"What you believe in has to be bigger than what you are afraid of."
Ken Klein, fundraising expert

What if there is a negative reaction to our vote in the community? What if people get angry about taxes?

This is a common concern among library boards, but not one that should hold you captive if the majority of the board feels that a public vote is necessary. There are several methods of minimizing or managing negativity regarding a tax increase. Here are some strategies.

Be Prepared

  • Deliberate potential negatives beforehand and create positive responses. Generate a response script that is utilized by the library director, trustees, and volunteers. This will ensure consistency of the message. Points to consider as you prepare responses to possible criticism:
    • Clearly outline the benefits the community will get as a result of their support. For example, increased hours, more DVD's, a greater selection of bestsellers etc.
    • Remind the public that this is a good use of tax dollars, and unlike many of their other tax contributions, this one directly benefits the entire community.
    • Point out that libraries are transparent, and use money more wisely than most institutions. Explain to these groups that every time the library wants an increase, they have to come back to the public. The volunteer fire company doesn't have to; they can just go to the town and get more money approved. Explain that they have much more control when it comes to library funding.
    • Use words such as investment, asset, value, cost-effective, contribution, opportunity etc. to positively frame the library's proposition.
    • Talk in dollars and cents. Break figures down to the annual real dollar cost to the average homeowner, so that they realize what a small contribution they will be making over the course of a year.
    • Remind opponents that "their vote is their voice" and that they are welcome to participate in the upcoming vote.
    • Ask connected people in the community whom you know and respect to inform you if they hear anything negative, so you can be prepared and proactive.
    • Consider speaking directly to the source of negativity in a non-confrontational tone. This strategy has worked effectively for many libraries in neutralizing opposition.
    • Arrange for one or two respected people in the community to be on standby to speak up for the library if public negativity arises.

    If a negativity occurs, consider some quick response strategies.

This toolkit was created on behalf of the 2005-2007 Getting to Yes (GTY) project. GTY is funded by Federal Library Services and Technology Act funds, awarded to the New York State Library by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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