Libraries, like many public institutions, are generally lacking important funding today. Because of this, library fundraising has become an important source of funding for almost any public library. In fact, many public libraries today have advocacy and fundraising committees called Friends of the Library groups organized to do just that. Public and private school libraries too may need to host library fundraising campaigns.
If your library is in need of new materials or computers, chances are you may need to consider raising the required funds from the community. School libraries can also use fundraising ideas to help fund their needs and keep them relevant. As with other non-profit and community organizations, you may need to develop or grow a diverse fundraising strategy. If you are looking for great library fundraising ideas, the information below is a great place to start.
Our #1 Library Fundraising Idea: Peer to Peer Reading Fundraisers and Challenges
A fun library fundraising event that also ties into the mission of a library is a Reading Challenge. Members of the community sign-up on your crowdfunding website to participate in the readathon fundraiser and raise money. They then send out a link via email and social media and ask relatives, friends, and neighbors to make a pledge or donation to help a certain cause -i.e. purchase new children’s books or upgrade computers. Donation or pledge amounts can be calculated either by the number of books read in a specified period (i.e. 30 days), or contributors can also choose to donate a fixed amount.
The best way to obtain a lot of donations easily and quickly is through our crowdfunding software. Participants create personal fundraising pages where they upload photos, explain their mission, and have people make secure donations online.
7 More Great Library Fundraising Ideas
If a readathon is not what you had in mind, we have more great library fundraising ideas below.
Young Reader Literacy Events
Another variation of a reading fundraiser that can be used for library fundraising are events for young children and babies. Sometimes called ‘Born to Read’ events, these programs reach out to parents of young children to promote literacy and a love of books at an early age. Sessions are held in the library to show parents and caregivers how much fun reading can be and encourage them to read to their children. The program can be funded through donations, sponsorships, or small admission fees for the sessions. Libraries can reach out to publishers to ask for donations of new children’s books that a publisher is trying to promote. This book can be given to each attendee as a small gift, which basically covers their admission fee.
For more ideas on fundraising for libraries, see our article on Friends of The Library.
Write-a-thon Fundraisers for Libraries
Libraries are no longer places just for finding great books, magazines, music, DVDs, and information online. They’ve become places to create as well. With this in mind, why not host a Write-a-thon as a library fundraiser? Participants can research, become inspired, meet other writers, and work on their projects all at the same time. Blazing Laptops, a successful write-a-thon event in San Diego, brings in teachers, poets, and even yoga instructors to help lead activities throughout the day. Write-a-thons are a great way to highlight the library and build community while raising money.
Library Book Sale and Community Events
Since a library is already a local hub for many people to gather and spend time, hosting a community book sale is an excellent library fundraising idea. Consider an event that strengthens the mission of the library, but why not go beyond just selling books? What else do libraries offer? Information and technology. So why not consider adding a twist to the typical book sale by getting the library systems team and tech-savvy librarians to donate their time by answering questions and servicing home computers? People are often in need of technical support for their home computer, but don’t have an IT person down the hall, like they do in the office.
The actual book sale part of the event should be relatively easy. A few months prior to the event, collect book donations. Recruit volunteers to help organize the book displays the day of the event, and sell books for a low price. You may also want to consider making the event even more appealing by adding refreshments, entertainment, and even a fundraising raffle. Reach out to a local artist or band to see if they would be interested in performing during the event or bring in an author of a newly released best-selling novel (or one with local ties) to attend the event for a book signing. Reach out to local restaurants to see if they would be interested in attending the event and offering free sampling or food and beverage sales.
There are plenty of other community events to consider, so feel free to explore our unique fundraising events for more ideas.
Silent Auction With Entertainment and Refreshments
Another great idea for a library fundraiser is a charitable auction. Since many community members frequently visit a library, an auction table could be on display for a week preceding the silent auction event giving people a chance to browse the auction items and tell their friends. Bid sheets are placed next to each item along with item descriptions and starting bid amounts. Auction flyers can also be available with a link to the auction website where more information can be obtained about auctions items, and bids can be placed online. Once the bidding has ended, auction items can be auctioned off either during a community event hosted at the library or online.
A silent auction has the potential to bring in a large number of funds. There are little costs associated with hosting a silent auction. Typically most items are donated from community members and businesses. Often large ticket items are donated which could potentially bring in high bids. If you cannot get a high-value item, you may want to consider purchasing a one of a kind vacation package. If the charity auction is planned in conjunction with another event such as a wine tasting or gala dinner, additional revenue can be made through selling tickets.
Wine Tasting Events
Wine tasting events are very popular social and Valentine’s Day Fundraising events. After all, most people love tasting wines! This makes finding participants for the event pretty easy. If event promotion is done well, you are very likely to attract people outside of your Library’s usual donor base, purely on the popularity and appeal of wine tasting events.
Your committee will need at least one wine connoisseur to be your wine expert and assist with bringing in others in the wine industry. Ideally, the wine connoisseur is also connected to wine merchants, vineyards, sommeliers, restaurants, or wine bars in your area. Read more on how to organize a wine tasting fundraiser for your library.
End of Year Appeals
The last month of the year is vital to most organizations’ fundraising efforts for the year. Kicked off by #GivingTuesday and going through December 31, the year-end giving season simply cannot be ignored. These annual fund drives offer a low impact idea for library fundraising. Year-end giving is popular for several reasons including:
- Charitable Christmas or holiday gifts can be made in tribute to or in the name of a loved one
- The need is made wonderfully apparent by organizations during this time of year
- As a unique holiday gift – who needs another sweater?
- Tax purposes (last chance for a tax deduction, anyone?)
If you haven’t done so already, create and send year-end fundraising letters (or Year-End Appeal) to your entire patron and supporter list. Come up with a tribute idea that will allow supporters to make donations in the name of a loved one in lieu of Christmas and holiday gifts.
Walkathons and Fun Runs for the Library
Walk-a-thons and Fun Runs work well for almost any type of non-profit or school fundraiser, and libraries are no exception. As parents and educators, we are interested in teaching children about how physical activity and a healthy lifestyle can contribute to overall self-esteem, productivity, and enjoyment of life. In our society today there is a tendency for children to make unhealthy choices… eating fast-food, playing video games, and not getting enough exercise. For that reason, we encourage educators and parents to continue to look for opportunities that send the message of the importance of building an overall healthy lifestyle. Hosting a Walk-a-thon or Fun Run as a library fundraising idea does just that! Read more information about how to organize a walk-a-thon here.