Interview with Mary Jo Ketchum
  August 30, 2000

How does a library board know when they need professional fundraising help?

Fund raising help comes in a variety of packages, from occasional coaching of the key committee leadership to on-site management and execution of a fund raising effort. So, those assessing the merits of contracting for fund raising assistance should explore the different types of assistance with various providers. Those discussions will lead to a clearer understanding of the needs of the particular library board.

In assessing the benefits of professional, consider this: What is the board's composition? A teacher, an engineer, a farmer, an IT programmer, a medical secretary? None of them would expect that the others could take their jobs over, with satisfactory competence, despite their own individual experience and knowledge. Yet, people often assume that they can raise money, with no shortage of skill. Professional fund raisers are people who have developed the skills and intuition to apply theory and nuance to the task of raising funds. Unless the board members have acquired the same expertise, they cannot be expected to know and apply all of the methods of asking that are available, let alone to have honed the techniques for doing so.

Having said that, I also acknowledge that it is not a mysterious science, but the application of our understandings of human nature which lead to giving. Many libraries have done a superlative job of fund raising. Watkins Glen, under trustee Janet Argetsinger, comes to mind. She surprised the local bankers with her ask of significant gifts, and they came through, leading to a phenomenally successful capital campaign. Yet I fear that many just will not recognize opportunity or know how to pursue it.


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