Is There an Andrew Carnegie in the House?

By Whitwell, Stuart C. A. | American Libraries, January 1996 | Go to article overview

Is There an Andrew Carnegie in the House?


Whitwell, Stuart C. A., American Libraries


WITH $6 MILLION COLLECTED IN NINE MONTHS, THE FUND FOR AMERICA'S LIBRARIES LOOKS AHEAD TO THE YEAR 2000

Last month, the Library of Congress postponed a major show of its holdings from the archives of Sigmund Freud (see story, p. 22). According to Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, the library had fallen $353,000 short of its goal of $950,000 required to mount the show. In tough budgetary times, even fundraising is not easy.

In fact, it is probably silly to say "tough budgetary times" anymore: times are going to be budgetarily tough for as long as anyone can see into the future; tough is another word, now, for normal. So libraries, like other cultural institutions in this post-"Asian economic miracle" era, with its consequent slender public expenditures, are turning to other sources of income (AL, June 1995, p. 555-558).

"Libraries depend on and deserve public support," says Peggy Barber, executive director for ALA's Fund for America's Libraries, "but they also need support from private sources if they are to meet twenty-first-century information needs."

Barber and ALA sensed this five years ago when Barber helped ALA establish a development office. Nine months ago, ALA improved on this idea and established an independent corporation, the Fund for America's Libraries (AL, Feb. 1995, p. 184-186). The Fund was part of the ALA Goal 2000 package endorsed by members when they voted for a dues increase last spring.

The idea of using other than public money is not new to libraries, of course. It is impossible to say what libraries in the U.S. would look like today if there had been no Andrew Carnegie, and philanthropic giving has always played a vital role in library development. The difference now is the degree of focus cultural institutions are bringing to the acquisition of philanthrophic money - that and the sudden popularity of "cause marketing," which has put new, corporate money out on the street. Together, these factors have made the twenty-first century a whole new ball game.

"This is a brand-new marketplace emerging," marketing expert Robert Prazmark told American Libraries in an earlier article on corporate sponsorship (AL, Nov. 1995, p. 1026). Indeed. In the nine months since its incorporation, the Fund for America's Libraries has collected more than $6 million in grants and contributions (surpassing its first-year goal of $4 million). Less than 20% of ALA's total budget comes from member dues. About 8.7% comes from grant funds alone.

Who benefits, who pays?

Six million dollars is a lot of money, and no one will suppose that it all comes free. So what's the deal? Where does it come from? Where is it going? Who benefits, and who pays? These are questions asked not only by the nervous guardians of tradition, but also the ALA Executive Board, ALA's executive director, and the staff of the Fund for America's Libraries itself. American Libraries asked these questions and got a lesson in fundraising along the way.

The first thing to observe is that not all this money can be looked at in the same way. Successful fundraising efforts rely on a diverse array of funding sources. Grants from such government agencies as the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) or foundations such as the W. K. Kellogg Foundation are typically directed at specific projects. Funds of this sort are said to be "restricted." An exhibit and education program like "The Frontier in American Culture" is an example. This exhibit will travel to 45 public and academic libraries, and the $350,000 given by NEH can be used for this alone.

"Unrestricted" funds, on the other hand, can be used at the discretion of the organization receiving them. It is this money that has become available as a result of "cause marketing." What has to happen to get unrestricted funds is typically this: A corporation, wishing to distinguish itself from its competitors, decides to put some of its marketing money into a "cause" - something its customers support and feel good about. …

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