Getting it Right Pt. 1: How to Give Meaningful Corporate In-Kind Donations

In-Kind Donation; Corporate Philanthropy

Image courtesy of Ryan McGuire at

So long are the days where companies could write a cheque to a charity once a year and declare their corporate responsibility.

Thankfully, corporate philanthropy has come a long way since then, which is great news, because it’s helping scale more meaningful partnerships and collaborative efforts.

One large component of this is in-kind giving.

In-kind donations can offer recipients discounted or free products or services that help create positive impact. Many times, in-kind donations are given to charities to help with operations, but they can also be given directly to other types of beneficiaries.

Like many things, there are pros and cons to this type of philanthropy and it’s important to understand them and acknowledge the pitfalls of in-kind giving before your company decides to embark on this type of initiative.

Shipping and logistical complications, unwanted or inappropriate donations and “handouts” have severely tainted the name of in-kind giving.

Though there are many examples of failed in-kind donation initiatives, there have also been many successes. When done correctly, not only can this type of giving create scalable impact, but it can also create very tangible results.

Below I’ve compiled a list of questions that every company should ask itself before moving forward with an in-kind donation initiative:

1. Is your donation actually useful? Is it beneficial?

2. Is it easy to repair if it breaks down? Is there capacity to train beneficiaries on how to use it?

3. Can it be shipped? Is the cost of delivery worth its value?

4. Is there a chance it may be ill received? Does it have the potential to create conflict or unrest? Could it be considered a “handout”?

5. Could this product otherwise be sourced locally? Will this donation divert local market business growth?

6. Would a monetary gift produce a larger impact?

Of course, many of these questions have a contextual place and may not be relevant for each type of in-kind donation being made. What’s important is that in-kind donors adopt a set of procedures whereby analysis, planning and risk management become part of the process.

Meaningful corporate in-kind donations are possible.

Take for instance Salesforce, who provides free product licences to nonprofits through its Power of Us Program.

And how about the Ikea Foundation, who has donated thousands of mattresses to UNHCR for Syrian refugees.

As these examples show us, in-kind donations can be just as effective as monetary gifts, if done properly.

The best of the best in the world of corporate good understand that integrated and holistic means of operating are key to success. Many companies understand this, integrating several different corporate philanthropy initiatives into their strategy. For instance, in-kind donations are often complemented by corporate employee pro bono work.

Part two of this two-part series will focus on how pro bono work is beneficial to the world of corporate philanthropy and how it pairs well with in-kind donation initiatives.

Have you been part of a successful corporate in-kind donation initiative? Feel free to share your experiences and stories in the comments section below.

I welcome you to follow the blog and follow me on Twitter @CSRtist for regular updates on all things relating to corporate philanthropy and positive impact.

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