Tuesday, November 23, 2021

#NYLA2021: Fundraising Without Book Sales

Libraries: We're all in logo

This year, the New York Library Association held its annual conference in both virtual (Oct. 28-29) and in-person (Nov. 3-6) formats, as well as having on-demand content. Below are notes from one of the on-demand sessions.


Friends groups are always searching for new ideas that go beyond the book sale. Come discover how our panelists are using new and trusted out-of-the-box thinking and creative ideas to redefine fundraising.


  • Emily Cullings, Friends of the Hampton Bays Library
  • Mary Giardini, Friends of the Olean Public Library
  • Helen Rados,  Friends of the Ethelbert B. Crawford Public Library
  • Kerstin Cruger,  Friends of Libraries Section (moderator)



Helen Rados 

  • Pave the Way
  • LilyDale Trip
  • Holiday Cookie Bake Off
  • Chair Auction 
  • Commemorative Journals
  • Taste of Sullivan County
    • Gift cards donations from over 30 restaurants. 
    • Make specific requests (e.g., $25 gift certificate). 
    • Restaurants were given a decal marking them as a participant. 
    • Gift cards were bundled to make four unique prizes worth $500, $200, and $100 (x2). 
    • Friends members and local businesses sold tickets (1 for $5.00 or 6 for $20.00).
    • Told restaurants what was in it for them. They were seen as "proud contributors."
      • When approaching the restaurants, they talked with the owner or manager.
    • One of the benefits was raising library awareness.
    • Tried to keep costs low by having local businesses donate printing, etc. or provide those services at a low cost. 
    • Prize totals, etc., all depend on how many donations are obtained.
    • They do this every other year.
    • Do check with NYS Gaming Commission on raffles as well as local laws/guidelines.  Make sure you are compliant.

Mary Giardini

  • "Our Library Can Read Between the Wines"
  • Got the idea from Cuba, NY. 
  • Olean Friends only had been doing author receptions.
  • Did both a wine tasting and a beer tasting, six months apart.
  • The wine tasting was 7:00-9:00 p.m. on a Friday night in the library. Having it in the library allowed them to show of recent library reservations.
  • Tickets were $20/each or $35 for two, purchased in advanced.
  • Had wine tasting and an educational talk from a sommelier. Sommelier did two talks in the gallery room.
  • Also had a basket raffle. (25 baskets)
  • Had light appetizers (donated by the friends) and non-alcoholic options.
  • Did constant communications with her committee members.
  • Contacted all of the wineries within 1-2 hours drive by letter and received zero responses. A friend - former bartender - drove to wineries and asked in person, and he was able to get wine donations.
  • Created pouring stations using tables already in the library. Decorated the tables with existing materials and with rented materials. Rented wine glasses.
  • Had about 100 guests.
  • At the end, gave thanks, made announcements, and ensured people were able to get home (e.g., Uber, Lyft).
  • For this event, needed approval from the Board of Trustees and the library's insurer.
  • Workers need TIP training, which is good for three years. ($40 per person)
  • They hired a professional security guard.
  • Had to get a liquor license.
  • Considered different music options.
  • Used social media and other options for advertising.
  • Their first event brought in over $3000 in total.  It also brought people into the library, who had not done so in a long time.
  • They learned from their events and made changes over time.

Emily Cullings

  • They decided to do a calendar fundraiser, which was an idea they got from other library.
  • Wanted to do a 2021 calendar, but produce it in summer 2020 so it could be sold to tourists.
  • They reached out to photographers on Facebook and received a good response.
  • However...then the pandemic happened. They decided to highlight local businesses and first responders in the photos.
  • They went to every store and restaurant. A business photo could be in the calendar for $25. (This covered their cost.)
    • They also asked that businesses wanted to buy calendars to sell in their businesses, but that didn't work.
    • The businesses that said "yes" were indeed very local businesses. The friends made better connections with these businesses.
  • The calendar also had a page about the library and a page about the friends group. 
    • There were also a couple pages dedicated to highlighting local first responders. This helped them build relationships with them.
    • There was a page decided to the local schools.
    • They stapled their membership form in the middle of the calendar. It did yield a few new members.
  • The created the calendar online and used an online printing service, which was cost effective. Someone in the friends, who was tech savvy, was able to help with the production.
  • They bought 500 calendars. Sold about 200 at $10/piece.
  • For 2021-2022 they are doing different photography (more scenic). Business donors gave $100 each to sponsor a page, as well as sponsors on the back page.  These sponsors covered the cost of production.
    • 16 month calendar.
    • Giving partial proceeds to the photographer, which had previously been in a life altering accident.
    • Calendars will be sold in a variety of different ways, including at local grocery stores.
    • $12/each.
  • Calendars are a lot of work, but she says the work is worth it, because they built new connections in their community as well as raising funds.


How do you define a successful funding raising program? 

  • How much money raised
  • Visibility of the library and friends increased
  • New friends members - active members
  • Get new people on their mailing list
  • Making community connections

Advice to other friends groups?

  • Get out there so the friends group is not a secret anymore.
  • Allow the friends to brainstorm ideas without immediately dismissing ideas.
  • Get all of the friends involved in the ideas.
  • Don't expect that the event will go as envisioned. Be adaptable. 
  • Don't try to control everything. 
  • Leave your ego out of it. 
  • Delegate and coordinate.
  • Give people tasks within their range of abilities.

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