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Academic Friends

On April 19th, FOCL hosted a program as part of Connecticut Library Association annual conference held the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville CT. About 20 academic librarians attended the program including librarians from Central and Southern CT State Universities, New Haven University and Manchester Community College. FOCL President introduced the reasons behind the program as the “tough economic times” and that many higher educational institutions in CT did not have the support of Friends groups He said that FOCL would offer two examples Academic Friends, to help the institutions decide whether a Friends group was right for them.

Lessons Learned:

  • Get the Support from the highest level of administration
  • Get someone from the Development Office on the Friends Board
  • Fundraising is time consuming. A Friends Group can help
  • Focus on the interest of the donors
  • Stay in contact with your donors
  • Help is available on the Web

The first speaker was Ms. Emily Silverman, Director of Development, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Emily stated academic Friends groups “are really a good thing” and that there has been a groundswell recently as the term “Friends” has been used as another term for library fundraising. The Friends group operates as a Board that helps in creating and implementing fundraising ideas. Currently, there are over 6000 alumni and friends that donate to UMASS libraries raising nearly $1.5 M. The Friends group helps by keeping in contact with the donors, soliciting grants and seeking key donors. UMASS Libraries also established a Directors Council, which helps with planned giving and special collection and direct donations from business and industry. Ms. Silverman admitted that managing all these efforts is quite challenging and the work needs to be shared with the Development Office. Recently, a person from the Development Office joined their Friends Board and is big help in clarifying on who the Friends can talk to and helping in co ordinate fun events and special exhibits to attract donors. She said it very important to respect the donor’s interests. Having the support at high levels at the University is fundraising is fundamental.

Last year, UMASS Libraries was selected for the “second call” by the administration. That is, to call those who have already donated to UMASS this year and see if they would donate to UMASS Libraries. The effort was highly successful by raising over $280,000. Lastly, Ms. Silverman suggested that librarians contact ALADN (http://www.library.arizona.edu/aladn/index.html) – an Academic Library fundraising mentoring group for more advice and help.

The next speaker represented a smaller institution, Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT), with a Friends group that is in the process of being regenerated. Ms. Jennifer Hadley, Library Assistant for the Music Library and Special Collections works closely with the Friends Group in fundraising, lectures and communications. While the Friends Group at Wesleyan was established in 1931 to encourage people to purchase books for the library, the activity of group has risen and waned over the years. Jennifer is trying to get the group growing again despite limited resources. Initially there was some competition with the development Office but now there is a person from the Development Office on the Friends Board making things much easier coordinate events and solicitations. Jennifer has also engaged the faculty and staff to help with promotion of the library. Professors, students, alumni, library staff, Development, IT, Finance and the community are represented on the Friends Board.

Having the library administration support the Friends makes all the difference as well as the effort to network with community and university groups. The Friends still hold used books sales to fundraise but also to raise the university library presence in the community. Jennifer said it is important to focus on the interest of their donors. She finds that small workshops on topics like special collections and book restoration very popular with donors.

Ms. Hadley provided a number useful web sites

Learn more about the nuts and bolts of boards, non-profits, fundraising, donor communications, grant writing:

Friends of Connecticut Libraries foclib.com

ALTAFF (Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends, and Foundations)

(Note: ALTAFF has become United for Libraries)


Sessions at American Library Association, Connecticut Library Association http://www.ctlibraryassociation.org/

Non-profit organizations which hold workshops

Middlesex County Nonprofit Resource Center at Middlesex County Community Foundation http://www.middlesexcountycf.org/news_events/news_events.htm

(Future topics include event planning, planned gifts, annual campaigns)

Fairfield County Community Foundation http://www.fccfoundation.org/cm/countywide_initiatives/2010%20Nonprofit%20Workshop%20Schedule.html

Connecticut Association of Nonprofits http://www.ctnonprofits.org/

Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism http://www.cultureandtourism.org/cct/site/default.asp

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