Fundraising 101: tightening our belts another notch

In lieu of Governor Kasich’s recent proposed cuts (still subject to changes by Legislature) to the Public Library Fund (PLF)—a proposal which would dole out $57 million less than 2008 amounts to Ohio’s 251 public libraries!—I thought it apropos to visit the subject of fundraising.

Who (benefits from fundraising): Obviously when seeking donations it’s important to share information regarding the program needing support, and which of your patrons/community members will most be affected by it, but it’s just as important to inform the businesses of how you’ll make them famous in your community! Let businesses know exactly which newspapers/radio stations/websites/the library’s blogs/social media pages, etc. you will be appreciating them on! Send donors news clips from the local newspapers; articles featuring the programs which their dollars funded shows how their money is being spent!

What (donations are you seeking): Before requesting anything from a business/organization it is best to know what exactly you’ll need for the program/project you have in mind. If you’re hosting a Pool Party as part of Summer Reading, you might be requesting a donation of the pool and lifeguard coverage, not necessarily a financial donation. Be specific. How much or how many hours. Or if your library is hosting a Gingerbread House event you may choose to request candy and other supplies vs. money from your local grocery. Remember a donation doesn’t have to be monetary, it is anything that fills a need!

Where (to seek donors): Go big or go home is one of our mantras. Start with your local area businesses, universities, organizations (Kiwanis, Lions, Elks, etc.), then move to other larger businesses within your county. Larger corporations that specialize in something may be more willing to support a venture that aligns with their focus, i.e. Marathon Petroleum may be more likely to sponsor a STEM program—they know the importance of science and math for kids! And if they don’t, educate them! We are located in the NW section of the state, and yet we solicited and received donations from Toledo, Columbus, and Cleveland—all locations between 1-2.5 hours away! Corporations are compelled to donate certain monies each year, and it always look great for businesses to help non-profits, so it’s a win-win.

When requesting donations make sure you not only briefly explain the program, but also, and more importantly, explain why it’s important to your target group. Consider adding a couple statistics that show how successful this program was in years past, for example:

“We believe that with the support of our local community and businesses we will not only help children stay on top of their education, but also spread the love of reading to our community! Readers make readers—adults who read to children spread a love of reading and a curiosity and hunger for more knowledge!

The numbers speak for themselves! Just look at the FANTASTIC participation numbers we saw in 2016…”

Why: Libraries are constantly faced with budget concerns and “tightening our belts,” so not only is it prudent to seek outside assistance, but it also looks great when you’ve been awarded outside monies—it says to your patrons and communities, “see how hard we’re working to make our money stretch!”—also not a bad thing for patrons to be aware of, especially if you run a levy (or levy renewal) campaign. Make sure anytime you are awarded grants you advertise that fact by getting an article into the local paper or radio, advertise your award on social media/the library’s website/blog, etc. Not only is this a great time to shine on your success, but it’s also an opportunity to share with the community how you’re going to use this money, and also yet another opportunity to thank the donor!

When: When seeking donations or finding grants that you’re interested in make sure you mind the deadlines. Set reminders in your calendars that allow plenty of time for you to get your application ready and reviewed before submission. If you are seeking funding/donations for particular programs, i.e. Summer Reading, allow extra time for requests to be reviewed—we learned from one town civic organization that their last “business” meeting of the year was April, so we made sure they had our donation request letter by March.

How: If you’re not sure what’s out there, take a beginner’s grant writing course (some libraries occasionally offer these free of charge!) Have a grant writing guru on your board or in your community? Ask them if they’d be willing to donate some time to help you get started! Start small and simple. Don’t get overwhelmed.

Some great places to start if you’re specifically looking for library grants:

Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library, OH


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