Fundraising for Boards

Fundraising for Boards
MHLS Across The Board | Summer 2002

Book Sales are the quintessential library fundraiser. Libraries conduct them in different ways—once a year or on-going, off-site or at the library. One library’s friends group has even opened a used bookstore adjacent to their library building! Book sales can be lucrative depending on your organizational skills and pool of resources, such as volunteers, to draw from. Develop a statement of purpose for the book sale. How will you use the proceeds? By knowing this ahead of time you can use this purpose in the marketing of your event. People may be more inclined to buy—and even to make contributions over and above the price of their books—if they know the specific use to which the funds will be put. Publicity takes place through all stages of the sale— from advertising that you are accepting books and other donations for the sale and asking for local sponsors and volunteers to the actual notice of the sale date, time and place. Use fliers in area businesses and schools, mail information to a selection of interested parties like booksellers and collectors, local auction houses and antique shops. A good on-line listing service that’s free is A number of MHLS libraries are using this site to list their book sales. Book Sale tips will soon be available on the MHLS Fundraising Information web page.


Annual Appeal & Direct Mailing: An annual appeal is a request for a donation from library patrons. Annual appeals can be easy to do but require volunteer time and some cash in hand to pay for printing and postage. MHLS can help you with your print needs but you need to apply your imagination to this task—people today get dozens of solicitations from organizations raising funds. Make yours stand out—tell them something new, grab their attention. Pay close attention to those individuals who have given to you in previous years. You can do this with a simple database in MS Access, FileMaker or mySQL, or purchase one of the numerous fundraising software packages available. Help with this is available on the MHLS Fundraising Information web site or by contacting Rebekkah Smith at extension 239 or A database of donors can help you get out thank-you cards and determine who you might approach for a larger gift to the library. It also can help you determine who might be interested in your planned giving program.


Planned Giving is the donor’s process of providing financial support to the library while meeting estate planning and financial planning objectives. Planned Giving gifts usually come in three forms: donations, bequests and deferred, but endowments also fall under this category. For more information, contact Rebekkah Smith. Most libraries begin a planned giving program by making up a brochure explaining how a donor can apply a planned giving strategy to the library and demonstrating fiscal responsibility. You can see a sample brochure on the MHLS Fundraising Information web site. And remember that the MHLS Print Services department can help you design yours. Some libraries begin an endowment account with their bank or local community fund which they advertise as available to begin receiving donations. However, your true first step should be to consult with your accountant and lawyer.


Grant Writing is useful in the right situation. Keep in mind that not all grants are worth your time. Carefully read the grant and giving guidelines that you are considering and talk to the funder to make sure your library is a fit. Today’s life-style has led to a lack of time for most people; luckily grant writing is something that you can prepare in advance. Keep some commonly asked for pieces of information in a file: the library’s mission statement; annual report statistics; organizational structure; Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN); 501(c)(3) designation letter, if you have one; NYS tax-exemption number; current budget and sources of financial support; a list of board members; a history of the library; your long-range plan; and the library’s gift policy. This should give you a good start when you sit down to begin writing. There will be a grant-writing workshop at MHLS this fall. Further information will be forthcoming.


Capital Campaign: Some libraries hold capital campaigns to finance renovations and additions to their existing buildings as well as to purchase a new building or build from the ground up. Some libraries receive capital financing from other sources such as the NYS Dormitory Authority or a bond issue put up by their municipality. (For more information about capital finance Click here for a sample Capital Fund Agreement.  Capital campaigns are carefully designed to raise large amounts of money for your library. They require an investment of time and energy from the entire board. Depending on the amount of money to be raised and the makeup of your community, you may need to have a fundraising feasibility study conducted by a fundraising consultant. A feasibility study will canvass your community and reveal whether or not the amount of money you need to raise is available from your constituency. Once you decide to move forward with a campaign you should develop a case statement about the project, which describes the scope, need and costs of the project. This will aid you in making your “case” to the community. Usually libraries hold their campaign “kickoff ” once they have 50 percent of the funding in hand, so a lot of legwork takes place before an inaugural campaign event. Some libraries also hire consultants to run their entire campaign. Hiring a fundraising consultant can be a hard decision for a board. Consultants can aid your campaign in a variety of ways: conduct a feasibility study; help you create realistic plans and timetables; train trustees and volunteers in the art of solicitation; and provide an outside perspective on the campaign. For help in hiring a consultant, contact Rebekkah Smith at extension 39 or


Gift Policy
It is essential that your library have a Gift Policy. A gift policy will help you out of sticky situations by defining the nature of accepted gifts. The policy should define what gifts are acceptable, how different types of gifts will be handled (monetary, equipment, materials) and a statement about appraisals (the onus should not be on the library). Sample gift policies are available on the MHLS website.


Fundraising Ideas

  • Antiques Roadshow: Invite a local auctioneer/appraiser to help you with this fundraising event. Most libraries charge people per item ($5–$10) to get a professional opinion of what their treasures are worth. The National Auctioneers Association web site can help you find an auctioneer in your area.
  • Donor & Memorial Walls: Libraries conducting a capital campaign or other large fundraising campaigns sometimes devote a wall of the library to acknowledge contributions from donors. Designs have included a tree with donor names engraved on the leaves and a bookcase with the names engraved on the books. Consider honoring donors who give at different levels with leaves or books scaled to match the size of their donations.
  • Raffles & Auctions: Some of our libraries use raffles very effectively. Prizes are donated from local merchants, authors, craftspeople and personalities and raffled off. The MHLS Print Services department can help you with raffle tickets.
  • Traveling Feast: Owners of historic and/or interesting homes open their doors to a delicious fundraising idea! How it works is simple: each homeowner provides part of the meal and dessert; the library sells a finite number of tickets; ticket holders travel from home to home partaking of the food and learning about the homes in the process.


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