Raising funds for a public library project?
September 26, 2011 7:22 PM   Subscribe

My public library is renovating and The Friends OTL would like to sponsor a special collection/reading room in the Childrens department. I've been asked to help with the fundraising during the pre-planning phase of this endeavor by gathering examples of and ideas for promotional materials—flyers, glossies, and whatnot to help get the word out that this charitable opportunity exists. I don't really know where to start, though... do you?

The specifics of this project are still not set, so I'm not really looking for detailed ways to promote our particular situation. (What I do know is, there's going to be a mural? And the special collection is pretty much already established...) We'd like cross-appeal between children (obvs.) and their very wealthy business owning parents (who are in no short supply around here), and the goal is more along the lines of a-few-to-several large donors moreso than tons of tiny donations. But again, the specifics of this fundraiser haven't totally gelled, and I'd just like to wrap my brain around some other examples of PLs that have had success raising money in the past, or gather general ideas of how to let the community know about the fundraiser and generate interest.

- How can I track town the specs on other, similar projects? Has your library or FoTL done something like this? I'd like examples of fliers, glossies, and other promotional materials used to get the word out on the street, so's I can shamelessly steal their design, er—I mean present them as inspiring examples to be followed.
- Aside from handouts and printed materials, what are the best, most creative, and most effective means by which we can let potential donors know about this opportunity in our community? (While keeping up-front costs as close to zero as possible, natch.)
- What other resources are available for planning this sort of thing? (I'm asking you, yes, but I'm also going over to the ref desk soon to ask there too. =)

I've got this great question on fire department fundraising to peruse, so that's a start. What else is out there?

Thanks for your help.
posted by saguaro to Work & Money (1 answer total)
In my very limited experience, cultivating large donors is a face-to-face business--you'd want to start by contacting charitable organizations personally once you have some firm goals and pricing estimates in place, and give presentations to those groups. If you just want to put feelers out, you'll want to make appointments with these groups/individuals for informational interviews where you can find out what their philanthropic interest are and what they might be willing to contribute.

Also, there is probably a foundation of some sort that connects donors to local projects. Contact them, and they will give you some guidance.

Local TV and radio (especially public radio) is a great way to get your message out. But again, this is something you'll need firmer plans before you can publicize. Have a specific call to action: We need paint, we need people who can paint, we need display cases, we need funds to purchase these special books. These are your big guns--save the broadcast connections for that.

A great way to involve parents is to involve their children--contact the community service groups at schools and churches and scout groups about doing bake sales for the library. Send them a brochure (see below) and a letter and ask them if they can help come up with fundraising ideas for their kids, if they need a project. A library isn't a very polarizing subject, so you should be able to cast your net pretty widely.

But at the end of the day, you need marketing collateral. I'd definitely invest in a glossy four-color trifold brochure detailing your plan that librarians could slip into each book as you check out, and have a stack near the door, sitting area, wherever people go.

Also, if your library has any history at all, this is the time to put up a display of those old photos (here is the old, one-room library on the corner of Elm and Sycamore in 1945, here is the addition we built in 1957, here is our first racially integrated reading area, here is our flag at half-mast after the Kennedy assasination, etc etc.) If any thing important happened there, did the mayor visit or a celebrity, or a famous author...all that stuff that ties your renovations in with all the other upgrades of the past. Solicit memories of the library from the people who used it, and post those rememberances around with the photos. It will give people a warm fuzzy feeling of being connected to the past and taking that mission into the future.

Finally, if you want to spend no money, get thee to Facebook. Get the library a Facebook page and start cultivating fans. You draw them to the page by offering daily schedules (today's children's corner book will be The Very Hungry Caterpillar, etc.) and solicit engagement by letting patrons vote on books for story hour, or if you're thinking about rescheduling some events, solicit their opinions. Once you've got your Facebook followers, start hinting that you are wanting to renovate the children's area. Get people excited. When you are ready to start soliciting donations, your audience will be primed.

I'm not sure I've exactly answered your question, but, in a nutshell: face-to-face meetings with the bigwigs. Fundraising service projects for the children of potentiall wealthy donors. Posters and flyers for patrons. Facebook for everyone else. Look at the Facebook page of any major nonprofit--you'll see what it looks like.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:12 PM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

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