• Rachel Niemczyk

How To Improve Your Funding Success Rate With In-Kind Support

Cash, money bag, and a wrapped present side by side.
Image by Sushant Pradhan from Pixabay

In the nonprofit world there’s a tendency to view grants as the solution to all of your nonprofit’s financial problems. Write a grant, get the money, and you’ll be able to run the program—problem solved. In a fantasy world that may be true, but the reality is that funders see their contribution as an investment, so they don’t want to be the sole organization with skin in the game. They want to provide just enough support to help you complete your program and look good while doing it without sinking a lot of money into an unknown entity.

This inevitably brings up a question with nonprofits: how do I improve my funding success rate if I’m just starting to search for funding and don’t have other grantors/investors in the game yet?

The answer is in-kind support.

In-kind support encompasses all the goods and services you would use grant funding to pay for, but instead of getting the grant funding to purchase those items yourself, you get them directly from the organization or company in question. In-kind support can include:

  • Volunteers

  • Facility rentals (and associated fees)

  • Equipment

  • Software

  • Supplies

  • Food

  • Transportation

  • Marketing Costs

  • Training Expenses

  • And more

The value of this in-kind support really can’t be overstated. Companies and organizations will often find it easier to donate physical items than to donate cash because there’s less risk involved for them. The physical items have to be used for the purpose they are designed for and (depending on the size of the company) the production cost can be negligible.

Donated items also have the benefit of showing potential funders that other organizations are ready and willing to invest in your program. Best of all? The more in-kind support you have, the less grant funding you have to request (which, let’s be real, is what all funders want to hear).

So how do you obtain in-kind support?

Start by contacting companies you already do business with or have a relationship with. Then go to partners or nonprofits with similar missions in your area and ask them if they know of any suppliers for [the particular in-kind support you are looking for]. If your board has any business contacts, now is the time to utilize them. You may even want to ask your nonprofit employees what companies they or their families use/what for and reach out to those organizations.

Once this support is secured, be sure to include it in both your grant proposal narrative and budget! Make sure potential funders are not only aware of what you have already secured, but of the market value of that in-kind support. I always recommend Foundant Technologies’ Building the Total Value Proposal Budget Webinar & Worksheets for examples of how to include this information in the budget. This step is crucial because it assigns a monetary investment to the in-kind goods and services you have, showing funders the “funding” that was already secured and number of other investors who already believe your program can succeed.

(Now this inevitably brings up the question of monetizing the value of personnel. How do you put a price tag on volunteerism? Well in the nonprofit world you do that by utilizing Independent Sector, an organization respected across the nonprofit field as a reputable source of information for the value of volunteer hours. Each year they calculate the current value of volunteer time on state and national levels so you can use that hourly rate when forming your program's budget.)

And there you have it! Now you know the value of obtaining in-kind support before searching for grant funding, especially in the eyes of potential funders. If you're planning on searching for in-kind support after reading this article, what are you interested in finding goods or services for? If you've secured in-kind support for your nonprofit in the past, what kinds of goods or services do you ask for? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below so we can all learn from each other and support each other.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week with another article!

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