In a recent NPR article, Donating A Single Rollerblade Is Not Going To Help Disaster Victims, Kathryn Kempton, the director of international operations for Partners in Health, confronts the negative consequences of well-intended individuals and corporations making in-kind donations without considering what is needed to best help people during a disaster. “When in-kind donations are not well-considered, they slow response efforts by diverting staff time to sorting or disposing of unwanted goods.”
For many organizations, it can be hard to turn away donated items, with the fear that saying “no” will discourage donors from contributing in the future. However, ensuring that organizations are able to clearly communicate their needs can be critical for future success. A much-needed in-kind gift, such as a donated X-ray machine to a hospital in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake had immediate, lifesaving effects. A single roller skate? Less so.
Kempton believes the solution can be found in building stronger partnerships between individuals and corporations. “We need to move beyond the image of the bountiful donor and the supplicant organization begging for castoffs and move toward true partnerships, where each party brings something valuable to the table.” She notes that the increase in corporations with thoughtful social responsibility programs considering multiple factors, including the financial, social and environmental benefits, as well the implications of their gift, holds much promise in changing the way people give for the better.