, office supplies, office furniture, and medical supplies donated to a nonprofit or campaign committee. They can also encompass services such as consulting, polling, and printing.

What are the IRS rules for in-kind donations?

To claim an in-kind donation as a charitable contribution, you'll need a written acknowledgment from the charity, but it won't assign any dollar amount or value to the donation. Always keep records of the donation for tax purposes.

Can in-kind donations be tax-deductible for donors?

Yes, in-kind donations can be tax-deductible, but it's important to consult a tax professional to understand the specific requirements and document the gifts properly.

How should nonprofits recognize in-kind donations?

Nonprofits should issue acknowledgment letters for in-kind donations over $250 and record the fair market value of the accepted in-kind donations in their financial statements to ensure proper recognition and compliance with tax laws. This helps the organization maintain transparency and accountability in their financial reporting.

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