<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=245060656550976&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Giving Wisely: To Give Cash or In-Kind?

by Kelsey Gardipee | Dec 4, 2019 7:59:05 AM

As the holiday season approaches and the season of joy takes over, it’s not
uncommon to feel bombarded by requests to give. It’s the most magical time of
the year – unless it isn’t. For many charities in the Northwest & Pacific,
the end of the year is synonymous with the busiest time of the year and the
greatest need within the community. When temperatures drop, shelters begin to
reach capacity, more families need assistance from food banks, and many other
human services organizations see a spike in families needing a hand up to get
through the coldest seasons.

In an attempt to attract the resources charities need to provide services to the
community, the bell ringers outside storefronts, food collection bins, year-end
fundraising appeals, and coat drives can make your head spin. Everywhere we
turn, we see requests to donate a can of food, round our total up to the
nearest dollar, or sponsor a family in need. At the end of the year, we see
more requests for gifts in kind than any other time of the year – but are all
donations equal?

Last month, we discussed giving wisely . Now, let’s assume that you’ve done your due diligence and found a trustworthy charity to support. (If not, let us help you find a BBB Accredited Charity!) How can you make the biggest impact with what you are able to give? First, let’s identify the two primary ways to donate:

Cash Donations: Monetary donations will always be needed. This
is the most traditional form of giving and the easiest to measure – both for
charities and donors.

Gifts In-Kind: Donations of non-cash assets (goods or services)
are essential to the missions of many charitable organizations. These In-kind
donations may vary from medical supplies and clothing to advertising or
professional services. In-kind gifts will be recorded as revenue based on their
fair value and will also be reported as expenses in an organization’s financial

Which is better to give? The answer will depend on the organization you choose to
support and what their individual needs are. Here are some things to keep in

  • Most food banks accept only nonperishable food, shelf-stable food that
    has not been opened. Many also accept baby items, including formula and diapers.
  • Organizations many have limitations on what in-kind goods they can
    accept, depending on their current demand and space availability.
  • Food banks, in particular, can do a lot more with $5 than the average
    consumer thanks to large-scale bulk purchasing agreements and nationwide
    donation programs. You may make a greater impact donating money than a bag of
  • When donating used items, be sure that they are still in usable
    condition. Disposing goods that aren’t salable or are not able to be used will
    cost charities millions each year.
  • If you are starting a collection drive to gather food, clothing, or
    other supplies for a specific charity, you should first contact that
    organization before using their name and logo. Some organizations may provide
    resources to help make your drive successful.

Better Business Bureau recommends that you check with a charity for their specific
needs, but here are some suggestions on common items most requested by food
banks and homeless shelters this holiday season:

Common food bank needs:                   Common homeless shelter needs:

Canned meals, such as stews and chilis                             Food

Canned fruit and vegetables                                             Clothing

Canned fish or meat                                             Housewares and kitchen items

Peanut butter                                          Toiletries and women’s hygiene products

Brown rice                                                    Towels, bed sheets, and blankets

Whole grain pastas                                                  Cold-weather items

Canned tomato sauces                                          Undergarments and socks

Shelf stable milk                                                                  Bus passes

Baby formula                                                                          Gift cards

Jars of baby food                                                                 First aid kits

Infant cereal                                                        Gently used furniture and mattresses

Baby diapers and wipes                                              Baby diapers and wipes

Stretch your generosity a little further:

  • Shop savvy: While grocery shopping, take advantage
    of sales, promotions and cash-back apps. Utilize “buy-one-get-one” deals on
    items you are already buying, then donate the freebies you’ve earned. There are
    a variety of cash-back apps that let you earn money back on purchases; consider
    donating this money instead of spending it on yourself.
  • Check with your charity of choice: Many charities in
    need of in-kind support post lists of their current needs on their websites.
    Amazon wish lists allow charities to identify specific items that will be most
    impactful to their programs and ship directly to the organization.
  • Give your time: Want to make a bigger impact than your
    wallet will allow? Donate your time. As the need for services increases, often
    does the need for volunteers. Check with an organization for their volunteer
    requirements and sign-up process.

When in doubt, just ask the charity you wish to support what their greatest need is
this holiday season. Whether you donate time, talent or treasures this year,
your gift will be appreciated – no matter how large or small.

Subscribe Now

Additional Reading