Interview with Mary Jo Ketchum
  August 30, 2000


As you have been involved with the New York Library Association's (NYLA's) current capital campaign, the Vitality Fund, what have been some of the difficulties of organizing a campaign with a diverse group of collaborators? What have been the positives in the process?

Case Study - 252 Hudson Avenue

There were three key challenges, the first two of which were particular to NYLA and the third, a general problem.

Probably the major challenge of the NYLA campaign has been to convey the absolute need for giving to this organization over others with more conspicuous need, such as the local AIDS agency, or Food Bank. It is an intellectual rather than visceral perception, not unlike that which colleges and universities do successfully address.

Another challenge has been to identify significant potential individual donors. The further away from each other members of an organization are, the less they are likely to know. That was addressed by looking at the smaller affiliations within the larger association. (The corporate prospects were not hard to figure out. Just look at the expenditures of the thousands of libraries!)

Time is the enemy of good ideas. I believe it is that ingredient over all others, that undermines the efforts to achieve our goals. What to do? Either take on projects that match the time available from your group, or expand your group. The third alternative, which is the pitfall of all events, is to overspend your own time. While a little of that is essential, as a principle it defeats the purpose because it limits the involvement of others. The first choice should be to expand the group to fit the need.

The first key to NYLA's capital campaign was the commitment of a core group to insuring the long-term viability of the association, coupled with the actions needed to achieve that. A series of presidents laid the groundwork for the current success by constantly maintaining focus on the importance of initiating and implementing a fund development strategy. They raised awareness.

Then there was the fortuitous coming together of people of like purpose, energy and knowledge. One might say that it was accidental, and that a board could not be responsible for bringing that about. To the contrary, every step the board takes, advances or undermines its future, including the people who make commitments of time to the library.

Keeping in mind the balance of time and size of the group, nevertheless, it is not the size of the group but the strength of commitment which influences its outcome. It is sometimes scary to see only five people around a table at a meeting, knowing that nine months from that day the group will have to show income of $250,000. Yet, time and time again, those five or ten people have savored success. Commitment to purpose and to action are the keys.

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