Technology changes quickly, and many people replace their electronics every two or three years. Those “outdated” appliances could often still provide many years of use, however. By learning where to find them, you could save your nonprofit a lot of money or start up your organization sooner than would have been financially possible otherwise.
A number of organizations exist solely to place overstock equipment and furniture with nonprofits that need it. Try Gifts in Kind, the National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources and Excess Access, suggests the Urban Ministry website. These organizations structure the shopping experience in different ways -- NAEIR has a catalog of available items to browse, while Excess Access has nonprofits fill out a wish list and then matches them to donors, letting nonprofits and donors make their own shipping arrangements, as Urban Ministry points out. Often these organizations charge a small fee for membership, which gives nonprofits access to the equipment.
Used Equipment Organizations
Other organizations accept donations of used equipment and supplies from individuals and corporations. They then place the equipment with nonprofits. At the Throw Place Ltd. website, nonprofits can find donations (both used and new) from individuals as well as companies. The National Cristina Foundation also places used equipment from individuals and businesses with nonprofits.
You can also directly contact companies in your area that sell office equipment, or large companies that might have used equipment to donate. Chances are your request is modest, and the company may take the opportunity to show the community that it’s socially responsible. Some people may feel hesitant to ask for donations in such a straightforward way, but an articulate letter outlining the importance of the donation, followed by a call if need be, show professionalism.
Similarly, locally based companies, local franchises of companies, foundations and government institutions sometimes award grants to community organizations and projects. Determine which institutions in your area award grants to fund equipment by looking in “The Chronicle Guide to Grants,” as well as grants databases (see Resources), or the websites of any large companies with a presence in your area.
If you only need a few pieces of equipment, you could even look on the Freecycle website for the equipment you need. This website lets you search for free goods in your area, and if you check it religiously, you could find a gem before someone else nabs it.
Melanie J. Martin specializes in environmental issues and sustainable living. Her work has appeared in venues such as the Environmental News Network, "Ocean" magazine and "GREEN Retailer." Martin holds a Master of Arts in English.