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
What was the centrepiece of their altered plans? Promoting in-kind
gifts, according to an article we published almost 20 years ago (September, 1992,
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.
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
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
Wise words - and just as true today, recession or no
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.