Government programs face tight budgets and dwindling resources. But gifts-in-kind organizations enable municipalities to obtain free merchandise that can benefit recipients in a big way.

A gifts-in-kind organization such as the National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources (NAEIR) solicits donations of valuable, new merchandise from American corporations and redistributes the merchandise to their members free of charge. Municipalities and related agencies can include housing authorities, police and fire departments and social service programs.

Families that have fallen on hard times often look to housing authorities to find affordable places to live. In many instances, they are also in need of vital supplies cleaning products, blankets or adequate clothing. 

With the wide variety of goods available, police departments can find items for the communities they serve. They may order toys that police officers could use to calm children in stressful situations or gift items that could serve as incentives for DARE or Shop with a Cop programs.

Fire departments can use the program as a way to support local families in need. By collecting clothing, personal care items and other crucial supplies, people who have lost everything in a fire can get the basic necessities to help them through the immediate after-effects of a crisis. 

In today’s economy, many families are forced to look to government agencies for assistance. This means the call for supplies and materials is great. Thankfully, membership in gifts-in-kind organizations allows government services to obtain top-notch merchandise for free. Agencies can browse a frequently updated catalog of donated merchandise and request what they want.

Companies like Microsoft, Stanley Tools, 3M, Rubbermaid, Rand McNally, Reebok, Gillette, Xerox, Hallmark and thousands of others make such contributions, supporting charitable causes while at the same time taking advantage of tax deductions, reducing storage costs, clearing warehouse space and avoiding hassles with liquidators. 

Items donated include office supplies, classroom materials, clothing and shoes, maintenance items, tools and hardware, toys and games, computer software, sporting goods, books, tapes, CDs, arts and crafts, personal care items, holiday and party items, janitorial supplies and more. 

Government agencies and other non-profits pay a small fee ($59 for a basic NAEIR membership) and nominal shipping and handling charges to participate in gifts-in-kind programs, but the merchandise itself is free. The gifts-in-kind organization handles sorting, processing, cataloguing and redistribution of the merchandise.  

Organizations that participate are required to use the merchandise in accordance with Internal Revenue Service IRC section 170(e)(3). This states that the merchandise must be used for the care of the ill, needy or minors and cannot be bartered, traded or sold. The merchandise can be given directly to the qualifying individuals served by an organization, or used in the administration of the organization.

Gary C. Smith is the president and chief executive officer of the Galesburg, Ill.-based National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources (NAEIR), the oldest and largest gifts-in-kind organization in the country, according to NAEIR. The group solicits and receives donations of excess inventory from American corporations and distributes the material to a membership base of more than 13,000 charities. The organization has collected and redistributed over $3 billion worth of new, donated supplies and equipment since its founding. NAEIR members average more than $18,000 worth of free products per year for their organizations. Government agencies can call 1-800-562-0955 for more information.