ASSOCIATES (vol. 10, no. 3, March 2004) -

*Fund Raising for Non-Administrative Purposes,
You Want Me to Bake How Many Cupcakes?!?*


Julia D. Ree
Library Assistant
Cataloging Department
University of California, Riverside

Portions of this article were presented at the California Library Associationís annual Conference, held in Ontario, California, November 2003, as part of a growing trend to offer sessions that might be of interest to Support Staff.

Fund raising. Itís so important on so many levels. Raising money through donations or by sponsoring events can mean that libraries might not have to choose between a balanced budget, or getting needed equipment. A successful fund raising campaign can bring in revenue that can help with staffing, or the collection, or just getting one special item that everyone wants to see in your library. At the very core, these are administrative responsibilities. There are other reasons to raise money however, that go beyond the maintenance of the organization. There are needs that Library Administrations donít always provide full funding or sometimes any funding for; generally, these are the kinds of activities that make work life more enjoyable and give everyone who works there a morale boost. Library Administration might not be willing or able to provide funding, but that shouldnít stop you from developing your own fund raising program. As long as you can find even a small group of people, you can work successfully to create a plan that will foster a sense of teamwork, build confidence in the individual, and provide the necessary money for having a little fun. I can hear it now...weíre not supposed to HAVE fun, this is supposed to be about WORK. Fun and work do not have to be mutually exclusive, of course. We spend 40-45 waking hours each week at this one place. We see these people day in and day out, sometimes more than our own families. We can strive to make that experience pleasant, or we can be curmudgeons. The truth is, a happy employee is a productive employee and those that choose to work and never play are those that have a limited exposure to all that life holds. And thatís a topic for another time (and another person!)

I think that itís safe to say that fund raising has been a part of my life for a very long time. Iíve been on walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons for the Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. Iíve raised money for the Girl Scouts, selling their cookies and their calendars. Iíve washed cars, baked cookies, gone trick-or-treating for UNICEF, and Iíve even sold the Worldís Finest Chocolate. For the last 20 years, Iíve put that fund raising energy into my local Library Staff Association (LSA). I belong to the LSA at the University of California, Riverside Library, where every person who works in the library and is not also a student at the University, is a member.

Let me be clear at the start. The Administration at UCR Library provides money to handle table and chair rentals, for big events, like parties, as well as for photocopying needs, which, in this day and age isnít as pressing as it used to be. In addition, they match funding for Staff Development Awards. Library Administration, however, has also relied on the LSA to tackle morale issues, it has used the organization as a conduit between Management and the Staff, and has asked LSA to take over the planning and executing of certain events formally under the responsibility of Management. Even with these added responsibilities, our LSA has never been fully funded by our Library Administration. We have always had to raise money to do the things we want to do as a group. The same kinds of energy can go into other groups like Sunshine Clubs and Friends of the Library, but each organization is made up of individuals that have specific requirements and limitations. Since my own personal experiences are with Library Staff Associations, my comments are geared toward working with a larger group dynamic. No matter how large or how small your group is, you can pick from these basic ideas and still be successful.

The UC Riverside LSA was established in 1969. We have a Constitution and By-Laws which dictates that we provide for social, cultural, educational, and community enrichment. Our governing body of elected officials and appointed representatives creates a calendar, where they focus on how much they want to accomplish. Over the years, many different ways to make money to achieve these goals has been tried. In good years, we are quite active, and in not-so-good years, we are not. Some years, particularly when there is an especially energetic group involved, there can be upwards of 15 events for the year. Other years, we are lucky to hold two or three traditional events! Itís all tied to the perception of what the group leaders can accomplish and the willingness in others to participate, casually, in-depth, or not at all. Itís important to believe in your goals, so that others will too. As Iíve gotten older, Iíve realized that itís also important to set reasonable goals that can be accomplished. This should be the mantra for anyone beginning a fund raising plan: Set Reasonable Goals. You can always expand. If you set too high a goal and fail, your group may become too discouraged, and you might not be able to recover.

How to begin: The basics.

You gotta have a plan. A group of you needs to decide exactly what you want to accomplish in the given time frame. I once worked at a place where the only interaction between staff was a weekly "donuts in the coffee room on Fridays." As a group, these people were there to work, they did not wish to interact. Their plan was to pay monthly dues to their "staff association" and the money was used to buy donuts on Fridays. Period. At one point in UCRís LSA history, when overall morale was low, and expectations of the LSA were also low, the idea of paying dues was brought up, provoking heated responses that snapped many out of their "I donít care" attitudes. There is nothing like hating a proposed plan to solidify a group, even against an idea.

The governing body of LSA decides on the activities to hold during the year, and then makes plans to raise the money that will insure our being able to pay for them. These money making events can include the sale of baked goods, books, and/or candy. On occasion, we have created and sold cookbooks. Weíve conducted a membership drive. Weíve held turkey "shoots" and sold Valentineís Day Grams. And we hold an annual raffle.

Then, there are the optional functions. These events are more about morale than money...things like "International Food Day" which is essentially a pot-luck, or a Chili cook-off, or coffee-breaks, or ice-cream socials. While these kinds of activities do not generate a lot of money, they do put a drain on your resources if your organization provides the necessities (like drinks at a luncheon, or paper goods!) You should strive to break even with most of these kinds of activities.

Then, there are the educational/cultural kinds of events. In the past, we have had speakers who gave lectures on topics of interest such as gardening, genealogy, and even vampire lore! If you decide to offer such activities, try to get the speaker to talk for free. It doesnít mean that the event will be cost-free (you should have refreshments, even with these kinds of activities), but again, these are more for raising spirits, not raising money. All of these activities, even the ones whose goal it is to make money, requires money. If you have a good understanding of what it is that you want to do, you can begin to incorporate your needs into the plan.

One way to raise money is to have a bake sale. As silly as that might sound, bake sales can be profitable. Our last bake sale netted over $300.00. You need to make sure that people will bring in goodies to sell, and you need to have people buying and selling, but for a couple of hourís work, you can make some real money. Maybe itís because not as many people bake any more. Perhaps people just donít stop to have a decent breakfast. Our bake sales are timed to hit "starving students" and people going on their morning break. We have a built-in customer base, so between the Library Staff, the University Staff, and the Students, we donít have to advertise much. We ask our people to provide goodies. In this day and age, even if you canít cook, you can find yummy baked goods that are not costly, but can be sold to make money for your organization. Not everyone will sign up, but if you communicate the need and let them know itís for a fund raiser, more people will contribute.

Another, very popular way to raise money is to sell books. Libraries often get gifts from the public that are beyond the scope of their collecting. Staff members also tend to be book lovers, and will often bring in donations if they know that a sale is coming up. It is generally a good rule to time such a book sale with something else going on...if at a University setting, have your book sale in conjunction with an open house...if you are part of a city or county system, plan your event with a larger, city event.

Another kind of fund raising event involves the sale of candy. Here in California, we are very lucky that Seeís candy has such a liberal policy regarding organizations that have fund raising events. If you have seed money to purchase their fund raising items, you can double your money. Unfortunately, you need at least $400.00 to start. And you need to sell out of that candy, before you can realize the entire profit. So, until you have that seed money, you can buy Seeís candy at wholesale prices, with the intent of selling at retail, or close to retail as an incentive for people to buy from you! Candy sales only net the LSA about $100.00 each time. This fund-raiser for us is more of a service, in that we do not charge the maximum amount, but instead offer a discount that is somewhere in between wholesale and retail. This promotes good feelings amongst our people and still raises a modest amount of money.

The costs involved for these kinds of events are roughly the same. Photocopying (flyers and sign-up sheets), plus incidental costs (food permits, extra saran wrap, bags for books, etc.)

There are opportunities for income on a consistent basis. For a long time, our Staff Association had a contract with the Coca-Cola bottling company, to have a coke machine installed in the staff room. We had the responsibility of ordering the product, stocking the machine, setting the price, and we earned a small, but steady income from the machine. This kind of commitment requires that one or two people stay on top of the ordering and stocking of the machine.

When you are ready for a more challenging activity, you might want to try running a raffle. Someone needs to write a letter outlining what you plan to do with the raffle money. Our LSA raises money for a Library Staff Development Fund for educational pursuits. After the letter is sent to several dozen local area businesses, a follow-up in person visit is made. By contacting local businesses we are involving ourselves with the community and they recognize us as supporters of their business. It is a labor intensive activity, but the successful raffle (held during our Winter Holiday Party) usually provides entertainment for those trying to get the most prizes. The costs to conduct the raffle are minimal (price of a bunch of mailing stamps, and the cost of a tank of gas), and last yearís raffle earned over $800.00.

Library people love to eat. My own department has a monthly goodie day. My division has at least 2 pot-luck lunches a year. And thatís not even half the library! Some of us even love to cook. What better way to make money, than to combine the two loves by writing a cookbook. And think how well used the cookbook will be! Instead of the usual one or two recipes, chances are a Library Cookbook will be filled with recipes that you have enjoyed over the years. There are programs that provide desktop publishing, with the formats required for a proper cookbook "look". There are also companies that specialize in putting together cookbooks. All you have to do is provide your recipes and sell the books once the cookbook has been published.

No matter how simple or complex the activity, all these events have certain things in common:

They need someone to be in charge.

Itís okay to be the leader! If you have a plan and if you have people to help you (because itís easier when you can gather together a team), you can be successful with any of these fund raising ideas. Your biggest concern will be about the time involved, and although your Library Administration canít furnish money, you should lobby to get the time to conduct the event, from the planning stages, through to completion. Remember, you are providing an opportunity to raise morale, to bring people together who might not otherwise interact and give individuals a chance to develop new skills.

They need planning.

Detailed procedures that anticipate possible pitfalls will make you aware of the things that might go wrong, and offer ways to work around them. Procedures will save you in the long run, but they are not a static thing, because your organization changes, so your procedures will need to adjust, if you plan to have that event year after year.

They all require teamwork.

There are very few things that one person can do all by themselves. The more people you can involve, the easier it will be to get the job done. And what a great way to build stronger bonds between people who donít directly work with one another on a daily basis!

They will benefit your organization.

Whether itís for purposes of morale-boosting, reinforcing a sense of community, or earning money, all these fund raising suggestions foster good feelings and will ultimately benefit your organization. They can also have the power to benefit your community as you interact with the community and each other.


This is the heart of the matter. You need to keep these things in mind.

Advertise: Let your target audience know that something is about to happen. Even if you do this same thing year after year. Your target audience might be your fellow staff members. Or it might be the city in which you live. You might even want to start months in advance, depending on the complexity of the event, to tease and excite! This could be in print, in an in-house publication, by e-mail, on a flyer, on a web-site, or a combination of all these things!

Organize: Someone needs to come up with a plan. You may use procedures already created, or make up your own, just be sure to tailor the procedures to your group (the oneís doing the work) keeping in mind your target audience (the oneís whose money youíll be asking for.) These groups might be one and the same, and remember, you wonít get the same results from a group of 50 that you would from a group of 200.

Recruit: You cannot do these things alone! You also need to show enough confidence that whatever you can do, others can, too! You will want to foster an atmosphere where the next "generation" of doers will also be willing and able to take on these responsibilities. If you can find enough people to do the work, then you can concentrate on keeping folks on task. You might want to keep yourself available and away from a specific duty, in case you need to take something over at the last moment.

Take things in stride: Sometimes even with things well planned out, stuff happens that is beyond your control. You might end up with the rainiest day of the year on the day youíve planned for a bake sale, or a book sale. Make sure your event is pleasant, at least to the outside world! You need to realize that it IS beyond your control, and do the best you can, given the circumstances. There will be other ways to make the money you would have, even if you have to factor in another fund-raiser, or revamp your activities for the year, in order to make the money you have stretch as far as it needs to.

Advertise results: People want to know how successful the event was! They want to be thanked by name. The worse thing you can do? Itís to say something like: "Iíd like to thank all the many people who helped out, you know who you are!" You probably cannot thank all the donors and folks who contribute money, but those that help out, those that give you their time, should be thanked and by name. As the leader, itís your job to take the time to write down who did what, and thank them accordingly.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started on the road to making money for your organization. Donít be afraid to try one activity or even a few, and if you do, you will get more than you ever imagined. The money you earn, whether for a one-time purchase, or for an on-going need, will, in the end, provide so much more. Fund raising has the potential to bring out leadership qualities, enhance a sense of teamwork and bring people together in interesting and positive ways.

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