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Finding companies with online donation requests

By Hannah Yang (she/her)
March 2, 2021

A woman sitting in front of a laptop computer jots notes on paper

Reprinted from Candid Learning.

Every year, most nonprofits usually have at least one event where they are seeking food or auction item donations. The process of securing these in-kind donations is time-consuming. Nonprofit employees and volunteers often have to cold call or visit local stores to make the ask.

Having done this ourselves, we built TheShareWay, a directory of food and auction item donors to help nonprofits save time. People often ask me how TheShareWay finds this list of companies that donate to nonprofit events. Today, I want to share tips on how we’ve built up our directory so that you can do it yourself too. However, if you’d prefer to save the time, hop over to TheShareWay and sign up with your email to access our directory for free.

Here are our tips to help you get started:

Google it

Surprise. Surprise. We find many of our companies from Google. I’d suggest the following queries:

Note “item” is where you can get really creative.

  • For raffle and silent auction items, here are a few examples:
    • If most of your attendees are female, think about things that a female audience would enjoy: makeup, purses, lotion, etc. Add those to the beginning of your query, and see what shows up.
    • If your event is family-friendly and has children attending, you can search for things like “game donation request,” “board game donation request,” and “toy donation request.” Think of a game you like, say “bananagrams,” and throw that in there too. You’d be surprised at what shows up.
    • What if you are a health and wellness nonprofit? Think about products that attendees would like: “water bottle donation requests,” “gym donation requests,” “sports donation requests,” and “spa donation requests.”
  • For food and beverages for your event, try Googling for exactly what you’re looking for“beer donation requests,” “coffee donation requests,” “cookies donation requests,” “snacks donation requests,” “protein bar donation requests,” “restaurant donation requests,” etc.

Use existing listings to get ideas on category type

If you’re having a hard time figuring out what to put for “item” in your query, use existing listings to get ideas. On TheShareWay’s blog, we have several articles that list companies that donate by the specific item: snacks, luggage, NYC Restaurant, etc. Other online donation request listings include those on Fundly and Fundraiser Help.

Your nonprofit might have its donor lists from past events. Check and see which companies are on there: airlines, hotels, restaurants? Think about the category these companies fall into, and use them as the “item” in your query.

Keep tabs of brands you like

Outside of Google, my other trick is keeping tabs of brands I like as I go about my day. If I pass by a cool looking coffee shop or see interesting brands at my local Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, I’d write down the brand name and look them up when I get home. You’d be surprised how often companies donate!

Check to see if your nearby chain stores have corporate and local store donation programs

Large chain stores like Chipotle might have both corporate and local donation programs. The online donation forms you come across are usually for their corporate programs. For example, here’s information on Chipotle’s corporate online donation request program. If you go to a local Chipotle store and also ask, they may take your request too! I’ve gotten donations through my local Chipotles, so I know for a fact that local stores donate too.

Take advantage of any donation programs offered by your local sports team, amusement parks, zoos, theaters, and museums

Most local entertainment venues, from sports teams to zoos to museums, usually give tickets away to nonprofits. Just think of the local venue, and either call them to ask or Google “[entertainment venue] + donation request.” For example, Rockefeller Center Observatory is a well-known tourist spot in New York City. If you Google “Rockefeller Center Observatory donation request,” you’ll find Rockefeller Observatory’s donation request form on the first Google result.

If you’re having trouble thinking of local entertainment ideas, Google “things to do in [insert your city].” From there, see what options come up on sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp. They usually have good pointers!

Don’t forget subscription companies

More and more companies are moving to a subscription-based model. Don’t forget that this type of companies donate too. Here is just a sample of what we’ve found: Gentleman’s BoxJohn’s Crazy SocksBirchbox, and Raddish.

We hope that you’ve found these tips helpful. If you don’t have the time to compile these yourself, check out TheShareway. We’ve already cataloged hundreds of companies that donate to help nonprofits save time!

Tags: Fundraising