Thursday, December 8, 2016

Fundraising Tips for Libraries

In what seems like an endless era of budget constraints, fundraising projects have become not just a supplement, but in some cases a means of survival. Methods of library fundraising vary as much as our libraries do—from small, casual efforts such as book or bake sales to multimillion dollar campaigns. Despite the scope of your fundraising project, you should be aware of some issues so that you can protect your library from unwanted consequences.
  • Raffles are a fun way to raise money at an event, but in order to conduct a raffle legally in Wisconsin you must first obtain a raffle license. Fortunately, a charitable organization can obtain this license from the Wisconsin Department of Administration. If you do not have an organization that qualifies, then a silent auction or game of skill might be a better fundraising option.
  • Fundraising campaigns that target a library’s users may seem to make good sense, but Chapter 43.30 prevents you from legally sharing your library records with your Friends or Foundation. Your library might be able to do a direct solicitation of library users, but enter this territory very cautiously. If you proceed, your library board should carefully consider the ramifications, as it might lead to a negative perception of the library.
  • Annual funds are a very popular way of asking for unrestricted support, and are typically conducted in October, November, or December, because they can be structured as a charitable (read: tax deductible) contribution. Potential donors may find that last chance to lower their taxes very appealing; just make sure that your Friends and Foundation membership drives do not coincide, as this may reduce contributions to the annual fund.
  • Planned gifts are an excellent way for donors to make significant contributions through wills and estate plans. These future gifts can allow the donor to support the long-term goals of the library, save on estate or capital gains taxes, and leave a legacy without giving up assets. If your library establishes a planned giving program, you will need to supply the library’s federal tax I.D. number. Donors may also designate the library as a beneficiary on life insurance policies.

Some of these tips pertain to Wisconsin only. For more information on fundraising in general, an excellent resource is available on the American Library Association website at

Written by Shannon Schultz, Public Library Development Team