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How to give the gifts nonprofts really need

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Nick Grasberger, left, president and CEO of Cumberland County-based Harsco Corp., and Michelle McCall, center, CEO of the YWCA Lancaster, with guests, view a new boiler system at the Lancaster nonprofit. They were attending an Oct. 6 event recognizing companies that donated goods and services toward the installation of two new Patterson-Kelly boilers made by a division of Harsco Corp.
Nick Grasberger, left, president and CEO of Cumberland County-based Harsco Corp., and Michelle McCall, center, CEO of the YWCA Lancaster, with guests, view a new boiler system at the Lancaster nonprofit. They were attending an Oct. 6 event recognizing companies that donated goods and services toward the installation of two new Patterson-Kelly boilers made by a division of Harsco Corp. - (Photo / )

Many people and businesses rush to help after a natural disaster or in response to a major need where they live or work.

But businesses often donate goods and products that aren’t needed, so their well-intentioned gifts end up going to waste, said Shari Rudolph, chief marketing officer of Good360, a Washington, D.C. area nonprofit that helps companies donate excess merchandise to help people and communities hit by disasters or other challenges.

“It’s not necessarily donated with an understanding of the actual needs of the impacted community,” Rudolph said.

Good360, which has more than 60,000 nonprofit members, ensures donations go where they are needed most and then tracked to their final use. It also confirms that the recipients are legitimate nonprofits using items for the designated use, Rudolph said.

The nonprofit recently worked with Armstrong Flooring Inc. of Manor Township to help coordinate the company’s donation of 250,000 square feet of flooring to victims of the recent hurricane in Texas.

In addition to giving products, companies also are encouraged to donate the time and skills needed to help recipients make the most of what they get, she continued. For example, if a company donates a new computer system or software package, it might be helpful if it also donated some training and hands-on demonstrations to ensure that the nonprofit can use the gift effectively, she said.

Every donor also should do its homework before making a donation to a nonprofit, and should understand clearly what the nonprofit plans to do with the in-kind gift, Rudolph said.

“If you’re donating directly to a local nonprofit, you can ask for impact reports and impact stories that demonstrate how your gift was put to good and appropriate use,” she said. There also are rating organizations like Charity Navigator or Guidestar that provide information on individual nonprofits, she added.

In Central Pennsylvania, nonprofit needs typically emerge via word of mouth.

That’s how the top executive of Harsco Corp. came to lead his company’s effort over the last year to install a new boiler system at one of Lancaster’s primary cold-weather emergency women’s shelters.

He heard about the need from his wife, who volunteers at the shelter, hosted at YWCA Lancaster’s North Lime Street headquarters and run by the Lancaster County Council of Churches.

Harsco donated a pair of matching cobalt-blue Patterson-Kelley boilers.

They eliminate a system whose troubles could have forced the shelter to curtail operations. The old boilers occasionally leaked or stopped functioning entirely, said Michelle McCall, YWCA Lancaster’s CEO.

“We would have to Band-Aid it from time to time to get it going,” McCall said.

Nick Grasberger, Harsco’s president and CEO, and his wife, Michele, of Manheim Township in Lancaster County, bought the replacement boiler system with their own money, buying it at cost from Harsco. The unit would sell commercially for between $35,000 and $40,000, Grasberger estimated.

McCall said further contributions of $70,000 are still needed to complete the installation of the system.

Harsco, based in Wormleysburg, Cumberland County, is an international provider of industrial services with 10,000 employees in 40 countries. The new YWCA boiler system was manufactured in East Stroudsburg by Patterson-Kelley, a division of Harsco.

The YWCA winter shelter, run from December through April, houses women and their children under age 18 who need temporary shelter from the cold. It has room for up to 40 individual women and four to five women with their children at any one time, agency officials said.

With the exception of one part-time coordinator employed by the Lancaster County Council of Churches, the shelter is staffed entirely by volunteers from several Lancaster County houses of worship, YWCA officials said.

The leader of Pennsylvania’s top nonprofit association suggests a statewide bulletin board or matchmaking site that could match, by county, companies with goods to donate with nonprofits that could use them.

The overall need in the nonprofit sector has been steady in recent years, but those needs are often specific to each organization, said Anne Gingerich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations. The Susquehanna Township-based organization provides leadership, advocacy and other services to nearly 1,000 member nonprofits across the state.

“Having a website would provide possible connections and resources that are currently untapped,” Gingerich said.

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David O'Connor

David O'Connor

Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at doconnor@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @DaveOC_CPBJ.

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