Non-cash donations: how NGOs work with business
During the “Non-cash donations to charity” session at this year’s annual Donors’ Forum conference, experts discussed what donations other than financial are accepted by NGOs and how they work with businesses who want to help.
As well as cash gifts for their core activities (helping children and the disabled, various categories of people in need, animals), NGOs also need other types of assistance. You often see video appeals on social networks and websites for clothing, personal hygiene products and other essential items. According to the head of the PHILIN project, Irina Ikonnikova, all NGOs receive non-cash donations but no-one has yet come up with evidence that quantifies this type of support.
“Most organisations don’t see donations in monetary terms. People give objets d’art to libraries, museums and art galleries in small cities. Non-cash gifts can have copyright status. This type of donation is needed and things will change”, says Ikonnikova.
According to Sergey Mitrofanov, Public Relations Director at the “Gift of Life” charity, help for the treatment of children isn’t just about paying for high-tech medical care (operations, procedures and rehab). Children often come from other cities to Moscow for treatment but their parents have nowhere to stay.
“Treatment can go on for months which is why we provide out-patient apartments. We have rented them for some time but later found out that two flats in Moscow and three in the regions had been donated to us by art patrons. The donation of one apartment saves us around one million roubles a year which enables 30 children to receive timely treatment”, said Mitrofanov.
“We are willing to accept all kinds of stuff and are converting incoming assets into something valuable. We’ve managed to obtain free computer software from Microsoft. We give out everything we produce, e.g. books on contemporary culture. After exhibitions the props are taken to the regions. There they recycle items we don’t need. Sorting through rubbish to unearth a bit of quality has become popular with a lot of people”, said Anton Belov, Director of the “Garage” Museum of Contemporary Art.
However, according to experts at the Donors’ Forum conference, it’s sometimes hard to tell donors who are set on providing specific help that what they’re offering isn’t really needed. As many of the conference participants pointed out, the only way to avoid losing a donor in such a situation is to come to an agreement with them.
“We need to find a compromise. We’re at fault really and are scared of refusing a large company. We can’t say no as we’d lose a partner. And another thought arises: What if an essential item is donated that a company is sharing for a second time. For example, Skoda has been helping us for a number of years by providing cars which we use to ferry children around. They service the vehicles and upgrade them every three years”, said Dmitry Daushev, Director of Fundraising and Communications at the SOS Children’s Villages charity. According to Daushev, NGOs need to establish an open dialogue with businesses and tell them what they need right now.
“We have a story that illustrates this. When we had to open an office in Moscow, we chose a property that was for sale near our old premises, but the estate agents didn’t want to offer us a price discount. We found out who owned the property and sent them a personal letter. A reply came a little while later with the words “I’ll give it to you”, said a representative from SOS Children’s Villages.
According to experts, it remains to be seen whether the future will see a major increase in non-cash donations. This mainly depends on the growth of the distribution economy and responsible consumption.