Schools nationwide are saving money on supplies—such as computer disks, power cords, and paper—by ordering them from a foundation that places overstocked merchandise in schools for almost nothing.

NAEIR—which stands for the National Exchange of Industrial Resources—solicits donations of excess inventory from corporations and redistributes them among its 9,500 members, which include schools, hospitals, day-care centers, and other nonprofit organizations.

The merchandise is brand new and costs nothing itself, although participants must pay an annual membership fee as well as shipping and handling costs.

Norbert C. Smith, an airplane parts manufacturer and consultant, started NAEIR in 1977 after noticing how much excess inventory companies have. The tax laws had also just changed, letting corporations deduct twice the cost of unsold goods by donating them to a school or other nonprofit organization.

The foundation gives companies a corporate tax deduction in exchange for the merchandise, which is sent to NAEIR’s warehouse in Illinois where it is sorted, cataloged, and shipped to members.

“Any materials that our members receive have to be used for the care of ill, needy, or minors, and [the goods] cannot be bartered, traded, or sold,” said Robert Gilstrap, vice president and chief financial officer of NAEIR.

Through NAEIR, schools have received office supplies, textbooks and activity books, janitorial supplies, toys, games, paper goods, holiday novelties, overhead projectors, science equipment, temper paints, stencils, crayons, construction paper, incubators, high-temperature ovens, refrigerators, and freezers.

NAEIR doesn’t receive computer donations, but it does offer computer supplies and software.

“There are computer diskettes, labels, CD-ROMs, computer paper—all sorts of computer supplies,” said Kelly Smith, business manager for Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Ga. “You get a lot of supplies for a lot less.”

Joan Lutton, principal of the Cushman School in Miami, Fla., has been ordering from NAEIR for 15 years.

“We’ve been doing it for a long time, and it’s great,” Lutton said. “We’ve gotten stuff like vacuum cleaners, books. One time we got folding chairs for assemblies.”

Robert Thomas, principal of Jamieson Elementary School in Detroit, said the service is useful for ordering incentives for students.

“I just got a shipment of Christmas lollipops for the kids, and it only cost me the shipping, which was nominal,” Thomas said. “Last year, we got some tapes and children’s books where children can read the book along with the tape.”

NAEIR has two main membership programs. Catalog members pay a yearly fee of $575 to receive five 200-page catalogs a year, one every 10 weeks. The catalogs provide a photo and detailed description of each item. The items often come in bulk.

“Most of the catalogs have between 2,500 and 3,000 items available,” Gilstrap said. “Each catalog is different and based on what’s being donated.”

Members also pay a shipping and handling fee of $99 per order. The fee is fixed. If the order is worth $1,000 or $15,000, members still pay $99, Gilstrap said.

In addition to the five catalogs, NAEIR also issues its members special offers.

These offers usually feature kits—made up of office supplies or janitorial supplies—that NAEIR puts together. The shipping and handling fees for special offers vary.

Members also can check out the NAEIR web site, which lists items in great demand but short supply. These items have included fax machines, refrigerators, freezers, furnaces, matching office furniture sets, and vinyl flooring.

The second program, called Members Choice, charges $39.50 per year for a quarterly 8-page flyer that features18 to 20 items.

Schools interested in learning more should call (800) 562-0955.

Links:

NAEIR: The National Exchange of Industrial Resources
http://www.naeir.org