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3 Tips for Crowdfunding Your School Library

October 2, 2018

School libraries are an invaluable resource to students and teachers alike, providing access to a universe of print and digital media and teaching students how to consume and use information responsibly. For all the good that libraries do in their schools, they are often chronically underfunded. Enter into the equation a new trend: crowdsourcing.
You’ve probably heard of websites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and DonorsChoose. These sites have made it possible for regular people to raise the funding they need to get creative projects and businesses off the ground. They enable people to go directly to the community that benefits from their services to seek funding. Why not give it a try for your library? Here are some tips and fundraising ideas to help you get the money you need for a 21st-century library.
1. Determine the Right Website 
The popular websites for crowdsourcing have traditionally been DonorsChoose, Kickstarter and Indiegogo. While these platforms have done amazing things, they have restrictions such as fees, time limits and goal thresholds. When time limits and goal thresholds aren’t met, these sites deny you the funds that were donated to you. A newer site that is more in line with the needs of educators is PledgeCents.
This site is focused on educational needs. It doesn’t have a fee structure and allows you to keep all the funds received, even if the initial goal is not met. The site also allows you to extend deadlines and gives you matching options for any corporate sponsors you may find. In fact, the site has helped educators raise more than $1.5 million. Take your time to research the different options out there and find the platform that works best for your needs.
2. Figure Out a Hook 
The only thing people love more than a good story is an underdog. Think about something that will set your ask apart from what other institutions might be trying to do. For example, $3,000 for new computers may be a worthy goal, but this is also a pretty ordinary request.
library in Illinois came up with a creative solution for their goal of fundraising for a new 3D printer. Instead of just asking for money for the new printer, they also asked for help getting a giant Hulk statue. This caught people’s attention, and with the money they raised, they were able to get the statue, the 3D printer, an iMac and Adobe software. Try to come up with creative angles for your fundraising ideas.
3. Plan Out Your Campaign Ahead of Time 
Once you’ve determined which platform and creative hook to use, it’s time to get down to business and plan out your campaign. Don’t just throw your ask onto PledgeCents or another site and hope for the best. Now is the time to put on your marketing hat and think about ways that you can leverage your networks to be successful. When crafting an effective campaign, it can be beneficial to sit down and plan out the following:

  • How you will tell your story and let donors know why you need to raise the money. A video is a popular option that can let you showcase your personality.
  • How you will make goals that are specific and measurable. It’s also a good idea to opt for a longer time frame so your campaign has time to gain supporters and attention.
  • How you will reach out and leverage your networks. Do you have a newsletter, social media list or bulletin board where you can spread the word?

Once you have a plan in place for all of those action items, share, share, share! If you want your campaign to go viral, you should get it in front of as many eyeballs as you can. Start with the people you know and ask them to share. Soon enough, you may be getting donations to help your library thrive.
Crowdsourcing can be a fantastic solution to get the funding needed for the important work that your library does. It can empower the community you already serve, as well as the people who may live far away but love your message, to support an institution that gives so much. For more ideas on ways to improve your school library and engage the students and teachers who depend on the good work you do, check out Capstone. We have print and digital content to help support curriculum-connected learning in your library.