Unique fundraiser?
September 19, 2006 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Help me come up with fundraising ideas for my local chapter of Literacy Action.

I've read the past posts for fundraising ideas, but this has to be specific to the organization. They are looking for an annual trademark fundraiser, and are coming up blank.

Here's some backstory:

Last spring, I was looking to volunteer somewhere. As I work in the local library, the logical conclusion was to volunteer for Literacy Action, an organization that teaches people to read and speak English, located in my library. They decided my boyfriend and I could be used to help them organize the fundraiser they had planned. The fundraiser--pre-selling tickets to a local play centered on literacy--was a horrible, horrible failure. I think they may not have even broke even.

The organization has very little money, very little clout to their name, and very little resources. They only have the funding to pay two employees, so volunteers are relied upon for everything else.

Aside from small amounts of grants and other such funding, the only source of income they seem to have is their participation in the annual Literacy Festival. However, this event is sponsored by many organizations, including the larger Arkansas Literacy Council, and features authors, books, companies, etc., so the local chapter of Literacy Action is somewhat overlooked as far as being responsible for the event. They are looking for something bigger; they want to get their name out there. As I mentioned earlier, something unique would be wonderful, as well as something they can repeat annually or even semi-annually.

I have been asked to brainstorm, but, honestly, I can't come up with anything, either. All of my ideas seem to be too small [bake sale], too inappropriate for Literacy Action [bachelor/ette auction], or just too overdone [carnival].

I would also appreciate the names of books that have personally helped you with ideas like this. I [obviously] have access to fundraising books, but wouldn't even know where to start as this is so far out of my area. Links to good websites are also wonderful.

I would also like to mention that the library itself holds used book sales every quarter, so this would be totally out of the question.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give.
posted by starbaby to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here in Pittsburgh there is a monthly reading series and an annual Banned Books reading. They both feature local celebs reading short pieces in interesting locations.

I'm not sure if those will raise enough funds, but I thought I'd make the suggestion.
posted by booth at 3:15 PM on September 19, 2006

I recently ordered a book through Amazon.com that came from a public library in Oregon. Turned out they were selling donated books through Amazon.com! This may be too similar to your used book idea, but maybe it could be done in partnership with the library?

An organization I've worked with in the past have done silent auctions of goods/services donated by local businesses. Please research the best way to do this if you decide to try it; one way it can go wrong is to not set good starting bid prices. But it does get you into contact with businesses.


Sorry I don't know more. Good luck.
posted by amtho at 3:16 PM on September 19, 2006

Contact the local Big Chain Bookstore (BCB) in your area and see if you guys can do gift wrapping for them during the holidays. I work at a BCB, and the local chapter of the Literacy Volunteers of America wraps for us from Black Friday through Christmas Eve. We provide the paper and tape, they provide the volunteers to wrap. Suggested donation is $1 per thing wrapped. It works well for everyone involved - we don't have to wrap at a busy time, they raise money, and customers don't have to wrap. Since it's a literacy charity, a bookstore is a natural fit. They also display brochures about their work, and little book oriented pins for sale.
posted by booksherpa at 3:20 PM on September 19, 2006

Bake sales. This would work especially well at the holidays. People bake stuff and then your patrons buy it. You can either do it by the piece or by the pound. The volunteers who bake normally don't mind spending a couple of hours and a couple of dollars making something. And people will buy it! Most people can't resist a small treat.
Along the same lines - caramel apples, popcorn balls, caramel corn. All inexpensive to make and good sellers.
A read a thon? They do these in schools all the time. You get people to pledge that they will give you a dime or whatever per page you read during a set period of time.
I recently went to a fundraiser which was awesome! It was a tasting event where about 20 local restaurants donated their food. In exchange for their donation they got to publicize their restaurant, hand out menus, drum up catering business, etc. I paid $20 and got to walk around for 3 hours and sample each restaurant's food. There was entertainment including a belly dancer group, singer/songwriters and a silent auction. Wine tasting events are also very fun and profitable.
posted by FergieBelle at 3:25 PM on September 19, 2006

Last year, our library held a "Truck Petting Zoo." Local businesses simply parked their big rigs and construction equipment in the overflow lot and let kids climb all over them. Reps from the companies were there to answer questions and make sure no one got hurt. It was very well attended and the kids just loved it. You could charge a nominal admission fee, then set up concession stands for extra $$$.

I have no idea how you tie this into literacy, but I'm sure a clever slogan could do the trick.
posted by jrossi4r at 3:37 PM on September 19, 2006

A book festival?
posted by divabat at 3:51 PM on September 19, 2006

Host a celebrity spelling bee and invite prominent local people who theoretically ought to know how to spell (senior government officials, radio/TV personalities, etc.) to participate. People will pay good money to watch the (in)famous appear illiterate.
posted by mykescipark at 5:07 PM on September 19, 2006

My wife participates in an art auction every year at our local library. They hold a silent auction, and the artists & library split the profits 50-50.
posted by lobstah at 6:47 PM on September 19, 2006

This seems to be my answer to ever MeFi question but you could raffle off a subcription to the Bacon of the Month Club

This has NOTHING to do w/ literacy or reading.
posted by lannanh at 7:48 PM on September 19, 2006

Your group needs to set some sort of goal ($$$) for your fundraiser(s). Are your trying to raise hundreds or thousands of dollars? A realistic goal will help narrow down your fundraising options. My own (limited) experience was with my daughter's daycare center. We were raising money for (a) extra kids' activities (science demos, music, dance, etc) and (b) tuition assistance for needy families at the center. We decided to hold and annual yard sale: each of the past two years it has netted about $1000.
posted by yqxnflld at 8:29 PM on September 19, 2006

Far left field here.

You're a library - there's probably someone with connections to elementary schools and elementary school teachers. See if you can't arrange an elementary school fieldtrip (grade 3, grade 4?) to meet with convicted felons.

Have the students read with/to the felons.

This'd probably require a lot of background work of contacting the warden and hand-picking inmates based on illiteracy and non-violence/cooperativeness.

Closer to sane:

My credit union has this table in their lobby stacked with used books (donated? bought cheap?) and a slotted box. You wanted a box, you throw in some money. There was a sign saying it was benefitting some (specific) charity. Not a lot of income, but not a lot of expenditure, either.

I guess the problem is that literacy isn't as big of a problem as it once was - right? The vast majority of adult N. Americans are functionally literate already (excluding a subset of recent immigrants).

The reason I went with the prisoner thing is that illiterate people are disproportionally represented in the prisoner population.

It might help, too, if you define the goals that Literacy Action wants to meet. Which population has a high percentage of illiteracy? Is there something that creates this group of people? Is there a way to overcome that reason?

Presenting these ideas/facts to people could spur them to contribute to Literacy Action.

In elementary school (Canada), we had 'pledges' for lots of various funds. Con students into going door-to-door asking for pledges. ie., <student>Hi, I'm pledging for the school to afford a kickball. Would you like to give a certain amount of money for every slide tackle I make in this year's school meets?<some homeowner>Sure little girl. Put me down for $0.01 for every tackle that you make.

Kids (today) have money and little kids are useful tools in prying money out of the upper-middle class.
posted by porpoise at 9:57 PM on September 19, 2006

Auction off celebrity bedtime stories. The winner gets a phone call from the local news anchor/ball player/mayor/etc reading "The Cat in the Hat" or whatever.
posted by judith at 10:43 PM on September 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Second the gift wrapping. And a bit more, ask any local booksellers if they would be willing to ask patrons to donate to literacy when the store giftwraps their book. The benefit to a store that does free giftwrap is that asking for a donation discourages customers who ask to have things wrapped even when the item is quite inexpensive, or they have a stack of books wrapped, or they return in 1/2 an hours and return the giftwrapped book. It's also a good thing to do and booksellers are pretty warm-hearted.
posted by theora55 at 7:05 AM on September 20, 2006

I suggest investigating the resources at local colleges. Many colleges have a community service office of some kind which could get you volunteers and/or give you some ideas for fund-raisers, and most fraternities and sororities do at least one service project per semester. Sometimes they are actually looking for a cause to sponsor; why not yours?
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 7:25 AM on September 20, 2006

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