Remember the grungy brown sofa in your staff lounge? It was given to your organization after a long family life. Every time you saw it you promised yourself, never again. But, if your nonprofit is like most, every dollar counts. Does this mean that when you purchase an item with donated funds, you must only purchase the least expensive or bargain merchandise? No, fortunately, gifts are one thing and purchases another. This article provides you with a list of justifications to use when you seek to purchase higher quality, more costly items. We’ve successfully used these points in grants and with boards.
1. Wear and Tear. Share information about the end users to justify your purchase. A group recently purchased furniture from a school supply store, because the furniture was for teens. It passed on the less expensive option from a national chain aimed at family use.
2. Heavy Use. If you will use an item daily or almost daily, you can often justify buying the items with greater capacity. This concerns the frequency of use vs. type of use. Imagine the difference in creating notebooks for 1,000 people working with a hole punch that handles 50 sheets at a time vs. the one that cuts 250.
3. Immediate Savings. If the more expensive item consistently saves you time or other resources, you’ve just justified the greater expense. For instance, do the meeting tables for weekly use in a community center require one person or two to set them up?
4. Long-Term Savings. Purchases that never need replacement to justify the greater investment. Given your nonprofit status, it is very likely the funds will not be readily available later, if you buy the short life model. A group, lacking funds, replaced a floor to give them an additional three to five years of use. Unfortunately, the floor needed replacement after three years.
5. Brand Avoidance. If you have had a bad experience, you can often justify a more expensive brand by citing that experience. A friend repairs air conditioners. One brand is always trouble. All you have to do is mention the name to get a tirade of complaints. When he buys equipment, he doesn’t look at the price, he shops another brand.
6. Quality Preference. Seek recommendations on quality from others. Use them to justify your request. A preschool teacher can tell you which brand of magic markers last twice as long the others.
7. Go Green. More and more donors prefer green. Many donors recognize that while green might cost more initially, it represents long-term savings for the organization and positive community outcomes.
Finally, when you are unsure about requesting high quality, remember that grant and other donors are often people with means. When they make personal buying decisions they seek quality. From my experience, the staff is often more reluctant than donors to invest in high quality even when these or similar justifications exist.