Financing,  Funding

Financing your project: In-Kind donations

This series focuses on ways to finance your projects. This one highlights how In-Kind donations can help to get your film made.

What are In-Kind donations?

A recent post in this series focused on Fiscal Sponsorship and how non-profit organizations are able to give tax-deduction letters to any donors that support your film monetarily through their org. Many of those same groups can give tax deduction letters to entities that donate services, rentals, locations and goods to a production as well. If a restaurant donates free food for a shoot day’s lunches or a costume rental company donates free costume rentals for your web series, those companies can receive a letter that allows them to deduct the value of what they donated from their annual taxes. Please note that each company should consult with their accountant to make sure such a deduction can be recorded for their corporate annual tax return.

Carole Dean, the Executive Director of the non-profit organization From the Heart Productions, explains that her org can furnish tax deduction letters for in-kind donations with a value of $500 or greater. The donating company needs to provide information on what has been donated and the current value of the donation. Companies can verify value by providing an online price for various goods and services posted on legitimate websites to determine value such as hotel nights, airfare, food costs and posted rental prices.

To give an example of an in-kind donation from one of my past productions – Helen Uffner Vintage Clothing very generously donated free period military costumes for a short film I produced about the Holocaust as an homage to her family members who perished in the german concentration camps in the 1940s. On other ultra low budget projects, I have been the recipient of free or deeply discounted cameras, grip and electric equipment from various rental houses. And I have been happy to go back to those companies to pay full price on other projects with higher budgets to show my gratitude for their support. Vendors are key collaborators for producers and it’s always important to support those who support us so we can all afford to keep making great work.

How to incentivize someone to donate a good or service?

Things always work best when they are mutually beneficial. There are ways to offer something in return for an in-kind donation:

  • Give the entity an end title screen credit (perhaps with their website URL)
  • If it is a very significant donation, it might make sense to give an Associate Producer screen credit which can be offered when someone has assisted in a way that has a meaningful impact on the production
  • Offer a service that you can provide – Can you film some footage or photography for the company’s use? Create logo graphics? Build a simple website?
  • Offer to put their daughter or son in your film as an Extra
  • If the donation is free/discounted use of a restaurant or cafe, offer to buy all of the cast/crew lunches as a way to compensate

Research if you can offer an in-kind donation

Not all non-profit organizations that offer tax deduction letters for monetary donations, offer in-kind donations as well. So before you sign up with an org as your project’s fiscal sponsor, make sure they offer in-kind donations and learn the process/paperwork necessary for donors. That way you can answer any questions a potential donor might have when you ask them for a good, service, rental or location.