Fundraising isn’t everyone’s favorite activity, but it is necessary to advance your library’s mission. Fundraising makes it possible for us to offer community programming, expand locations, and of course have a great selection of books available for library goers. If your library has been fundraising for a while or is looking to grow your fundraising program, today I want to share fundraising ideas for libraries – and also help you to create a fundraising plan.
Creating a fundraising plan for your library is actually the best fundraising advice I can give you because it will help you get organized, get strategic, and take consistent action. In this post, I will outline exactly how to create a fundraising plan and fundraising ideas for libraries that will help your organization get the funding it needs.
GO BEYOND THE BOOK SALE ESTABLISH RELATIONSHIP
YOUR LIBRARY NEEDS MORE THAN BOOK SALES, BAKE SALES, AND COMMUNITY FUNDRAISING EVENTS
There is a broad spectrum of fundraising maturity and sophistication. While I don’t think there is one “ideal” type of fundraising program for every non-profit, I can tell you that your library needs more than book sales, bake sales, and community fundraising events. Before we discuss fundraising ideas for libraries, let’s talk about why these types of fundraisers are counter-productive.
These types of fundraising activities will hold back your fundraising in two ways. First, they are transactional. Buying a book or a baked good is not the same as philanthropy. People are giving their money in exchange for a physical item. The transactional nature of this does not encourage people to think about the fact that the way they are spending their money is actually supporting a good cause.
Second, transactions do not engender relationship building. The foundation of great fundraising is relationships. It is because of the relationships we cultivate that we are able to build a donor base and successfully fund our work. This is a non-negotiable for a thriving fundraising program.
Your Action Item: Reflect on your current fundraising activities. Are they helping your library build relationships? What could you do to improve relationship building? You can create live fundraising events or establish a multi-channel fundraising.
Some important channels to consider for your campaign:
Social Media Pages (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
Printed Direct Mail
Phone calls and Text Messages
For further reading on this topic, recommend you to read this article I wrote on How to Run a Successful Fundraising Campaign.
IDENTIFY YOUR FUNDING NEEDS:
One of the insider secrets to fundraising is being able to clearly articulate your organization’s needs to donors. Far too often I see non-profits get caught in what I call the “vague ask” trap. For instance, “Donate today to make a difference,” or “Donate to our organization to support the community.” You know what I’m talking about.
If you want to improve your library’s fundraising, your first task is to identify your funding needs. Here are a few questions to help you brainstorm your funding needs.
What special projects would you like to fund? How much will they cost?
How much money do you need annually for operations?
How much money would it take to expand your library’s services?
When you think about your library’s 5 or 10 year vision, how much money will you need to make it happen?
You Action Item: Set aside 30 minutes on your calendar for a funding needs brainstorm.
This is an interesting article from Charity Choice about Brainstorming for developing fundraising ideas.
IDENTIFY YOUR CURRENT AND POTENTIAL DONORS
It might seem like this step – identifying your potential donors – is a bit premature but identifying this group now will actually help you make much more strategic decisions later in this process.
In an ideal world your library is trying to widen its net of donors. Widening that net means you need to find more donors who “look like” your current donors. In other words, you need to consider the demographics and psychographics (values, beliefs, etc.) that your donors have in common. Knowing this information means that you’ll have a greater chance of resonating with the people who are most likely to donate to your library.
If you’re not sure where to start with this, start with the people who currently donate to your library. Get to know them and understand what motivates them to support your library.
Your Action Item: Create an audience profile to succinctly describe your current and potential donors.I invite you to read this article I wrote about Why does knowing your audience is the most important knowledge asset. A great example of knowing your target audience can be seen in this video made by Rainforest Alliance for the “Follow-the-frog campaign”. I also give further insight about this video in the article just mentioned.
CREATE A CASE FOR SUPPORT
We’re laying the groundwork to build your library’s fundraising program by identifying your funding needs and donor audience. Following our library fundraising advice, your next step is to think about how you’ll pitch donating to current and potential donors by creating your case for support.
A case for support is a document that communicates to donors why making a donation matters and what impact it will have. This document could just be used internally and maybe you’ll take language from it for appeal letters and grant applications. Some organizations will also use a case for support as an external facing document.
Your Action Item: Write an elevator pitch version of your case for support.
I invite you to read the highlights and takeaways I took from one session of The Storytelling Non-Profit Virtual Conference, which was presented by Joe Garecht of The Fundraising Authority. Joe gave us a master session on How to use Storytelling in your case for support.
DEVELOP FUNDRAISING STRATEGIES FOR YOUR LIBRARY TO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Let’s talk about the mechanisms that make the fundraising magic happen – strategies that build relationships.
Every fundraising plan needs the high-level strategies your organization will use to raise money. To clarify, this is different from tactics and it’s important to differentiate. Strategies are the “what” and tactics are the “how.”
For instance, a strategy could be direct response fundraising and the tactics might include direct mail or email. Or, a strategy could be partnering values-aligned local businesses and the tactics might include sponsorship.
When it comes to picking strategies, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Your current and potential donors’ preferences for giving and engaging with your library
Your library’s resources and capacity
Your strengths as a fundraiser
Your Action Item: Map out the fundraising strategies your library will use.
Another great fundraising advice I can give you is to develop a stellar Communication Plan that builds donor loyalty. By doing this, you also build and grow the relationship with your contributors.
I would also recommend you to read this Ultimate Guide on creating a strategic fundraising plan for non-profits elaborated by the Donorbox blog.
CREATE YOUR LIBRARY’S TACTICAL FUNDRAISING PLAN
Once you’ve identified your fundraising strategies, you can move on to creating your tactical fundraising plan. Remember – this is how you’ll execute the strategies. In this step, it pays to be detailed. Ultimately, this part of your fundraising plan will serve as your roadmap over the course of the year.
Start by listing out each tactic you’ll use to raise money. After that, write out your step-by-step execution plan for each one. This becomes your work plan.
Your Action Item: List out your fundraising tactics and write out your step-by-step execution plan.
There are lots of fundraising ideas for libraries out there, but first you need a plan. You can show up at work each day, prioritize key tasks in your plan, and make progress. This is how you take your fundraising program to the next level with consistent action.
WHY THESE PIECES OF FUNDRAISING ADVICE WORK
A well thought out fundraising plan will have a better impact on results and reach out any goal that your library sets. Keep in mind these pieces of fundraising advice and take the following course of action:
Reflect on your current fundraising activities.
Set aside 30 minutes on your calendar for a funding needs brainstorm.
Create an audience profile to concisely describe your current and potential donors.
Write an elevator pitch version of your case for support.
Map out the fundraising strategies your library will use.
List out your fundraising tactics and write out your step-by-step execution plan.