Here's a clever and strategic way of soliciting support for the local library. When framed in these terms, many folks would be happy to make a cash donation to support the cause. Kudos and thanks to Cara Sawyer at the Cherryfield Free Public Library for crafting this alternative approach to fundraising (and for graciously allowing us to share it here).
United for Libraries (ALA's Trustee and Friends section) has published an online free booklet on how to get community grants. Library boards and Friends groups might find this a useful guide to identifying and requesting funding from local businesses and organizations. Getting Grants in Your Community
Charlene Churchill, Director of the Ellsworth Public Library, posted a request on ME-LIBS for ideas for fundraising other than book sales. She compiled the responses and graciously shared it with the Friends of Maine Libraries. The responses are below (edited where it seemed appropriate):
Rockland Public Library
Our Friends group has a bookstore in our hallway that is always selling books. To pump up sales we put on special displays and sell books at half price. We also have weekly public screenings of classic movies, and we take donations for the show (and popcorn!). Other than that they also write grants and write/promote the Annual Appeal.
Thomaston Public Library
60 Main St.
This idea is in the category of 'the same, but different.' My Friends have book sale shelves at the local dentist's office and an auto repair business--any place people are waiting. They have a locked 'donation' box and make a fair amount of money--it's a different crowd than library book sale folks.
Debbie Lozito, Library Director
Edythe Dyer Library
269 Main Road North
Hampden, Maine 04444
Our Friends are now looking into doing a retail used book store versus an annual book sale. I don't know where they will end up but it is an interesting idea! We also sell Friends memberships ($10, $20 and $30 - gold, silver, platinum) that brings in additional funds. Other than that, all they sell are book bags. I hope that helps.
Curtis Memorial Library
Our Friends group, which sadly is no more, used to have good success with bake sales. Also, they would sell things at the local festivals. Even bottled water sold on a hot day at a festival in town could make some pretty good money. Our board of directors' fundraising committee has been having an annual spaghetti supper for about 20 years, and this does quite well, too, especially since a local Italian family makes the sauce for it.
Hi Charlene, If they wanted to squeeze more from surplus books, I'd suggest looking into selling on Amazon. I made $4500 for Hartland P.L. last year. It's a fairly easy process and if they're interested, I'd be happy to come and give a demonstration. Jeanne Benedict in Steuben also sells this way and is happy with the revenue stream.
Our Friends group has done a Poker Night, a Spaghetti Supper, ebay sales of donated stuff, a penny drive, a garden tour and concerts. I would say the concert (Slaid Cleaves who grew up in South Berwick) and the ebay bring in the most money for the least work. We had a Balcony Fundraiser to get money to redo an area of the library and that involved a small auction, music and readings for a high ticket price and made lots of money.
South Berwick Public Library
Our "Friends" group simply charges dues and has a few items perpetually on sale at the front desk (woodcuts of the original library building, local history books).
Brewer Public Library
We abandoned our yearly book sale a few years ago and instead sell books on an ongoing basis. $1 for hardcover and $.25 for paperbacks. We find that it brings in as much if not more than an annual sale. And it's much easier to mange. I have noticed that a lot of libraries are selling books, usually for a little higher cost, as I have bought quite a few books from different libraries.
Our biggest fundraisers are pie sales on Saturday mornings. We have 3 - one in June, July and August to take advantage of summer visitors and being next door to the Liberty Tool Co. Pies are donated by Friends and volunteers. Sell each for $15. Okay, if a pie hasn't sold by noon, we might lower the price to $10. We usually have around 30-35 pies and sometimes sell out by 11:00. Each pie sale generates about $500. (Some people just give a $20 and say "keep the change.") Personally, I hate baking pies but people seem to love them. Advertising is key to their success.
Last summer, we tried for the first time a Pick-A-Prize Raffle in August. (Otherwise known as Chinese Auction, but we thought the other name was more politically correct.) We bought these auction tickets, which will last for several years:
Sold each sheet of 25 tickets for $10. Again on a Saturday (same time as our August Pie Sale), we set up tables with white paper lunch bags with items written on them (we put a rock in each bag so they wouldn't blow away because we were outside.) As people bought a ticket, I recorded on a log sheet their name and phone number beside the ticket number they purchased. We solicited craft items, gift certificates from stores, new books, garden produce, lobsters, etc. About 50 prizes in all. People could put their tickets in the bag for the item they wanted to win. They could put all 25 tickets in one bag or put one in 25 different bags. So they were guaranteed to win something they wanted. That evening after a storytelling program, we drew names. People did not need to be present to win, except for the Door Prize, which was a pie! Although many people did attend to see if they won anything. As the name was drawn I stapled the winning ticket to the bag so that I would know who had the winning number. I called the winners and told them they had 1 week to come pick up their prize or a new number would be drawn. Some people won multiple prizes. Make sure you have prizes for children as well as adults. Start soliciting prizes early and get plenty of help in soliciting. It is amazing what some people come up with or who their connections are. Make copies of a letter for solicitors telling about your organization and for what you are asking for money and have a line for solicitors to fill in an amount. This serves as a receipt for business owners for tax purposes and legitimizes the raffle as not being a fraud. Overall, it was a fun time and people love to win things! Other than the sheets of tickets, it did not cost the library anything. We thought about doing multiple days but the setting up and taking down was prohibitive.
When I worked at the Newburyport (MA) Public Library, they did a "Books in Bloom" event. It was cohosted by the Friends and the Newburyport Horticultural Society, so it brought minimal money in. However, if the Friends didn't partner, I think it would have brought in a good amount of money.
I can give you more info, but here are some links. I LOVED the event. It was a blast!
Hm. The Friends web page doesn't have much info, but it does have their contact info: http://www.newburyportpl.org/get_involved/friends_of_the_library
Here's what Books in Bloom is, as best as I can describe it:
Individuals (or groups: I did one with two other librarians) and flower shops/nurseries/etc. donate arrangements based on a book -- any book: children's, teen, adult, fiction, non-fiction, all genres. Some people who donate the arrangements allow them to be silent-auctioned off. Also, some people/organizations provide other items to be auctioned off: jewelry, new books, antique books, etc.
The Friends donate all of the food: casseroles, cookies, beverages, appetizers, etc. The one thing they DO purchase is alcohol. They turn the circ desk into a bar! And, of course, they pay for a bartender.
In addition, various musical groups donate their time and performances. Newburyport had an orchestral quartet in a back corner of the children's room, and a more traditional band (not loud or anything) on a second-floor balcony. Toward the end of the event, the President of the Friends and other Board executives announced who the winners of the silent auctions are (they stood on Newburyport's curving staircase, where everyone could see and hear).
The tickets are pricey. $40, I think. But what people are getting is essentially dinner, free drinks, 40 or 50 amazing arrangements to look at, auction items, great music, and more. It's definitely worth it. Newburyport has done it for three years now, and it gets bigger and bigger each year (and more money!). They gave arrangement donators free tickets, too.
As you can tell, it is an event that requires a LOT of work. But I will also say that it brings in a LOT of publicity, because it's different than any other event the library offers. It gets a lot of new faces in the door.
Let me know if I can help in any other way, and I'm sure the Newburyport Friends would love to talk to your Friends.
By the way, here is the arrangement my friends and I did. If you're not familiar with the book, it might not seem as awesome as it was. :)
Maine State Library
Emergent/Family Literacy and Children's Services Consultant firstname.lastname@example.org