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Everything old is new again

publication date: Oct 6, 2011
Like anyone else, fundraisers can learn lessons from history. Twenty years ago, just as they are today, fundraisers were switching their strategies to recover from a recession-induced drop in corporate and individual giving.

What was the centrepiece of their altered plans? Promoting in-kind gifts, according to an article we published almost 20 years ago (September, 1992, Canadian Fundraiser, as it was then known).

In 2011, the language of "in-kind gifts" encompasses gifts of securities as well as the more traditional hard goods. But back in 1991-1992, it was all about supplies, used furniture and volunteer time.

Businesses just as generous, but in different ways

"When you're struggling to find donations and sponsorships, remember that in recessionary times businesses may find it easier to donate products, old equipment, services, expertise or space," our writer counselled.

The trend was widespread. The Conference Board of Canada reported that "some companies gave more than half of their donations in goods, people, and services" as their cash flows tightened in 1991.

Transforming the in-kind relationship

Even in those tough times, though, there were groundbreaking successes. By 1992, the Festival of Festivals (now the Toronto International Film Festival) had advanced from accepting whatever products and services were offered to charging a fee to include their products in festival events.

The key, said then-development director Leslie Cowan, was treating in-kind donors like sponsors. When the value of the gift justified it, the festival gave large in-kind donors the same benefits as corporate cash donors: acknowledgement, accountability and marketing exposure.

Wise words - and just as true today, recession or no recession.

Yes, a high-voltage event like an international film festival can easily tap donations of advertising, meals and accommodation, food and beverages, cars and limos, airline tickets, and even goodies like perfume. But even the smallest charities have a network of potential in-kind donors, starting with board connections, suppliers, and local businesses that serve their clients or donors.

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