Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Fundraising: It's Not Just about the Money

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Fundraising: It's Not Just about the Money

Article excerpt

Fundraisers bring in money and people, but most importantly they connect a library with its community.

Every library where I have worked has held fundraisers, mostly book sales that were sometimes combined with bake sales. Book sales still seem to be the most common library fundraiser and the public seems to expect them. In Monroeville, we are lucky to have an active Friends of the Library group that takes care of the annual used book sale, which brings people to us in droves during that weekend.

Our Friends is an active group, so it holds other fundraising events as well. A relatively new, 3-year-old event is the Antiques Appraisal Fair, where members of the public can bring in their treasures and have them appraised for $5 per item with a limit of four items. While this event might not attract the numbers of people that the book sale does, it also serves to bring people into the library.

Both of these events raise money, but if we depended entirely on them, our budget would be very small. That is not to say, however, that these fundraisers aren't important. Perhaps even greater than the amount of money they raise is the value of bringing people into the library. In these days of online access to just about everything, the public sometimes forgets that libraries are responsible for providing access to the catalogs and online databases that they use regularly. This is important to remind them, especially in these difficult economic times when politicians are eager to cut budgets. Additionally, it is good to show them that libraries are more than just providers of information, they are also pretty nice places to visit.

Fundraisers obviously raise money and they also bring people in, but even this does not measure their true value. I believe the most important aspect of fundraising is in enlisting people in the community who are willing to work for, or contribute to, the support of the library. For a library to be successful, I believe the people who use it have to feel connected to it-to feel that it is theirs. The Monroeville Public Library was founded by a group of ordinary people in the community who enlisted the support of other residents and demanded a library from their local government. Our wonderful Friends of the Library organization continues that tradition of community support, and this is reflected in our rising usage statistics.

Fundraising activities build both financial support and the even more valuable community support, but just as libraries must stay up-to-date with changing times and innovations, so must the organizers of fundraisers strive to create events that are fresh and innovative. Librarians looking for ideas other than the triedand-true book sale can turn to the Web for guidance and suggestions.

Start Out with a Plan

While most librarians have participated in fundraisers, those who are new to planning them, or who have boards or Friends groups with no experience, might want to start with some sites that offer general information on the subject. The Management Assistance Program for Nonprofits has a Free Management Library site, which includes both original materials and links to Internet resources for nonprofit organizations. It has an entire page devoted to fundraising. There are links to resources including Web sites, online discussion groups, electronic mailing lists, electronic newsletters, and a learning module titled Developing Your Fundraising Plan.

The Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA) of the American Library Association (ALA) has a Fund Raising and Financial Development Section (FRFDS) with a Web page of resources and activities. I visited this site when I last wrote on this topic in May 2000, but it has been updated since then so it is worth revisiting. You can subscribe to the section's mailing list, FRFDS-L, or view a bibliography on choosing and using a fundraising consultant. There is also an annotated list of Web sites related to library grants and fundraising. …

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