Fundraising Stores for Libraries and Parks


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Basic outline of the fundraising pyramid and illustrations of successful campaigns in libraries and parks.

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  • My story: Grad of University of Michigan but I love PSU, husband on faculty, son and daughter graduated from here and daughter played field hockey.Worked in libraries since age 16, never expected to stay in them for 42 years. Involved in library fundraising for over 20 years including capital campaigns, endowment building, annual fund drives and special events and am a management consultant to other libraries. I want to share real life stories about “fundraising pyramid” activities, good and bad, I’ve been involved in over the years….
  • I also have parks and rec experience and have worked closely with the rec departments in Hershey and here as a fellow local government agency. This is the home of my parks and rec experience, LP MI, a largely blue collar suburb of Detroit, “downriver.” The bandshell is the home for summer concerts, senior center and the renowned holiday “Fantasyland” special event.
  • Fantasyland is so bad, it’s good. It is schmalzy, low-budget, homespun, run by volunteers and for 45 years has packed in thousands of visitors. It’s totally Geek! I love it, I miss it. $1.00 admission, $3-5 for digital photo. Run by Chamber but they pay Parks and Rec for electricity. The Chamber uses it to draw visitors to local restaurants and stores and attention to the Rec activities and facilities in LP. Although not a fundraiser per se, special events have a role in the fundraising cycle. This huge undertaking just about pays for itself and profits are reinvested. Volunteers include middle school students who get to be elves, it’s a rite of passage in the community and many outstanding leaders can credit Fantasyland as the official start to their public speaking and performance, God help us, although I never stooped to be an elf. This is an event that I call a “legacy event”. It thrives on pull of multi-generational tradition and support of the business community, hoping to bring tourists to restaurants and shops. Lucky you if your rec department has one of these. And where do special events come into the fundraising cycle?
  • As you can see in this example from the National Park Service, special events are NOT the first step or foundation of a good fundraising plan. And that’s important, because many nonprofits center, ERRONEOUSLY, on special events. Let me climb the pyramid with you and get back to events later. I have some examples for you of each pyramid sector. And although I am not going to address it today, the very bottom, QUALITY EXPERIENCE, plays a HUGE role in fundraising success. It is the front line staff at Schlow who raise money, not the board or me. Let me start by telling you about something on the bottom: donation boxes and memorial books.
  • ONSITE GIVING is on the bottom of the pyramid. We have onsite giving at Schlow in the form of three Big Belly banks. Initial investment of $200 for 4 banks. They ate $1200 in spare change 2012 and $848 this year. Children’s one brought in $615 in 2012. Novelty vs. “where’s the dino??”Memorial books=memorial trees. We have link in card catalog so you can look up name of person and what book has their bookplate.
  • Annual giving is a critical activity that many nonprofits still don’t do well, no excuse for it. We use a local company called Affinity Connections to help with our mail campaigns and take work off staff shoulders.
  • ANNUAL FUND DRIVE: $82,000 so far this year. We do mailing to 10-15,000 cardholders and previous donors. May returns were weak. It was probably due to changes in our fundraising calendar and the activities of the Friends of the Library. The fundraising calendar is still in flux. 2nd mailing in Oct. is doing better because we have had local media coverage of our budget woes due to decreases in state funding, and the media coverage has been CRITICAL and increases our returns.Success:--not linked to “fanciness” of letter – plainer, one-color ones seem to do better. --We tend to do plain ones when money is really tight. The tighter our money, and the more budget woes hit the media, the better we do. --We are lucky, we have a big mailing list of our cardholders, but a rec department should have lists of people who have registered for programs. You can also purchase mailing lists of communities segmented by those with children, etc. They cost less than you think. --Year-end mailings are among the most productive. They should now go out in Oct. according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Even if you do an earlier appeal, send out again before the holidays; not just goodwill but a tax reduction activity. --People hang onto the mailers for months, until they can afford to give. It’s convinced us that e-mail solicitations are good, but it’s also worth it to do mail.
  • An annual mail appeal is the single most important thing you can do!!!! Many libraries and rec depts. don’t do them. DO IT or have your Friends group do it. The donors who start with an annual fund donation are the people most likely to increase their gift and give you a big present down the line. The Pegulas gave initial, smaller gifts before they gave the funds for the Arena. Many Schlow donors give a little more each year. Even though you have an income stream from activity fees, I’m aware of no parks and rec dept. that has sufficient funds. If nothing else, you can build a case for low-income scholarships and capital needs in a campaign. When the time comes for you to add or upgrade acreage or facilities, the annual fund drive helps to get you there.
  • Donations to Schlow are tax deductable, but becauseSchlow is now a local government department of the Centre Region Council of Governments, we need an official 501c3 nonprofit to apply for certain grants. Therefore, we make good use of our Friends of the Library group, and so do many parks and rec agencies. The Friends at Schlow are a great group, but in my experience, Friends can be a mixed blessing. Among the things that can happen:--bad relationship with parks management: micro-managing, disagreements.--going public with bad relationship is a PR nightmare.--fluctuations in leadership. Many groups go through boom and bust cycles depending on age and energy of leaders. --many take on more than they can chew. Good groups:--have good nonprofit board and management practices; communicate and inline with management. --can also be advocates for better government funding.Schlow Friends have been the first place winner in the new online “Centre Gives” campaign run by the Centre Foundation. Over $half a million was raised in May in the 48 hour marathon. Get to know the people in your community foundation. Do you know what a community foundation is?
  • Centre Gives was successful for the Friends and messed up our fundraising calendar! It occurred just before the annual fund drive mailer went out – not good timing. Meanwhile, we have a donate button front and center on the library website to make it easy for people to give.
  • As you can see in this example from the National Park Service, special events are NOT the first step or foundation of a good fundraising plan. And that’s important, because many nonprofits center, ERRONEOUSLY, on special events. Let me climb the pyramid with you and get back to events later. I have some examples for you of each pyramid sector. And although I am not going to address it today, the very bottom, QUALITY EXPERIENCE, plays a HUGE role in fundraising success. It is the front line staff at Schlow who raise money, not the board or me. Let me start by telling you about something on the bottom: donation boxes and memorial books.
  • Polar Bear Plunge, Asbury Park, NJ, Jan. 1. Photos like this end up on the front page of local media across America every Jan. 2.
  • Nonprofits spend way too much time on special events. They raise a relatively small ratio of funds against the ENORMOUS manpower and costs to do them. I am on a small nonprofit board here in town and we have board fatigue from a crossword puzzle, spelling bee and annual dinner merry go round while I think we need to be out there cultivating fewer but larger gifts. Parks and Rec has an advantage in that many of your activities ARE popular events, hopefully, with built-in income streams. For example, art fairs, which get income from the artists renting booths; 5K runs, bike rides, etc. with entrance fees; bus trips, etc. Some of them CAN be fundraisers that turn into extra income for activities.
  • One example of a Rec-specific fundraiser was in Hershey, PAThe Jonathan Eshenour Memorial Trail is owned and maintained by the Township of Derry and was named in memory of Jonathan Eshenour, a young and vibrant member of our community who was fatally injured in a 1997 biking accident. The 22-mile trail travels through a majority of the township and provides access to parks, neighborhoods, and commercial establishments. The Jonathan Eshenour Foundation raised funds at the Bike It Hike It For Jon Event held each year in May. The proceeds from the event brought in $1.2 million over a 10 year period toward the expansion of the trail. At year 10, the event was drawing far less people – it faded over time – and the family decided to stop the event, but it did what it was intended to do – a memorial bike trail and a good cause that helped the family manage their grief. There is another Hershey memorial event called Tim and Ben Day, with a race, that continues today.
  • Polar Express….well, I did end up being an “elf” after all – Mrs. Santa. Special events don't raise a lot of immediate money, but do take a lot of people-power and time, it's crucial that fundraisers know what they want to accomplish:ADDITIONAL REVENUE: In-kind contributions such as donations of food, the venue, or entertainment. Why is this useful? In-kind contributions are easier to get from a business without a prior relationship. Might be a foot in the door to other contributions.Sponsorships are commonly used to increase the income from events. Sponsors pay for various benefits such as publicity through the event, an ad in the program or a company logo displayed prominently.Silent auctions, Ad books or programs.Way to provide fundraising experience to your volunteers, including your board members. Selling tickets to an event is less anxiety producing than making a personal call on a donor. ALSO:“Face time" with your supporters, new donors PublicityPartnerships
  • The top of the pyramid could take a whole class, of course. I have been involved in several capital campaigns. Hershey story of referendum…..
  • Also at the top of the pyramid is “planned giving.” I used to be so scared of this section because there are a thousand and one different ways for a donor to do planned giving. You have to be a full-time development specialist, tax accountant or attorney to know the options, like a “revocable estate trust” and so on. Well, you don’t need to know all that. 1. When someone calls and says they want to leave something in their estate – refer them to an attorney or banker who will assist them. Have one in your contact file that you know. Have a gift policy and sell off stocks, etc. Real estate – usually bad unless it is park-worthy. Usually the donor already has an attorney or banker and they want some basic info like your tax status, etc. Often the donor doesn’t let you know and the will is a complete and nice surprise. Reach out to attorneys and tax planners who will steer people your way. Ray Cameron – Hershey…. I need to do at Schlow, not there yet, strengthening the bottom.
  • Donald Reed donation, HummelstownChristina Pootjes Estate, $57,000The Kenneth J. Good Environmental Enhancement Fund at the Lincoln NE Community Foundation will fund the initial infrastructure costs to create memorial tree groves across Lincoln. The public will be able to purchase trees as memorials to loved ones. The initial two tree legacy groves will be built at Mahoney Park and Antelope Park. Each year the Parks Foundation receives countless inquires from residents who want to donate a tree as a tribute to or in memory of someone they love throughout the Lincoln Parks system, said Christie Dionisopoulos, President of the Lincoln Parks Foundation. At the same time, the Parks Department has challenges in tending to newly planted trees across the City. This program allows residents to purchase living legacies and ensures an efficient use of City resources and tax dollars. The Tree Legacy program is a shining example of public private partnerships at their best.
  • What’s next for Schlow – hire a consultant to help with endowment campaign.
  • Fundraising Stores for Libraries and Parks

    1. 1. 2011 $63,000 2012 $68,000 2013 $82,000 $41,546 May $29,309+ Oct.
    2. 2. U.S. 2012 giving: 7% was online
    3. 3. A study by Charity Navigator suggested that special events are not good sources of funds. In fact, according to the study, the average charity spends $1.33 to raise $1 in special events contributions.