What Are In-Kind Donations? An Ultimate Guide

In-Kind Donations

In-kind donations are essential, yet overlooked, gifts that extend beyond cash, including goods and services. This article elaborates on the benefits of those contributions, their tax considerations, and best practices to help your nonprofit make an impact on your community.

What are In-Kind Donations

An in-kind donation is a non-monetary gift made to a nonprofit organization. These can be tangible items, professional services, or time volunteered, each serving to advance the mission of the nonprofit in a meaningful way.

Examples of in-kind donations include:

  • Products: Physical items such as clothing, food, computers, and furniture. For example, a shelter may receive donations of clothing and food for its beneficiaries, or a school may receive computers to facilitate student learning.
  • Professional Services: Expertise provided for free, including legal, marketing, architectural, or consulting services. This allows nonprofits to access professional advice and services that would otherwise be a significant expense.

The Legal and Tax Implications

In the United States:

  • For Donors: The IRS allows donors to deduct the fair market value of in-kind donations on their tax returns. However, there are specific rules regarding the valuation of donated goods and services, and donors must obtain a receipt from the nonprofit for donations valued at more than $250. Special IRS forms may be required for donations exceeding $500 in value.
  • For Recipient Organizations: Nonprofits must acknowledge all in-kind donations received, providing donors with a written statement that describes the donation but does not necessarily assign a value. Nonprofits also have to use these contributions wisely, ensuring they align with their tax-exempt purpose.

In Canada:

  • For Donors: The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) also recognizes in-kind donations, allowing donors to claim a tax credit for the fair market value of the donated goods or services. An official donation receipt from the charity is required for tax purposes. However, for services, the CRA does not allow a charitable tax receipt simply for the provision of a service. Instead, a workaround involves the service provider billing and being paid by the charity, then donating the money back to the charity.
  • For Recipient Organizations: Charities must issue tax receipts for in-kind donations based on the fair market value at the time of the donation. They are also required to maintain records and documentation related to the receipt and use of in-kind donations.

The Benefits of In-Kind Donations

In-kind donations provide a myriad of advantages for both nonprofit organizations and donors across the United States and Canada. These non-monetary contributions, ranging from goods to professional services, play a crucial role in supporting the operational and programmatic needs of nonprofits while offering donors unique opportunities for engagement and tax benefits. The impact of in-kind donations is multifaceted, enhancing the capabilities of nonprofit organizations and enriching the giving experience for donors.

For Nonprofit Organizations

  • Reduced Operational Expenses: In both the USA and Canada, one of the most tangible benefits for nonprofits receiving in-kind donations is the reduction in operational expenses. Donated goods and services can offset costs that the organization would otherwise have to cover with monetary funds. For instance, a donation of office supplies or technical equipment directly reduces the need for out-of-pocket purchases, allowing these savings to be redirected towards core missions and programs.
  • Program Offerings: In-kind donations also enable nonprofits to expand and enhance their program offerings. Diverse resources, such as specialized equipment for educational programs or donated space for events, allow organizations to provide more comprehensive services to their communities. This diversification of resources can lead to more impactful and wide-reaching programs, directly benefiting the populations they aim to serve.

For Donors

  • Tax Deductions: In both countries, donors of in-kind donations are eligible for tax benefits, though the specifics of these benefits vary. In the USA, the IRS allows individuals and corporations to deduct the fair market value of donated goods and services on their income taxes, subject to certain documentation and limits. In Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) provides similar incentives, allowing donors to claim a tax credit for the fair market value of donated goods. However, donors need to understand the specific regulations and requirements in their country to maximize the tax advantages of their contributions.
  • Personal Satisfaction: Beyond the financial benefits, in-kind donors often experience a deep sense of personal satisfaction and a more profound connection to the causes they support. Donating goods or services allows individuals and businesses to see the direct impact of their contributions on the organization’s operations and beneficiaries. This tangible involvement can foster a stronger bond between donors and nonprofits, encouraging ongoing support and deeper engagement with the cause.

Managing In-Kind Donations

For nonprofit organizations in the United States and Canada, effectively managing and maximizing in-kind donations is crucial for leveraging these resources to their fullest potential. Adopting best practices for soliciting, receiving, and acknowledging these contributions can significantly enhance their value to the organization. However, managing in-kind donations also comes with its own set of challenges, from valuation to logistical issues. Here’s how nonprofits in both countries can navigate these waters.

Best Practices for Nonprofits

  • Solicitation: Clear communication about the organization’s needs is key to soliciting in-kind donations. Nonprofits should create wish lists or specific requests that align with their missions and current projects, making these lists available on their websites, newsletters, and social media platforms. Engaging directly with businesses and community members who have the capacity to offer the needed goods or services can also be a fruitful approach.
  • Receiving In-Kind Donations: Upon receiving in-kind donations, organizations should have a process in place for immediate assessment and documentation. This includes checking the condition and usability of goods, and ensuring services offered are aligned with the organization’s needs. Establishing a single point of contact for in-kind donations can streamline the process, making it more efficient and organized.
  • Acknowledgment Proper acknowledgment of in-kind donations is not just a courtesy but often a legal requirement, especially when donors wish to claim tax deductions. Nonprofits should provide donors with a receipt or letter that describes the donation but, importantly, does not assign monetary value. The acknowledgment should meet the IRS requirements in the USA or CRA requirements in Canada, ensuring donors have the necessary documentation for tax purposes.

Challenges and Considerations

  • Valuation of Goods and Services: One of the primary challenges in managing in-kind donations is determining the fair market value of the goods or services donated. This is crucial both for the nonprofit’s records and for donors who wish to claim tax deductions. In the USA and Canada, it is generally the donor’s responsibility to establish this value, but nonprofits should have a basic understanding to ensure the accuracy and legality of the acknowledgment letters they provide.
  • Logistical Issues: Handling the physical receipt, storage, and distribution of in-kind donations can pose logistical challenges, especially for large items or an influx of goods. Nonprofits need to consider storage space, transportation, and distribution capabilities in advance. Coordination with volunteers and staff, as well as potential partnerships with logistics companies willing to donate their services, can mitigate these issues.
  • Organizational Needs: Not all in-kind donations may be beneficial or necessary for a nonprofit’s operations or mission. It’s important for organizations to communicate their needs clearly and have policies in place for declining offers that do not align with their objectives or current needs, doing so in a way that maintains positive relationships with donors.

In-Kind Donations Charitable Receipts

Issuing charitable receipts for in-kind donations is a critical process for nonprofit organizations in the United States and Canada, as it not only facilitates the donors’ ability to claim tax deductions but also ensures the transparency and accountability of the nonprofit. Understanding the specific requirements and procedures for charitable receipts in both countries is essential for nonprofits to remain compliant with tax laws and maintain good relationships with their donors.

United States

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulates the issuance of charitable receipts for in-kind donations. Here’s a detailed look at the process:

  • Documentation Provided by the Donor: Donors are responsible for determining the fair market value (FMV) of the in-kind donation. For donations valued over $500, the donor must also complete IRS Form 8283, Section A. If a single item or a group of similar items donated exceeds $5,000 in value, it requires a qualified appraisal, and the donor must complete Section B of Form 8283.
  • Acknowledgment: For every in-kind donation received, the nonprofit must provide a written acknowledgment to the donor. This acknowledgment should include:
    • The name of the organization.
    • A description of the in-kind donation (without stating the value).
    • The date of the donation.
    • A statement indicating whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the donation.
    • If goods or services were provided, a description and good faith estimate of their value must be included.
  • Timing: The acknowledgment must be provided to the donor by the earlier of the date when the donor actually files his or her income tax return for the year of the donation or the due date (including extensions) for filing the return.


In Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) oversees the issuance of charitable receipts for in-kind donations. The process includes:

  • Valuation of the Donation: Like in the U.S., donors are generally responsible for determining the fair market value of the donated goods. However, for tax purposes, the charity may need to validate or assess the value of the donation to ensure it aligns with CRA expectations.
  • Issuance of the Receipt: Charitable tax receipts issued by the nonprofit should contain:
    • The name and address of the charity as registered with the CRA.
    • The serial number of the receipt.
    • The date of the donation and the date the receipt was issued.
    • The donor’s name and address.
    • A detailed description of the in-kind donation.
    • The fair market value of the in-kind donation.
    • The signature of an authorized individual from the nonprofit.
    • A statement indicating that the receipt is for an in-kind donation and, if applicable, detailing any advantage received by the donor.
  • Record-Keeping: Charities must keep a copy of each receipt issued for a minimum of six years from the end of the calendar year in which the donation was made. This is necessary for audit purposes.
  • Special Considerations: For certain types of in-kind donations, such as cultural property or ecologically sensitive land, special rules and additional tax benefits may apply, requiring further documentation and appraisal.

DONATION by Software4Nonprofits is a widely used tool among nonprofit organizations, particularly valued for its assistance with generating donation receipts including receipts for In-Kind donations. This software streamlines the creation and management of receipts, ensuring they comply with the legal requirements in both the United States and Canada.

Its user-friendly design and robust support make it an essential resource for nonprofits looking to efficiently manage their donations and foster strong relationships with their donors.


In-kind donations are vital for nonprofits, offering essential resources and expertise that enhance operational capabilities and extend outreach. These contributions foster invaluable partnerships, amplifying the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission and create lasting positive change in communities.

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