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Gifts in Kind Increase the Center's Impact

July 20, 2017

By Jan Klingberg

Are you downsizing or tackling a major cleanup of clutter? During decades in your home, condo or apartment, you have accumulated a closetful of yarn. You tucked away a walker your partner used. You have oodles of flower vases. And no one in your family wants your collection of Hummel figurines. Do some of your treasures need a new home?

Keep North Shore Senior Center in mind as you sort through your possessions. You might not know that, in addition to cash gifts, many donors make a gift of tangible property. Nearly 200 individuals last year alone! Not everyone is or can be a major donor, and in-kind giving is an effective and creative way of supporting the Center.

Using Your In-Kind Gift

Mim’s: The Shop at the Center is the primary recipient of in-kind donations to the Center. The Shop connects treasured items with someone who will value and use them. Proceeds from sales at Mim’s approach $50,000 annually. This is an important revenue stream for general operations—the day-to-day expenses to keep the lights on and the organization going.

You can help the Center by donating high-end or costume jewelry, antiques, collectibles, knickknacks, china, glassware, or sterling and silver plate serving pieces.2 These items are needed year ’round. You could also add The Shop to your weekly circuit of bargain hunting. Thrifting—visiting several thrift shops, secondhand shops, or vintage markets—has become a popular pastime whatever your income level. Perhaps your budget doesn’t stretch far enough to buy a fancy serving plate for a friend or greeting cards at a local gift shop. Or you’re an environmentalist who prefers buying second-hand goods. Whatever the reason you enjoy thrifting, you will find bargains, unusual items, and constantly changing inventory at The Shop. Rose Carroll, associate director of arts and crafts programs, commented, “People have said they love shopping here because they find things they don’t find in thrift shops elsewhere. Everything has a story behind it!” She credits her cadre of a dozen or so volunteers for making this possible. They unpack, clean, polish, sort, price, display, and sell with skill and efficiency.

The Lending Closet is a perfect spot for that piece of durable medical equipment you tucked away. Seniors and their families can borrow such items as walkers, wheelchairs, crutches or shower benches. This free service is a great alternative to purchasing equipment when you are recovering from an injury or illness. Charlie Dubman is a five-day-a-week volunteer who manages all the details of the Lending Closet. The inventory ebbs and flows, with a limited number of some items at times and a surplus of others. So it’s best to contact Charlie first to make arrangements to donate your clean, gently used medical goods. But a cautionary note—no beds can be accepted nor can any electrical items.

The Center’s programs, too, are spots where donations are put to good use and help the Center fulfill its mission. For example, yarn and fabric are used by members of the Sewing Bees, who make booties, quilts, useful household items and baby sweaters for sale in The Shop. Another group knits and crochets edging on fleece blankets for cancer patients. In the Senior and Family Services programs, clients often face heart-wrenching, unhealthy choices, like, “Do I need to skip my drug prescription this month so I have enough money for food?” Donated gift certificates to local supermarkets become invaluable under those circumstances.

Fundraising events can be expensive endeavors, so in-kind donations are crucial components of events such as the annual benefit. Businesses large and small are the primary donors to the silent and live auctions, but many items are received from individuals—for example, the use of vacation homes or tickets to sporting events. For some events, attendees are asked to donate specific items. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, for instance, benefited from the Oktoberfest donations of food and household necessities, such as cleaning supplies.

Whether you decide to make an in-kind gift to the Center or to another nonprofit organization, determining the tax advantages and establishing the value of your treasure are likely uppermost in your mind.

Regarding Tax Deductions

The tax implications for your particular situation are best determined in consultation with your tax attorney/preparer. For example, it might be more advantageous to place your valuable possession in trust for distribution after your death rather than transfer it now.

Here are a few general guidelines as you consider making an in-kind gift and wish to claim a tax deduction:

  • IRS Publication 526 outlines what types of donations can be deducted and how to claim a deduction.
  • Donations must be given to a nonprofit that is listed as a 501(c)(3) organization and be a public charity.
  • Generally, you can take a tax deduction for an in-kind donation. A receipt is sufficient to verify most donations, though you must have an acknowledgement letter from the charity for an item with a value of $250 or more.
  • Additional information about non-cash donations totaling more than $500 (or a single gift valued over $500) will be required for your tax return.
  • A donation valued at $5,000 or more usually needs a qualified appraisal.
  • By law, you are responsible for determining the value of your in-kind gift; neither the Center nor any nonprofit can do so. That is why acknowledgement letters for non-cash gifts usually do not assign a dollar value to the donation.

How much is it worth?

You can establish a value of many gifts in kind by calculating the fair market value. That is, how much are similar items priced and how much would a person be willing to pay for the item in its current condition?

But if your possession likely has a value of $5,000 or more, an independent appraisal is the only way to maximize your tax deduction. A certified appraiser has the education and experience to give you an unbiased estimate of the current value of your property. Furthermore, the appraiser has fulfilled requirements for accreditation and adheres to ethical standards of the profession. When you consider donating a valuable item, a certified appraisal not only fulfills IRS requirements but also helps you make an informed decision and protects your financial well-being.

Although the Center cannot recommend specific professionals, Rose can give you the names of local appraisers and tell you about members’ experience with those experts. She also can point you to someone who can provide informal feedback regarding whether your item has enough value to pursue a certified appraisal. Or, if you need names of household sales specialists or auction houses, she can give you that information. Rose relies on feedback from members about their experiences and is very happy to hear about a particular service you have used. “Your feedback could help others as they are exploring various options,” she said.

Donation Process

Once you are reasonably certain your items— clean and serviceable—will be useful to the Center, make a list of what you have, establish a value, and bring the items to the Northfield Campus (161 Northfield Road) between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. No pickup services are available, but staff and volunteers can help you unload at the Center. Your in-kind gifts will be put to good use, and you will benefit too:

  • You will feel good about supporting a local nonprofit organization that provides highquality service to seniors and their families.
  • It’s likely that you can include in-kind donations in your list of tax deductions.
  • You are helping the environment by reducing waste. Your recycling helps avoid premature dumping of solid waste into landfill!

Even if you are not downsizing or in a sprucing up mode, keep your ears open for others who are. Treasured items or household goods that have outlived their usefulness to you, a neighbor or a friend might indeed become a fabulous find for someone else, a stockpile of supplies for projects, or much-needed resources for clients. Your in-kind gift can help the Center save and earn money, thereby increasing the organization’s impact in the community.