Category Archives: Trustees and Foundations

Webinar: Building a Culture of Learning with Library Boards

WebJunction has an upcoming webinar of interest to trustees: Building a Culture of Learning with Library Boards. This free, online event will take place on Thursday, May 24, from 1-2 p.m. MDT.

Libraries that cultivate a culture of learning encourage their staff to participate in continuing education. But shouldn’t this learning culture also extend to library boards? At the State Library of Iowa, we say yes! Trustees can and should play a key role in fostering a culture of learning at their libraries—beginning with themselves. When library boards embrace a learning culture, they become more receptive to supporting continuing education, in policy, planning, and budgeting. This webinar presents ideas for growing board learning into a blossoming culture that motivates board members to see education and training as a natural part of their trusteeship.

This webinar is hosted in collaboration with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries.

Telling the Library Story

Jamie LaRue is the Director of the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom. In a recent listserv discussion, he shared these insights on how to best “tell the library story.”

Most great library stories follow a consistent format:

  • The best stories are about real people.
  • They have a problem.
  • The library, as supporting character (NOT main character) steps in and does something.
  • There’s a happy, and often moving, ending.
  • Then, there’s a single fact to tie it all down. Something like, “the library offers six resume writing workshops per month.” It’s a number that grounds the background story. Just ONE number.
  • Finally, there’s a tag line.

ALA has identified four messages that research says really resonate:

  1. Libraries transform lives.
  2. Libraries transform communities.
  3. Librarians are passionate advocates for lifelong.
  4. Libraries are a smart investment.

When you are advocating for your library, you may wish to keep these ideas in mind to tell your story effectively.

3 Keys to a Developed Board

Reposted from Library Strategies

All library affiliated boards need to grow and develop on an annual basis. As individual members and as a group, they need regular training, review of policies and responsibilities, and additional perspectives for future planning and directions. Three keys can help you develop your board on a regular basis.

Key 1: Board Orientation – Certainly hold an orientation for all new members, but annual or bi-annual orientations are also valuable as refreshers.

Key 2: Professional Development Activities – All board members should engage in this annually, but occasional group trainings or workshops are also important. Ideally board development is structured, scheduled, and an expected duty.

Key 3: Board Evaluation – Conduct an annual board evaluation process (usually a simple survey from the President) as part of a review of individual members performance but also the performance of the board as a whole.

Additional ideas that may help with board development or feed into the “3 Keys” include, regular presentations by professional staff on library trends and issues; having a structure to keep former board members attached (mentoring); and thinking outside the library to explore such issues as publishing, technology, change management, patron behavior, or community changes.

Boards Are People, Too

Reposted from Library Strategies

Too often we think of our boards – Library, Friends, Foundation, and others – as units that operate as a whole. Yet we all know that boards are made up of diverse individuals with unique perspectives, talents, and interests. It is worthwhile to think often about the “people-side” of our boards, and nurture the needs of the individuals serving on the library’s behalf.

Boards – especially your Friends/Foundation – are social groups that need to be fostered and grown. The best boards are ones where people socialize and the individuals come to engage each other and even develop lifelong friendships. Holding occasional social events or activities where board members can work together helps secure closer bonds and relationships which, in turn, can strengthen board trust and effectiveness.

Boards are networking opportunities that need to be cultivated. This is especially true when it comes to board member recruitment. People are attracted to joining groups or networks that connect them to meaningful associations that are of interest or meaningful to their work or lives. Work in the community to expand the library’s and board networks (Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, arts or social service organizations, etc.), to ultimately make your board more attractive and connected.

People like to be successful, so structure and celebrate successes specifically for your board. Nothing motivates people like a “win,” so be sure to set goals that are achievable, but also directly related to the work of the board. Groups come together and are motivated to take on the next, bigger task, if they’ve already accomplished something as a group.

In managing the growth and development of your board, be sure to pay attention to members motivations and personal perspectives, as well as building a solid structure of policies, procedures, and operations.

The Wyoming State Library has a handbook and resources for board members. Find it here.

Ten Quick Tips for Growing Your Friends and Foundation

Reposted with permission from Library Strategies

  1. Diversify activities beyond book sales, into such area as special events, advocacy, PR, etc.
  2. Get social — hold “friend-raising” events for different targeted age groups (i.e., the local brewpub)
  3. Activate professional development training for your board
  4. Increase the “ask” and expectations of your Friends and foundation
  5. Move beyond the Library and hold Friends/Foundation events out in the community
  6. Market, market, and market some more
  7. Is it time for a major fundraising event?
  8. Engage community leaders to help recruit new board members
  9. Develop a challenge that will make a difference in the community that your Friends/Foundation can support
  10. Evaluate and set goals for your boards

10 Tips for a Great Annual Fund

Reposted with permission from Library Strategies

There is one type of fundraising that virtually every Friends or Library Foundation should be doing: it’s called the Annual Fund and it is truly the cornerstone of all fundraising activities. The concept is simple. The Annual Fund is a letter writing appeal to your members and donors (individuals; not corporations) requesting a contribution to your organization. While an Annual Fund can be done anytime during your fiscal year, it is most frequently conducted in November and December when donors are most likely to be thinking about the tax deductibility of their donation. The letter you send should be one page if possible. While the letter emphasizes all of the great things happening at the Library and within your Friends or Library Foundation, the request is for an unrestricted contribution which can be used wherever the need is greatest.

Here are ten simple tips for a successful Annual Fund appeal:

1) Response Card. Include a response form and envelope so the donor doesn’t have to address their own return envelope. You’ve got to make it easy to give.

2) Personalize. Personalize the letters as much as possible. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. For starters have your salutation be Dear Bob and Jane instead of saying Dear Friend of the Library. Instead of having one person sign all letters going out, segment the list and have people who know some of your donors sign their letter. You may have as many as 20-30 volunteers signing letters. Have the letter signer add a personal note at the bottom of the page like this: “Bob and Jane-I hope you will join me in supporting the Library this year. I am very actively involved in the Library’s Foundation and I know how extensively our library is used by everyone in our community.” Hand address the envelope. Use a first class stamp. Have the signer add his or her name to the return address on the outside of the envelope so the donor knows the letter is from someone they know and respect. When possible have the letter signer make a follow-up phone call to the prospective donor.

3) Create a List. If you have a limited donor database, ask all of the members of the Library’s Board of Trustees and the Board of the Friends or Library Foundation to provide you with the names of 5-10 people they know who can receive the Annual Fund request. Of course they should sign the letters of the people they suggest.

4) Show Impact. More and more, donors want to know what the impact of their contribution will be. If possible, include a story in your letter about someone who’s life was hugely impacted by the Library.

5) Accept Credit Cards. Be sure to have the capacity to accept credit card contributions in addition to checks.

6) Allow Online Gifts. Have the capability to accept contributions online through your website and let donors know about that in your letter.

7) Use Social Media. Most of the older traditional library donors will choose to write a check or provide credit card information. But don’t forget to use social media to attract a new generation of donors. If you have a few younger Board members, ask them to launch a challenge gift campaign through social media in which the total giving from dozens or hundreds of individuals is pooled to create a very large gift.

8) Offer Matching Gifts. Consider offering a match to contributions. Ask your Board members or a generous donor to put up a match for new or increased gifts to the Annual Fund. A one-to-one match is usually most effective. Donors love the idea that their gift has twice the value because of the match.

9) Push Monthly Giving. Ask your potential donors to consider making a sustaining gift which is a monthly recurring donation through a credit card or checking account withdrawal.

10) Time it Right. The Annual Fund is very different than a membership campaign. If you conduct a membership campaign, you should also ask those same members to make an Annual Fund gift. Just be sure to separate the two efforts as much as possible. Conduct membership campaigns in spring and early summer and the Annual Fund in November and December. Members who give you $25 in the membership campaign will give multiples of that in an Annual Fund because it has a more philanthropic feel than membership does.


Some Friends groups and Library Foundations have end of year letter signing parties. Ask for volunteer letter signers to identify the people for whom they could sign a letter and add a personal note. Have those letters printed and ready for their signature on a given date. Meet in the late afternoon and provide wine and snacks for the signers. Those signers who can’t attend, can be mailed their group of letters. Doing this can turn what might be considered a chore into an enjoyable social gathering. These letter signing parties grow in popularity each year.

The Annual Fund is an easy place for newly created Friends and Library Foundations to begin their fundraising. But it is also the cornerstone of all fundraising in that donors to the Annual Fund can become major donors and eventually planned giving donors, leaving you a deferred gift in their will or estate plan.

Strategic Planning for the Folks who Raise the Money

Reposted with permission from Library Strategies

Friends and foundations need a plan as much as the library does. All too often, however, these organizations operate from year to year with no direction or plan in place. So, it’s time to think about development planning!

Development planning is strategic planning for the support organizations that raise funds for their libraries. A development plan articulates the activities an organization engages in (advocacy, annual campaigns, special events, capital campaigns, etc.) and establishes goals and strategies, or actions, within each of these focus areas.

A good development plan starts out by defining the Library’s financial needs. These are usually presented by the Library Director and could be anything from a summer reading program to a new library building. Or, they could be public funding needs, which would be addressed by a political advocacy effort.  Starting with an understanding of the Library’s needs, gives direction and context so that the Friends or foundation can determine how it can help meet these needs through their development activities.

The development plan should also include goals around the Friends or foundation’s structure and its effectiveness. How is the board organized (committee structure)? How are new board members recruited? Do you have a board orientation program? Including board development goals will ensure that your organization stays vibrant and effective.

The big benefit of development planning is that it brings your board together to review your current activities and commit to goals within each activity. Often, it leads to adding new activities, such as a planned giving program or public awareness (raising the visibility of the Friends or foundation). The process of development planning focuses your support organization’s board on what it needs to do and how it’s going to be successful in its efforts.

A development planning process is fairly straight-forward and typically includes these steps:

  • Conduct a capacity assessment of the Friends or foundation. Identify what’s working and what needs to be fine-tuned or completely overhauled? This is usually done by a consultant who conducts interviews with the Library Director and three or four board members to assess the organization’s current activities and determine where there are opportunities to build capacity.
  • Engage in a planning retreat (a half-day works great!) where Board members critically look at the organization’s activities and establish concrete goals and strategies – and determine whether new activities should be added. The Library Director should definitely be a part of this planning process. If your library has both a Friends group and a foundation, it’s helpful to include a representative from the other support organization in your planning retreat to ensure that each group understands its own unique role in supporting the library.
  • Once you’ve established your goals and strategies, view the plan in terms of three years. What do you want to accomplish in year one of the plan (priorities) and what will your three-year goals be?
  • Identify who is responsible for each action in the plan. Is it an individual champion, a committee, staff, or the board as a whole? Without someone, or a specific group, assigned to move the action forward it’s easy to assume it will ‘just get done.’

Development planning is a truly valuable process that moves an organization from having great ideas to actually accomplishing great things in support of your library.

Six Great Ideas for Library Partnerships

Reposted with permission from Library Strategies

Partnerships have great potential to expand your library’s capacity to offer more, reach broader audiences, and leverage your resources. As libraries continually seek new ways to stretch their budgets, partnering is a valuable option to consider.

There are several natural partnerships that many libraries have formed:

1) Literacy Partnerships. Partner with your local literacy organization – be it a children’s literacy program or adult program. These organizations are on the frontline, bringing critical services to your community. They are ripe for partnerships to reach a broad audience (including many non-users) with resources the library has to offer. This is a partnership that can have a huge impact on your community at minimal cost to either organization.

2) Nonprofit Partnerships. Does your community have local music or theater groups? Is there a genealogical society in your city? A food co-op? History society? Museum? A writer’s group? Human rights organization? These organizations can easily provide programs in your library that draw audiences of all ages and interests and stretch the resources of all partners (for specific examples of joint programming, visit:

3) Age-Appropriate Partners. Trivia groups are hotter than ever and so are targeted book groups. Consider co-sponsoring trivia nights or book clubs in a bar or restaurant to attract millennials to your library programs. (

4) Partners with a Purpose. Many individuals are finding new ways and new places to work. Partner with your local Small Business Association to offer classes on starting a new business, developing business skills, creating a business cooperative, and more.

5) Business/Corporate Partnerships. Local businesses or national corporations love partnerships. If you look for the win/win opportunity for your library and a potential business, it’s a great opportunity for a valuable partnership. For example, many libraries reach out to corporate sponsors to fund their bookmobiles, offering the opportunity to “wrap” the bookmobile with a business’ logo and branding.

6) DIY Workshops. Building on the idea of business partnerships, lots of libraries are offering Saturday DIY (Do It Yourself) classes on everything from growing seed gardens (sponsored by a local nursery) – to learning to knit (sponsored by a knitting supply store) to bicycle repair (provided by a bike shop). These classes offer practical skills and allow local businesses to strut their stuff while being good community partners.

These are just a few partnership ideas… the possibilities are pretty limitless. If you’d like to begin to build community partnerships, do some brainstorming with your library staff or your support organization (Friends and foundation) for potential capacity building and resource leveraging partnerships.

One side benefit to partnerships is that community foundations and other funders particularly like these relationships as they see that your library is being savvy and resourceful in working in the community and maximizing funding!

Webinar Offers Tips to Celebrate Friends of Libraries Week

Plan now for National Friends of Libraries Week, Oct. 15-21, 2017. United for Libraries will host a free webinar on “Celebrating National Friends of Libraries Week: Promoting Your Group and Library” on Tuesday, July 25. Although registration is full, a recording of this webinar will be available by July 28 on the United for Libraries website.

This webinar will offer ideas on how to celebrate the week within your group, library, and community. Hear from Friends of the Glendale (Ariz.) Public Library President Char Sharp, whose group won a National Friends of Libraries Week Award in 2016 for its activities. Learn about the ALA Store’s new customizable products designed specifically for Friends.


Fundraising Tasks During the Summer Doldrums

Summer may be a quiet time in the world of fundraising. But that doesn’t mean your library’s Foundation or Friends groups can’t stay busy and make the most of the warmer months. CauseVox offers these six suggestions for ways to keep your fundraising rolling:

  1. Create a fundraising plan
  2. Conduct prospect research
  3. Start planning for year-end fundraising efforts (it’s not too early!)
  4. Prepare for your annual report by gathering stories and photos
  5. Host a simple fundraising event
  6. Conduct a marketing audit

Read the full article for details and ideas on each of these six tasks.