Counselors Can Help Get Free Classroom Supplies for Teachers? It’s Not Too Good to Be True

There is a good chance that, as a school counselor, you’re aware that many teachers are paying for classroom supplies with their own money. In these days of shrinking school budgets, they have become an expert in doing more with less.

Probably, no one has told you that many of these same classroom supplies are available at no cost to your teachers through something called a gifts in kind organization. 

Gifts-in-kind organizations are not-for-profits that secure corporate donations of new merchandise and redistribute the items to not-for-profits members, which may include schools and individual teachers.

Donations include classroom essentials, office supplies, arts and craft materials, educational products, books, backpacks, party goods, cleaning supplies, sporting goods, software, and much more.

Donors include leading American companies. In return for their donations, they receive significant tax deductions. In addition, it’s a great way for them to clear older or overstocked merchandise out of their warehouses and doing a good thing for schools.

How It Works

Typically, joining is as simple as completing an online application. Teachers are free to join and have no yearly membership fee.  They only pay nominal handling charges. 

NAEIR’s basic membership (schools, churches and other nonprofits) is free to join the first year.  All orders have a minimum of $25 in handling charges and ground shipping is always free.

It sounds too good to be true, but it’s a simple, legitimate way to stretch your school’s classroom budget and reduce your teachers out-of-pocket costs.

The rules are straightforward. According to Internal Revenue Code section 170(e)(3), donated merchandise must be used for the care of the ill, needy or minors. It can’t be bartered, traded or sold, and must be given directly to qualifying individuals served by an organization or used in the administration of the organization.

Belonging to a gifts-in-kind organization costs teachers a fraction of what it would cost to purchase the same supplies in stores or online.

Many students do not have supplies and sometimes use the lack of supplies to disengage.  Gifts in kind allows your teachers to buy things they normally would not be able to afford for their classrooms.  The bottom line is that it allows the teacher to stretch his or her dollar as well as creativity.

If ‘free’ is a very important word to your school, too, as a counselor you owe it to your students and your school to inform them about gifts-in-kind programs.

Gary C. Smith is President and CEO of the National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources (NAEIR), the oldest largest gifts-in-kind organization in the U.S. NAEIR receives donations of excess inventory from American corporations and distributes the material to a membership base of more than 13,000 charities. It has collected and redistributed more than $3 billion worth of new, donated supplies and equipment since it was founded in 1977. For more information, visit NAEIR’s website at or call 1-800-562-0955.