How to Write an In-Kind Donation Letter that Inspires Businesses to Donate Goods and Services

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If your nonprofit is like many that rely on auction items, gift baskets, and prize drawings at your fundraising events, you know it can be tough to find local businesses willing to donate these items. Businesses receive a lot of requests from different groups throughout the year and have a limited number of products they can give to nonprofits for their fundraising events. Because resources are scarce, your request needs to stand out against dozens of others. Having a well-crafted appeal letter for in-kind donations is a must to ensure your organization receives the support it needs. Use the following six tips to gain more support when writing your next in-kind appeal letter.

But first, what is the difference between an in-kind donation letter and an in-kind appeal letter?

You may be surprised to find that they’re actually one in the same. There is no difference between an in-kind donation letter and an in-kind appeal letter. The terms are used interchangeably in the fundraising industry to refer to a kind of letter requesting goods or services from a business. Keep reading for our tips for writing a successful in-kind donation letter.

  1. Address the right person
  2. Use an eye-catching image
  3. Introduce your organization
  4. Tell the business how they’ll benefit
  5. Keep your appeal letter short and simple
  6. Thank them 

1. Address the right person

This first step requires a little research but ensures your in-kind donation letter gets into the right hands. If you’re targeting a specific local business for a donation, figure out who handles the marketing or acts as general manager for the store because they’ll be the most likely contacts for in-kind gift requests. You can go online and search for the person who holds the business license, or better yet, visit the store and ask an employee for the name of the person who handles donation requests. Another benefit of going directly to the business for this information? Visiting the store can give you an idea of what to ask for when writing your in-kind appeal letter!

2. Use an eye-catching image

Eye-catching image of a puppies in a cage for use in an in-kind donation letter

The key to a good in-kind donation letter is grabbing the reader’s attention right away with a great picture. Or, strategically use an image to direct the eye to important sections of your letter. Using an image that relates to what your nonprofit does is essential to getting eyes on your request (bonus points if the image relates to the local business too!). Using an image as the header of your letter ensures the image is the first thing your readers will typically see. Because you want your letter to stand out, send the letter in color so your image draws attention from in-kind donation letters that only contain black and white text.

3. Introduce your organization

You can’t assume businesses know your nonprofit and what makes you great unless they’ve donated items to your cause before. Tell the business about your nonprofit in your in-kind appeal letter. When was your organization founded? What is your mission? What are your major accomplishments? This is also a great place to explain why you’re coming to them for help and how they can support your cause. Your organization’s introduction doesn’t have to be entirely fact-based. Include a touching story to help highlight the work you do with help from the community.

4. Tell the business how they’ll benefit

An often-forgotten key component when requesting an in-kind gift from a local business is expressing how they’ll benefit from donating. Businesses need to know if they’ll receive anything in return for donating an item or gift basket to your nonprofit organization. Sure, the person who approves donation requests gets to feel warm and fuzzy, but how does the business benefit from giving product away? Do they get free event admission? Are they recognized in the program? Will you thank them publicly on social media and at the event? Providing the local business with free, positive publicity or other unique perks makes it easier for the business to choose your request over others.

5. Keep your in-kind donation letter short and simple

Managers tend to keep busy, so long in-kind donation letters are out of the question! Think of your in-kind appeal letter as an elevator pitch. The person who handles donation requests likely receives a ton of them. Because they can’t devote more than a few minutes to each request, keep your appeal letter short, sweet, and to the point. A concise, focused appeal is more likely to be read and approved. A two-page letter with three long paragraphs can be tedious to read, so stick to short, 3-5 sentence paragraphs. Rather than writing everything out, if you want essential information to stand out, try using bullet points where appropriate (this is especially helpful in the benefits section). Or, bold important sentences to draw the eye to them (but don’t overdo it).

6. Thank them

Conclude your letter with a sentence that thanks the reader for their consideration of your request. Showing gratitude is a great way to make them feel appreciated and look upon your in-kind donation letter more favorably.

Sample in-kind donation letter

When you put these tips together, you have the recipe for a better in-kind donation letter. Take a look at the example in-kind appeal letter below to see what your letter should look like. 

Image of a young child running in a forest for use in an in-kind donation letter

Ms. Jane Doe
Your Local Department Store
111 Any Street
Suite A
Anytown, FL 00000

Dear Ms. Doe,

Did you know one in four Anytown families can’t afford to buy their children properly fitting shoes?

Ill-fitting shoes can lead to bone and muscle deformities in kids’ feet. A pair of shoes that fit properly is the easiest way to prevent deformity and injury in children’s feet and legs. Anytown Orthopedic Association is working to give all families access to properly sized children’s shoes.

Anytown Orthopedic Association was established in 1998 to address the growing need for orthopedic medicine in Any County. We want to provide shoes to every local family in need using funds from our first annual Step Up for Kids fundraising event. The fundraiser takes place at the Anytown Rec Center on March 1st from 4:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and will feature dinner, dancing, and a silent auction.

As one of the most popular stores in Anytown, we would appreciate your help in making our fundraiser a success. Your donation of a gift basket or gift card will make a huge difference in the lives of local children who need shoes that fit properly. In exchange for your support, Anytown Orthopedic Association will recognize Your Local Department Store’s tax-deductible gift both online and at our event.

We’ll recognize Your Local Department Store in the following ways:

  • Two free tickets to Step Up for Kids
  • A thank you in the event program
  • Your store logo displayed at the auction table
  • A public thank you message on social media
  • Your logo added to the “supporters” page of the event website

Thank you for your consideration of our request for a donation item for our Step Up for Kids event. For more details about the event, and how you can help, contact me at (800) 555-5555 or I hope to hear from you soon!


John Johnson
Director of Philanthropy
Anytown Orthopedic Association

P.S. Anytown’s kids need you to step up for them. Please help us prevent painful feet deformities by donating children’s shoes for our event!


Your in-kind donation letter can make or break your event fundraising goals. With these six tips, you can create an effective letter that makes local businesses want to support your efforts.

P.S. Here are a few reasons why you should always include a P.S. in your appeals!

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