Startup Solving In-Kind Donation Challenges for Nonprofits, Donors


Roonga-in-kind-donations-nonprofits-project-weHOPE-East-Palo-Alto-Evelyn-HorngClothing and blanket drives are popular this time of year, but in-kind donations can pose a challenge, not only for donors who have to coordinate dropping off items, but also for nonprofits that sometimes wind up with supplies that don’t quite fit their needs.

Enter Silicon Valley startup Roonga. Company founders say they are committed to solving both sides of the challenge by offering a new way to run donation drives online.

“We’re trying to make in-kind donations cost effective, and help nonprofits get exactly what they need,” said Roonga co-founder Evelyn Horng.

Currently Roonga is working with Project WeHOPE in East Palo Alto to make sure its new homeless shelter has all the blankets, sheets, towels, robes, and coats it needs for clients this winter, plus laundry detergent to keep it all clean. The nonprofit previously operated a warming shelter from fall to spring, but recently received the funds and approval to open year round.

Thanksgiving Shelter Supply Drive

Project WeHOPE’s Thanksgiving Shelter Supply Drive on Roonga runs until the shelter’s grand opening on Nov. 26. Interested donors can go to the organization’s page on the Roonga site, and either pledge to bring the requested items to the shelter, or pay for the purchase of items through Roonga’s partner companies. Items purchased online can be shipped directly to Project WeHOPE, at no cost to the organization.

For example, blankets may be purchased through Roonga from Linens ‘N’ Things at a cost of $11.98 for a queen size “value blanket”.  A donor who chooses blankets on the Roonga site is taken to the Linens ‘N’ Things site. The donor chooses how many blankets to purchase, and pays the amount, plus tax and shipping, although in some cases shipping is free. Roonga receives a commission on every sale from the partner company.

Getting Exactly What’s Needed

Nonprofits like Project WeHOPE that sign up for Roonga’s service create donation drives by choosing from a list of available items from partner companies, or specifying other items for drop off. It gives the nonprofits a chance to collect items that fit their exact specifications, rather than winding up with a collection of things that don’t quite fit needs, or are poor quality, leaving organizations with boxes and bags of useless items, Horng said.

For donors, they have the piece of mind that the items they purchase will be used, along with the convenience of making donations with a few clicks over the Internet.

“What’s nice about in-kind donations is you know what it’s going to go for,” Horng said.

She said a certain portion of donors prefer in-kind donations to cash, and some people want to donate items, but don’t feel they have the time. Roonga serves donors in both situations.

In-kind donations are tax deductible, according to the IRS publication, “Charitable Contributions”. Donors are allowed to deduct the fair market value of the item at the time of donation. All that is needed is written communication from the nonprofit detailing the donation. Horng said Roonga provides participating nonprofits with a report detailing donors and donations; the nonprofits are responsible for sending out tax receipts.

Helping Communities in Need

Roonga incorporated three years ago with a more commercial focus, but earlier this year shifted toward working with nonprofits. Horng said she was especially interested in working with communities that have greater needs, so she reached out to organizations in Oakland and East Palo Alto. Roonga’s inaugural drive was collecting school supplies for the Oakland Schools Foundation.

There are currently 16 nonprofits signed up on the Roonga site, including the Alameda Council of Boy Scouts of America, Berkeley Food & Housing Project, EHC Lifebuilders, Sunnyvale Community Services, and West Valley Community Services.

Besides the Project WeHOPE drive, current drives include two blanket drives conducted on behalf of EHC Lifebuilders by The Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley and OFJCC Preschool. Those drives close on Nov. 25 and Nov. 26, respectively.

Horng said the goal this year was to create the functionality of hosting drives on the Roonga website. Next year she plans on adding more nonprofits, as well as making the drives more social and engaging for donors.

See the Roonga website for more information about donating, or becoming a nonprofit partner.