Local Charity Facilitates International Giving


Andrea Barthello, along with her husband Bill Ritchie, always participate in Toy Fair, the largest international toy trade show in the Western Hemisphere.                              

As founders of the Alexandria-based company ThinkFun, they transport thousands of dollars of their mind-challenging games to display in the ThinkFun booth. At the end of the show, any remaining products are donated to the Toy Bank, destined for children in need. Companies like ours will go to a trade show and instead of shipping things home, we donate them, said Barthello. It just makes sense all the way around. We avoid shipping costs and the games we contribute get into the hands of children who need them.

Wesley Housing Development Corporation is an Alexandria corporation that owns, develops, and operates affordable housing for low-to-moderate income residents of Northern Virginia. According to Shelley Murphy, Wesley Housing Development president, there is a need for donated items. The Alexandria Home Depot is now providing some of these items, with the first shipment being a delivery of 200 new doorknobs.

ThinkFun, a company with items to donate, and Wesley Housing Development, a company looking for donated items, have something in common. They both benefit from their relationship with Gifts in Kind International, one of the top charities in the world quietly headquartered in Old Town.

For ThinkFun, connecting with charities that can use their new but discontinued or repackaged products, the process of donating is very simple and easy because the Toy Industry Foundations Toy Bank has selected GIKI as the link between toy company donors and recipient charities. All ThinkFun has to do is go to the Toy Bank Web site and download a product donation agreement. They complete the agreement, attach an inventory list that includes the retail selling price of the items donated and indicate if they are willing to provide shipping costs as part of the donation.

GIKI then links up the donating company with a 501 (c)( 3) organization in need, and will also provide the donor organization with all necessary tax documents.  For Barthello, this is a great concept.  It is easy for us, helps at tax time and we know that the games we donate are going to people who really can use them.

According to Murphy with Wesley Development, [Gifts in Kind International]is a great organization. We decided we would give their program a try and they connected us locally with Home Depot. We just took our second distribution from Home Depot.

Former president and CEO of the Center for Leadership Development, Susan Sarfati, CAE, joined the board of GIKI two years ago. She was recently named Executive Vice President of the American Program Bureau and has her own firm, Beyond Excellence. She is planning to stay on the board of GIKI, saying, This is a very rewarding organization. I have enjoyed my time [with them] and I have worked to encourage organizations to partner with them.

One organization that Sarfati recruited is the Arlington-based Consumer Electronics Association, the worlds largest organization in the consumer technology industry.  CEA spokesperson Jennifer Bemisderfer said that CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro brought the idea of partnering with GIKI to the CEA staff. This is a great opportunity to link our members and the community in need, Bermisderfer said. The CEA is a huge $168 billion-dollar industry and there are always requests for assistance.

We are proud to be able to link the considerable resources of the consumer electronics industry with communities and people in need, said Shapiro. Through its partnership with CEA, GIKI coordinates the pick-up of donated items from CEAs member companies. They also help CEA members screen and select the charities that receive their donations.  According to Bermisderfer, the assistance with screening is one of the best features of the program. It is hard to weed through the organizations that are asking for help. Gifts In Kind helps us do that and connects us with those with the greatest need.

At the GIKI headquarters on North Fairfax Street, returning interim president Barry R. Anderson, who has been involved with GIKI from the beginning, as a donor of products, a board member, as president in 2005 and now back for his second turn as president, is settling in very quickly because there is little staff turnover. It didnt surprise me to find that 80 percent of the staff here now was here when I was president in 2005, said Anderson.

According to Anderson, GIKI has a low profile because the donors and the charities are the main parties in the transactions. We work with the corporations to get inventories and the charities rely on us to make that connection for them. GIKI provides that one point of contact for the donating organization and the recipient charity. Their mission is to link corporate donors with nonprofit organizations to enhance, empower, and restore communities and people in need. In 2007, they placed close to $800 million in new products with 120,000 community-based service organizations, impacting tens of millions of lives around the world.

It was the tax change that took place when Ronald Reagan was President that changed the atmosphere for gifting, according to Anderson. Prior to 501 (c) (3) status, there was less incentive to donate items. Goods could only be donated at the cost of producing the item. Perfectly good products wound up in the landfill or were destroyed.

Today, corporations are encouraged to give instead of throwing away, said Anderson. This saves on disposal costs, you can [deduct] the market value of the products and the charities that receive the product are not allowed to re-sell.  If a product is donated and then re-sold, that would change the tax status of a donation.

GIKI addresses four social challenges with the help of donors; educational programs for children, improving the living conditions of low-income families who are struggling to make ends meet, facilitating training and employment opportunities, and restoring lives after disasters.

GIKI will be hosting the very first conference on product philanthropy, Innovation in Product Giving: Creating Value for Business & Community, at the Westin Hotel in Alexandria, Oct. 13 – 15, 2008. The purpose of the conference is a sharing of best practices and the latest innovations in strategic corporate philanthropy.

To learn more about Gifts In Kind International, you can contact them at their Alexandria headquarters at 703-836-2121 or via the Web at www.giftsinkind.org