Ah, the local library. The comforting feeling of a good book, peace, and everlasting quiet that a library affords its visitors is one that can’t be beat. In order to keep your members coming back for more, your library must keep up – with the latest books, clean spaces, up-to-date technology, and more. How to do so? Unique, committed, and persistent fundraising.
Below, we explore a wide variety of library fundraising ideas that actually work. Your library is an integral part of your local community, a place where people of all ages and backgrounds can go to get educated, get lost in beautiful stories, get work done, get a bite, and more. It is a vibrant, community-building hub that deserves to remain well-kept and thriving for years to come.
Here are the 11 library fundraising ideas to help you raise the money you need for the betterment of your library.
Annual and ongoing book sales are one of the most popular – and fruitful – types of fundraisers for libraries. Annual book sales can be a one-time event, perhaps with a theme, that your library invites all of its members to attend. Rather than selling books that are always in your library’s book store (see below), consider highlighting the sale of a really popular or ‘special’ book series. For example, you could make your book sale a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings themed night at which every book in these series is sold for a discounted rate as compared to other retailers.
Many libraries also have ongoing book sales via a bookstore inside the library. Oftentimes these books have been donated, and can thus be sold for any price to make a profit. Consider selling your books anywhere between $5 and $15. These prices are cheap and will entice people to want to shop at your store more often.
Example: Lake Agassiz Regional Library has organized a special book sale to help the library with funds by selling discounted copies of Terry Shoptaugh’s book ‘Sons of the Wild Jackass: The Nonpartisan League in North Dakota’. Their campaign page is simple and the donation form lets people select how many copies they need and from which local library they’d want to pick them up.
Either at your annual book sale or some other time throughout the year, host a silent fundraising auction. In this auction, include special, enticing prizes such as book gift baskets or book and reading ‘accompaniments’ – e.g., coffee or tea gift cards, cozy sweaters, reading pillows and lights, or bookstands. Your silent auction can be held at an in-person event, online, or both!
Set a minimum threshold for each auction prize to guarantee that you’ll make good money off of each. Make sure to do your best to solicit in-kind donations for your silent auction prizes, too, so you can make as much of a profit as possible. For example, rather than purchasing cute reading accompaniments, ask local shops and restaurants if they’d consider donating these items in exchange for a tax exemption.
Pro tip: Make sure to market the auction heavily on social media and via email marketing beforehand. Post ‘sneak peeks’ of auction items on your social media channels to build excitement and anticipation around these prizes. Make sure to set a clear start and end date to your virtual auction if you plan to run it for more than one day.
Peer-to-peer fundraisers are a great way to raise money because they help your library expand its reach and engage with supporters in a unique and motivating way. Almost ⅓ of all donations raised these days is via peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. People love to host their own fundraisers, to improve their status socially, and to raise money for causes they care the most about.
One way to incentivize people to give via peer-to-peer fundraising is by making it a competition! Who doesn’t love a friendly competition? Let supporters know that whoever raises the most money will receive some sort of awesome prizes – such as a book series of their choice, a large gift card to the restaurant or shop of their choice, or even a weekend trip somewhere.
Peer-to-peer fundraisers who are aware of this challenge can post about it on their social media channels, and get their friends excited about helping them win a cool prize.
In the fundraising world, year-end campaigns are often a HUGE boost for any annual fund. The holidays are the “season of giving”, making your constituents feel especially generous and warm inside. Building a year-end campaign that begins in October and lasts through December will be fruitful for your library.
Make the campaign unique, exciting, and incentivizing – consider utilizing a special campaign name and theme, and offer special donor incentives for donations during the campaign that a donor otherwise wouldn’t be able to receive in ordinary seasons.
Do you have a donor who would be willing to match all gifts up to a certain amount? Ask this donor and publicize this information constantly! Matched gifts campaigns are often the most revenue-driving and incentivizing of all. Use this campaign to show donors just how much their gifts have impacted your library throughout the year and what plans you have for the new year.
Example: The Light and Leadership Initiative created a campaign during the holiday season to raise funds for holiday gifts and books for kids within their community. Their suggestive amounts came with possible impact and the donation form was recurring. This enabled them to cross their fundraising goal with utmost ease.
Don’t approach fundraising for your library alone! The likelihood is that there are multiple corporations and other nonprofits who’d be interested in partnering to raise money with you, together.
For example, a local corporation that’s trying to make a name for itself has a Corporate Social Responsibility and is dedicated to giving money to local nonprofits may be a great option for a prospective partner. Reach out to local restaurants, coffee shops, or book stores, and ask if a small portion of sales for a day or set of days can be donated back to your library – in exchange for features and recognition on your social media platforms, or naming rights.
Pro tip: Host a tabling event where you allow mission-driven corporations (e.g. reading programs or literacy programs for kids, etc.) to set up in your space and talk to attendees who’re interested in learning more about their respective services. This type of event will get you more visibility on the corporation’s website and own social media, and will incentivize the corporations who come to give to your cause as well (as a thank you for letting them use your precious space).
Example: The Degood Foundation has partnered with various funders and community partners to create the Imagination Library program through which they give away books from kids aged 0 to 5 for free. This online campaign was set up to seek donations from the community to keep this initiative going. As you can see they have added suggested amounts and recurring intervals so that donors can choose to give monthly and annually.
Naming opportunities for major donors are a perfect way to honor and build ongoing relationships with them. Donors love to feel recognized and an integral part of the work they contribute to – what better way to make them feel this way than by allowing them to name some piece of your library?!
Buildings, library wings, computer rooms and stations, floors, kids’ reading areas, study rooms, benches, cafes, and more – there is an endless number of options to offer your donors. You may also want to ask what sort of vision the donor themself has for your library, such as an additional wing or floor, and consider making that vision happen. There’s no greater, lasting legacy than having your name engraved into one of your library’s landmarks.
Who doesn’t love a great wine tasting?! Donors from around your local area are sure to feel enticed by something as fun and freeing as a library wine night. Allow donors and library members to invite friends – the more the merrier, and the more potential donors your library is exposed to!
Consider partnering with local or new wine vendors around your city or town to further encourage members to participate. People love being the first to try the next best drink or restaurant, so if you are able to score a solid partnership, make sure everyone knows about it.
Pro tip: Have books that are both for sale and for rent at this event. Sell books and make more money for your library; rent out books and increase your number of new and returning members! It’s a win-win-win situation.
If your donors love to read, we think there’s a great chance they’d love to play board games, as well! Pay-to-play tournaments for a popular word or Trivia games like Bananagrams, Scrabble, Code Names, or Linkee are sure to get your donors invested.
Make sure to sell tickets to the tournament and offer great prizes for winners; you can also approach schools and colleges for selling more tickets. The prizes can be donated by local affiliates (e.g. gift cards to restaurants, tech stores, or bookstores). Have light music playing (our board gamers need to focus!), snacks, and beverages available for those who attend.
If hosting tournaments for multiple games on one night is too much, consider hosting one game night tournament per quarter (or bi-monthly – whatever is best for your schedule of events) featuring a different game each time. Boardgame lovers both young and old will LOVE this idea!
How many times have you read a good book borrowed from your local library and thought, “Wow – I really wish I owned this so that I could read it again and again!”? By selling some of your library’s books on Amazon, your library can respond to this desire in donors and make extra money that will continue to further your library’s mission.
To sell books on Amazon, your library must make an affiliate account. Once your books are posted and begin to sell, you’ll make up to a 6% commission on every book purchased. It’s very easy to sell used books, textbooks, old books without an ISBN, etc. on Amazon. Manage your pricing according to the condition of the books – offer discounted prices for gaining attention – and you’re good to go!
Everyone uses Amazon, so this should be an easy sell to your library’s most passionate members!
You know that list of needs or even wants you have for your library? The one that sits on the back burner because you have so many other priorities to address first? Stop hiding it!
Members love to feel part of their local libraries in some way, so letting your members and donors know about this list might bring your vision to life!
Perhaps you’d like more antique children’s books so that kids can read the same books their grandparents did. Maybe your computers are good enough, but you’d like to provide your library members with computers that are of much higher quality. Perhaps you’re looking for more vibrant artwork to spruce up your library floors! No need or want is ever too much when it comes to fundraising for a greater good – be confident, and make the ask.
You can make this a great marketing campaign for your library as well. Send out emails to members, post on social media, and if possible, even print on local media about the wishlist (coupled with attractive images/videos). Raise the curiosity of people around the wishlist and then, tell them how they can make this possible through donations.
Local art, music, talent! Who doesn’t love to support their local environment while having a wonderful time? With an arts community night, your library can do a myriad of things to support your mission – from raising money to securing local partnerships, growing a social media presence, and enticing event visitors to come back.
Consider all areas of the arts when planning for and crafting this event. Ask local artists of every art form to attend the event, show off and sell their work. Bring in a few local musicians to play throughout the evening. Allow them to sell their own memorabilia. Sell tickets to this art night that will directly raise money for your library.
The next time your library is looking to raise money, look no further than this guide to inspire some creative and critical fundraising strategies. The best part about raising money for your library? It’s so much fun!
Libraries are a hub of some of the most passionate employees, volunteers, and visitors – those who care about stories and art in the deepest way. Take advantage of this spirit and joy, and take your fundraising to the next level.
Donorbox is a powerful fundraising tool that loads of libraries use for their fundraising around the world. You’ve seen some of the examples! If you want to know more about the tool, please visit the website. We have some stellar tips and resources on fundraising and nonprofit management. Do check out the rest of our blog here.