Five Truths of Campaign Fundraising

Campaigns for library ballot measures can be expensive, and often involve the raising of thousands of dollars. For many librarians, the idea of asking other people for money is outside of our comfort zone, especially when it comes to asking those closest to us, and others with whom we have a relationship, if they will open their wallets.

This listicle is brought to you by EveryLibrary Board Member, Peter Bromberg.

Campaigns for library ballot measures can be expensive, and often involve the raising of thousands of dollars. For many librarians, the idea of asking other people for money is outside of our comfort zone, especially when it comes to asking those closest to us, and others with whom we have a relationship, if they will open their wallets. But it is precisely these people who are most likely to give, to give the largest amounts, and connect us to others who will want to give to our campaigns.

Bottom line: We need to get comfortable asking, or at the very least, “feel the fear and do it anyway.”

If you feel resistance to asking other people for money It might be helpful to reflect on why. Are you uncomfortable that you will be seen as pushy? Or perhaps you feel badly about trying to convince people to separate themselves from their hard earned money?

Now, think about how you feel when you open your wallet to support a favorite organization, candidate, or cause. Do you feel put upon? Or do you feel good about yourself and honored that you were asked to get involved? Perhaps your donation helps you feel connected to others and joined in support of something bigger than yourself. Maybe you feel engaged with the organization and their cause, and excited to be some taking action, however small, to support something you believe in?

Most likely, if you are giving your hard earned money, you believe in the organization and what they’re doing and you want to give to them. And the fact that you were asked to give, provided an opportunity to do something you wanted to do, and feel good about doing. The point of this self-reflection is to help you personally ground this key point in your own experience: When we ask people to give, we’re giving them an opportunity to do something that they want to do, and that they will feel good about doing. They just need to be asked.

The five truths of campaign fundraising

Once you have gotten past the fear and made a commitment to ask, these five truths will help guide you to a successful fundraising effort.

#1 Be sure to ask those closest to you

Remember when you were a kid and you had to sell candy bars to support the school band, or 4H club, or little league? Who did you turn to first? Mom, dad, grandparents, neighbors…. You were a smart kid! Those closest to us are very likely to support us and can also help line up more donations through word of mouth. It’s also an opportunity to practice your pitch and ask for honest feedback in a safe environment. Also, if you don’t ask those around you they can feel slighted -- like the kid who’s picked last to be on the kickball team. People want to be noticed, they want to be appreciated, and they want to be asked to help. Don’t ignore your friends, family, and neighbors when doing your ask.

#2 Don’t beg

Never be embarrassed and apologetic when asking for money, and tell a sad story about how desperately in need the library is. People are less motivated to open their wallet to a beggar. Instead, paint them an aspirational picture of the positive impact their donation will have -- not for the library, but for the community. This approach will help donors feel privileged and empowered to be supporting something noble and important. Remember, that many people have a belief in the transformational power of libraries. You don’t need to convince them, just activate the belief they already have and give them a reason to believe that their money will be well spent.

#3 Ask more people than you think you should

Why? Because it is much more likely that you will offend someone by asking for too little, than by asking for too much. In addition to the possibility that you might offend someone by asking for too little, the low ask will leave money on the table, which is the last thing you want to do when fundraising. Donor research can help you pitch the ask to the correct amount. Even “quick and dirty” research (where do they work, where do they live, what car do they drive) can help you develop a sense of how much to ask for. Err on the high side, and be specific in your ask. If you think they can spare $500, ask for that -- let them take the lead in negotiating downward if necessary.

#4 No --and only no --means No

It’s easy to mistake a maybe for a no. For example, a donor can say that they need to ask their committee, or their spouse, or that they need time to think about it. None of these answers are a no. The only thing that means no is no. Until someone specifically tells you no you want to keep them on the potential donor list. Don’t be afraid to reconnect with them at a later date. Ask them when it would be a good time to follow up with them. After the meeting you can put a date to reconnect with them in your calendar or on the donor cards to remind you.

#5 Your belief in the cause has to be greater than your fear of asking for support

When you speak from the heart and tell donors what you believe you create an emotional connection with the donor. This emotional energy can help override any natural fear or nervousness you might have. If you’re feeling nervous about asking for money, just get out of the way and let the cause -- or your belief in it -- talk for you.

Remember, when you ask for money, you aren't taking something FROM THEM. On the contrary, you are offering something TO THEM; the opportunity to support something they believe in and feel good about themselves in the process.

This week’s Lib Elections News

Voters in several states were at the polls last week. Here is your April 7 elections round up.

Congratulations to River East Library District (IL), our first endorsed campaign in 2015, on their win at the ballot box for an increase of $59,000 per year in library funding. The measure won by 27 votes, and $59K makes up 33% of their funding. The Library staff and Yes committee worked very hard to overcome two previous losses at the ballot box. Well done.

In Polk County (MO) a measure was passed to increase library funding by 0.15 mills. The measure passed by 58%. Voters in Whitney Point passed a measure to fund two local libraries at $140,000 per year. This will be funded by a property tax of 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. An advisory vote in Colfax (WI) showed preference to keep the library in its shared location with police (63 votes) over building a stand alone library (40 votes). The current library was built in 1915 and is in need of updates to be ADA compliant.

Voters living outside of Altamont (IL) did not pass a measure to create a library district and widen the base of library funding. Residents within the current service area did pass the measure, but both had to pass for a win. Residents of Bollinger County (MO) voted to roll back the library tax on Tuesday. The tax was cut in half from 20 cents per $100 of value to 10 cents. No news yet on the impact, but a 50% cut will likely mean a huge loss in service to the community. A measure for a county wide library district in Nodaway (MO) did not pass. The measure was for a 15 cents for $100 levy to fund a district wide library. 

Early voting starts on April 18th in New Orleans and the library was in the news again with information on their proposed tax increase. The 2.5 mill increase is the first increase since hurricane Katrina and is necessary to increase service hours and keep the doors of some libraries open. Less than 30 days from the election the campaign, that we are supporting, is in full swing.

We learned of two more possible measures for November 2015 that aren't on the ballot yet, but this early media coverage helps us find new campaigns we could work on. Residents in the Town of Claverack (NY) are being asked to sign a petition that would place a measure on the November 3rd ballot for an increase in library funding of $10,000 per year. Currently the library collects about $48,500 annually from the town and that is 46% of their budget. This would be the first increase since 2003. Tim Burns, a Library Trustee, was recently elected to the Elk Grove Township (IL) school board and would like to see a measure on the November ballot to extend the library service area to three master planned communities in unincorporated areas of the Township so that more children can access library services. Currently residents in unincorporated areas can purchase a library card for $200 per year. He hopes to place the measure on the ballot with a petition.

Other Happenings

Yesterday we announced a $15,000 donation from Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, for outreach to the tech community. Thanks to this generous donation we can now begin a nationwide effort to reach out to national news outlets, bloggers and influencers in the startup space, in a sustained way to bring up the visibility of libraries to this industry. More details on the donation and the full joint announcement here.

EveryLibrary board members John Chrastka and Erica Findley will be in Eugene (OR) this week at the Oregon Library Association Conference. If you are going to be there, look for our session “Communicating with voters using social media” on Thursday at 2 pm. We will also be hosting a fundraiser for EveryLibrary and the People for Oregon Libraries PAC on Thursday night at 9pm. Tickets are on sale for $15 and will get you access to an informal networking event plus a hosted bar and selected appetizers. Tickets and event details.

That is all for this week. Join us next week for another round up. Happy trails!


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  • John Chrastka
    published this page in News and Updates 2021-01-29 08:59:04 -0800