11 Inventive Library Fundraising Ideas

You're used to being quiet in the library, but there's one area where it pays to get a little loud – library fundraising! Getting the funds you need to keep your library packed with great books and great programming can feel daunting. A little creativity goes a long way! In this article, we'll share 11 exciting ways to raise more for your library. Read on!

7 minutes read
11 Inventive Library Fundraising Ideas

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 beaten. To keep your community coming back for more, your library must keep up – with the latest books, clean spaces, up-to-date technology, and more. But how can you do that? With unique, committed, and persistent fundraising.

In this article, 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, and more. It is a vibrant, community-building hub that deserves to remain well-kept and thriving for years to come.

Here are 11 library fundraising ideas to help you raise the money you need for the betterment of your library.

1. Host an Annual or Ongoing Book Sale

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. Rather than selling books that are always in your library’s bookstore (see below), consider highlighting the sale of a popular or ‘special’ book series. For example, you could make your book sale a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings 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.

library fundraising ideas

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2. Host a Silent Auction

This tried and tru library fundraising idea will make a big dent in your fundraising goal. Either at your annual book sale or some other time throughout the year, host a silent 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 you’ll make good money for each auction item. 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 for your virtual auction if you plan to run it for more than one day.

3. Set Up a Donation Kiosk

Every day when people enter your library, they have the potential to become donors. But if they don’t have cash on hand, you need to have an easy way for them to give! Adding a donation kiosk to your library is a great way to collect more cashless donations without a lot of extra work from your staff.

The Donorbox Live™ Kiosk makes it easy to turn an app and card reader into a powerful donation kiosk. Collect donations from credit cards, smartphones, and smartwatches. Plus, donors can share their names and email addresses to receive automatic donation receipts – meaning you can stay in touch with them and steward that relationship.

Donation kiosks are also great to pair with other fundraising events and community activities.

An image showing the Donorbox Live Kiosk app on a tablet, along with the payment methods donors can use (including a smartwatch, smartphone, and credit card).

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4. Encourage Members to Fundraise for You

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. 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 friendly competition! Let supporters know that whoever raises the most money will receive a prize – 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.

5. Run a Year-End Fundraising Campaign

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. Plus, the end of the year is a donor’s last chance to give a tax-deductible gift in that tax year. 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.

Example: The Light and Leadership Initiative created a campaign 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.

school library fundraising ideas

6. Make Community Partnerships to Fund Your Programs

Don’t approach library fundraising alone! It’s likely 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 team and is dedicated to giving money to local nonprofits may be a great option for a prospective corporate partner. Reach out to local restaurants, coffee shops, or bookstores, 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.

7. Offer Naming Opportunities

Offering naming opportunities for major donors honors and builds 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, and more – there are endless options to offer your donors. You may also want to ask what sort of vision the donor 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.

8. Host a Wine Tasting Night

library fundraising campaigns

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.

9. Host a Board Game Tournament

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 popular word or trivia games like Bananagrams, Scrabble, Code Names, or Linkee will 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 to sell more tickets. 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!

10. Sell Popular Books on Amazon

How many times have you read a good book borrowed from your local library and wished you could keep it to read again and again? This library fundraising idea addresses that feeling – and brings in extra funds for your library.

To sell books on Amazon, your library must make an affiliate account. Once your books 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, and more on Amazon. Manage your pricing according to the condition of the books – offer discounted prices to gain attention – and you’re good to go!

11. Host an Arts Community Night

fundraising ideas for libraries

Local art, music, talent! 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.

Make sure to market this event with flyers, social media, email marketing, in-person conversations, and phone calls.


The next time your library is looking to raise money, look no further than this list of creative library fundraising ideas. 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. They 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 libraries around the world use for their fundraising. Check out all of Donorbox’s features and sign up today to begin fundraising in fifteen minutes!

We have some stellar tips and resources on fundraising and nonprofit management. Do check out the rest of our blog here.

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Raviraj heads the sales and marketing team at Donorbox. His growth-hacking abilities have helped Donorbox boost fundraising efforts for thousands of nonprofit organizations.

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