By David E. Weaver, Development Director
With the serious decline of government support for libraries in recent years, raising money from private sources has never been more important. Even in those fortunate communities where tax dollars may cover most if not all of the critical funding for salaries, benefits, and other key operating expenses, there is still a need for additional resources to provide for the kind of programming and services our patrons have come to rely on, from summer reading programs for children to help with job searches for the unemployed.
How do you raise these dollars and from whom? Most libraries do not have staff dedicated to the job of fund-raising. Yet the fact is, most libraries can (and many already have) develop a simple and effective program to find and secure these vitally needed funds.
Here are five ways that any library can use to raise money:
Major Donor Clubs
An important thing to remember is that the definition of a major gift is different for every organization. For the President’s Club at a university, a major gift may be $10,000 or more. For Ohioana, it’s $1,000. For your library it might be $500. The important thing is to set a level that you feel is appropriate to your organization and your members.
A major key to securing grants is to do what GPHL did: identify a foundation that has an interest in the kind of program or project you’re doing. Don’t do a shotgun approach where you send a dozen proposals out to as many foundations as you can in hopes that you’ll get lucky with one of them – target those funders who are most likely to support your program and focus your efforts there.
There are many kinds of events, large and small. Some may be simple and easy to put together, others are huge undertakings that require months of planning and scores of volunteers. As with every other type of fund-raising, the first priority is to come up with an event that is appropriate in size and scope for you and your organization.
The Ohioana Book Festival, for example, is a huge event that involves our entire staff, a planning committee of more than a dozen members, nearly 40 partnering organizations, and more than 50 volunteers for the day of the event. The festival involves nearly 90 authors and draws an audience of more than 3,000 people. The Festival generates more than $65,000 in revenue and nets after expenses of about $25,000 to support Ohioana (the event itself is free and open to the public).
Because our mission in part is to promote Ohio authors and literature, the Ohioana Book Festival is both a fund-raising event AND a program event. Some events are purely fund-raising. For example, during the years I worked for WOSU, we held an annual golf outing. Of course, golf has nothing to do with the mission of public broadcasting, but it was a fun event that raised $15,000 a year for WOSU’s programs.
They may also want to sponsor a library project or special program because it helps promote their image and visibility in the community.
As you develop a friends or advisory board, remember to recruit people who represent major companies or the business community. It makes getting their companies and business involved a lot easier!
I realize that I’ve outlined the most basic of premises. Fortunately, many libraries throughout Ohio have comprehensive books on every one of these methods of fund-raising and many more. As I began my own career in fund-raising, it was my own library system – the Columbus Metropolitan Library – that I went to as a source for ideas and inspiration. New and better books are coming out and being added to collections each year, many dealing with the use of technologies – like Facebook and Twitter – that didn’t even exist when I started in the field.
Remember this, most of all – regardless of technology and methodology, whether you’re sending an e-blast or an old-fashioned snail mail letter – more than raising funds, you are raising friends. Your goal is not a single gift, but a long-term partnership. Successful fund-raising is about building relationships. And there is no organization that has, or can have, a better relationship with its friends and patrons than the library.
David E. Weaver- Before joining Ohioana’s staff as its first Development Director in 2005, David held senior development positions with the WOSU Stations and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. He also served as executive director of Malabar Farm Foundation and managing director of Columbus Light Opera, which he co-founded. David is the author of Black Diva of the Thirties: The Life of Ruby Elzy, published in 2004 by University Press of Mississippi. He attended Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati, majoring in voice.