by James Rada, Jr.
While nonprofit organizations certainly appreciate large checks, other ways to help out these groups can be more personal, such as when people donate their property or time to the organization rather than money.
Known as in-kind donations, these gifts may not have a dollar sign attached to them, but they still carry great value for the organization. Every volunteer hour is an hour of free labor for the organization. Every item donated is one less thing the group needs to buy.
“A lot of times, in-kind donations are almost as important as cash donations,” said Audrey Cimino, executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County.
The Gift of Time
Carroll County has a variety of organizations that benefit from the gift of personal time and property. One of the most common is Habitat for Humanity. This organization, which builds affordable homes for lower-income families, welcomes donations in the form of volunteers who help build the homes as well as in the form of contribution of building materials.
Volunteering is a particularly alluring way to give because anyone can do it. For instance, students at McDaniel College volunteer their time to help the Carroll County Arts Council with their events.
“We are so grateful for all of our volunteers,” said Performing Arts Coordinator Tabetha White. “They are essential to us to continue to provide opportunities for affordable entertainment.”
Because much of the help at the shows the Arts Council sponsors consists of volunteers, the council doesn’t have to pay someone to do the job. By minimizing expenses for shows, ticket prices can be kept low. That is just one way that in-kind donations help nonprofit groups — and those who use their services.
Looking for Ways to Help
Lauren Bumstead is a member of the Carroll County Association of Realtors. The association has two groups that help the community with donations. The Association of Realtors Foundation is in charge of charitable giving, while the Community Outreach Committee helps organize events and provides volunteers to staff them.
“We want to give back to the community,” Bumstead said. “Our goal is to do four activities or drives a year, at least for our committee.”
For instance, when the committee realized that many students who receive free or reduced-price breakfasts at school during the academic year might not get a good breakfast during the summer, the committee held a cereal and canned fruit drive at the beginning of the summer. The collected food was then donated to Carroll Food Sunday.
The committee is also one of many organizations that sponsor monthly birthday parties at Long View Nursing Home. The Realtors organize the February party. You will also see members volunteering at the Special Olympics.
“It’s a great feeling to be out there trying to help,” said Bumstead. “Sometimes I feel like what we do is not a lot, but every little bit helps.
In Tune with Charity
When students in Carroll County public schools want to learn to play a musical instrument but can’t afford to rent or buy one, they can turn to the Carroll County Arts Council.
The organization has a program called the Musical Instrument Bank. People donate used musical instruments to the council. The council checks the instruments to see if they can be refurbished — or if they happen to be worth a lot of money. Valuable instruments are sold to raise funds for the bank and to finance the refurbishing of instruments are that will be given to students.
“Sometimes we might get one instrument in a month; other times we get more,” White said. “We just recently had a collector drop off nine trombones for the bank.”
Help for Kids
The Boys & Girls Club of Westminster offers an after-school enrichment program for at-risk youth, and it is always in need of donations.
According to marketing director Erin Bishop, 40 percent of the club’s budget comes from donations. Some of the contributions are school supplies that can be used by students at the club, but much of the donations are snack items. The Boys & Girls Club provides after-school snacks to an average of 110 students a day.
“We depend on them,” Bishop said of the donations.
Koons Toyota recently purchased backpacks and school supplies for around 150 schoolchildren. The backpacks were used as part of a program that the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department ran called Shop with a Cop. The donation was valued at $3,500.
Koons’ Comptroller Angie Boerner said the business does both monetary and in-kind donations. It depends on where they see a need and what is needed.
“Philanthropy is not just the guy who writes the big check,” Cimino said. “It’s also the people who give of their time and talent in an effort to help the community.”
That being the case, Carroll County has lots of philanthropists. Area businesses and groups, including Panera Bread, Penguin Random House, Westminster Rescue Mission and the Carroll County public schools are all significant providers of in-kind donations.
Businesses and employees both do what they can to help make Carroll County a great place to live.
Tax Rules for In-kind Donations
Just as the in-kind donation has value to the nonprofit organization, it also has tax benefits for you.
For any property that you donate, you can deduct the fair market value of the donation. For very expensive donations, you will want to get an appraisal to support the valuation.
There’s no deduction for your volunteer time. But you can write off expenses associated with volunteering. For instance, there is a per-mile deduction that you can take for you volunteer-related driving. (If the nonprofit organization reimburses you for any expenses, you can’t deduct them.)
As with anything involving taxes, keep any paperwork associated with the deduction. List millage traveled, hours volunteered, expenses incurred. Get a detailed receipt from the nonprofit organization for any donated property. And any property donations above $500 will also need information about how you acquired the property.
You list your itemized deductions on Schedule A of your tax return. The federal government imposes some restrictions and limitations on the total amount of your itemized deduction. Ask the IRS or your tax preparer to see if you are subject to any limitations.