Money Matters

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Of the $456,615,522 in revenue supporting New Jersey libraries in 2011, 98.86% came from local sources, 0.85% came from state support, and 0.29% was derived from federal monies.  Unfortunately for most libraries, the funds received through public support have been insufficient to maintain the organization’s level of service. The result has been staff shortages, reduced hours of operation, and fewer books on the shelves.

Don't take library funding for granted!

  • Be alert to attempts to change funding laws.
  • Keep in touch with your municipal or county funding plans.
  • Have a Plan!

The grim fact is that there is no guarantee that public funding for library services will ever return to previous levels.  In addition to accelerating advocacy efforts with government officials, trustees must assess the capacity of their libraries to explore alternate sources of revenue.

It is the duty of trustees to support their library’s fundraising efforts by:

  • Maintaining productive relationships with the library’s support organizations, such as Friends groups and library foundations;
  • Informing support organizations about the library’s needs and strategic priorities;
  • Determining capital needs and identifying funding sources;
  • Establishing goals for fundraising initiatives from private sources;
  • Deciding when outside counsel will be of assistance;
  • Using personal connections in support of the campaign;
  • Working with the director to cultivate, solicit, and steward donors; and
  • Annually committing to make a personal contribution.

Friends groups support the library financially with volunteer work, annual giving campaigns, periodic book and merchandise sales, and other activities that generate funds for special programs or materials the library needs. Annual giving campaigns also provide library leaders with the opportunity to identify donors who should be cultivated for more significant giving. Friends activities, on the whole however, can only be expected to generate relatively modest support for a library’s needs.

In response, a growing number of public libraries have established foundations with the capacity to raise larger amounts of money. Distinct from governing boards and Friends groups, foundations are the fundraising arm of the library focusing on major gifts, donor cultivation, planned giving programs, capital and endowment campaigns, and significant corporate underwriting opportunities. To ensure that the foundation does not encroach on the core responsibilities of the library board, it is best to develop memos of understanding before a foundation is established. Individuals who serve on a library foundation board are chosen primarily because of their commitment to the library in combination with their ability to “give or get”.

As grant sources are squeezed, libraries have turned increasingly to corporate support. Because a community’s quality of life influences a company’s ability to attract and retain good employees, more and more businesses have come to understand the good return they receive from their investment in the library. Just as with individual donors, corporate leadership must be cultivated; capacity and motivations to give, researched; and proposals, tailored to goals held mutually by the library and business.

What are the top four reasons that people give to a library?

  • They believe in its mission.
  • They have served on a board or major committee.
  • As adults, they have had first-hand experience with the library’s programs and services.
  • They have faith in the organization’s leadership and fiscal stability.

Fundraising Resources Bibliography

Dowlin, Ken.  Getting the Money:  How to Succeed in Fundraising for Public and Nonprofit Libraries.  Connecticut, Libraries Unlimited, 2008.

Goldberg, Benjamin.  Forming and Funding Public Library Foundations:  2nd Edition.  Chicago, Public Library Association, 2005.

Jordan, Ronald R., Planned Giving: A Guide to Fundraising and Philanthropy. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2009.

McKinnon, Harvey.   The 11 Questions Every Donor Asks and the Answers All Donors Crave:  How You Can Inspire Someone to Give Generously.  Medfield, MA, Emerson & Church Publishers, 2008.

Panas, Jerold.  Asking:  A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers, and Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift.  Medfield, MA, Emerson & church Publishers, 2009.

Rosen, Michael J. Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. Hoboken, NJ. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2011