Just the title of this makes me cringe. Some people are amazing at asking for money. I am not one of those people. If you are lucky enough to work in a public library that has a line item in the budget for programming, then I am very jealous of you and you probably don’t need to read the rest of this post.
However, if you have to beg, borrow and steal (only in the legal sense, of course) to have programs at your library, then you might be able to relate. Many libraries have hardly any budgets to speak of when it comes to trying to cover operating costs and salaries, never mind supplies for programs, or paying for outside performers. If you are brand new to this concept of having a job that requires you to plan and implements programs for teens, but doesn’t give you any money to do it, then this post is for you!
PLACES TO FIND MONEY
Your Friends Group. Every Friends group is different and some may be more active than others, but they do raise money specifically for the library so this is a great place to go first. Each group also has their own way of portioning out funds so make sure you know exactly what you need and why before asking. At one point, I had to fill out a request form with all of the information. Our Friends group is down to 2 active members, though they still have a good amount of revenue coming in. We asked awhile back for a specific amount of money each month to pick up programming supplies so we didn’t have to keep asking for each little thing. We, of course, keep all of our receipts to prove we didn’t just go out for lunch.
State Aid. Depending on how much your library relies on their State Aid money to supplement their operating budget, or if they get any at all, you might be able to use some of it to supplement your program budget as well.
Local Banks and Corporations: We don’t have many outside performers come to the library during the school year, but we tend to have pretty good crowds for events over the summer, especially when tied into the Summer Reading Program. These can cost anywhere from $200 – $700, depending on what the program is and how far the vendor has to travel. This summer, I contracted out for 5 programs and the total cost was around $14,000. I was able to get 3 banks to pay for programs, plus I had a grant from our Local Cultural Council. Our Friends group paid for one program that was only in the $250 range. Most of your local banks have places on their websites to apply for small, one-time grants. They usually have a certain amount to spend on these, so I always try for one each year. They just want to see that the program will benefit as many people in the area and surrounding areas as possible – and they want to see their logo on the flyers and social media posts. Without our local banks, I don’t know what we would do! Banks also do lots of free outreach programs for all ages, so ask them if they have some programs for teens! We also get some donations from large companies in the area. google the ones in your area and see if they have any local grants to hand out. Check out car dealerships, medical equipment, oil companies, etc.
LCC Grants. As I mentioned above, I had a Local Cultural Council grant this summer for a program. we are lucky enough that we pretty much get one whenever we apply. Last year I had one to purchase ukuleles for the library, and the year before that, I asked for money to host a series of programs for teens to let them experience a variety of art (music, visual, cooking, etc.) as well as some career and “Adulting 101” type programs. Deadlines for next year’s grants are coming up soon in early October for Massachusetts – not sure about other states – so check out your local council to see if you can apply!
Local Small Businesses. While they may not have tons of money to dole out, they might be willing to provide a free program or a coupon as a summer reading prize, in exchange for the extra advertising from the library. It doesn’t hurt to ask! (Though honestly, I am not a fan of having to ask for money.) Check out photographers, realtors, restaurants, gyms, dance studios, music studios, salons, etc.
Local Non-Profit Groups. There are lots of local non-profit groups who might be happy to help collaborate with the library on programming. Our local Mom’s Club group does fund-raising but will give the money to other local organizations at the end of their fiscal year. They are very generous and typically give us the money when we are planning our summer reading program and we can use the money for reading incentives for kids and teens. We have also collaborated with our local Lions Club, Elks, and Scout Troops.
LSTA Grants. Ah, yes. This is big time. I have only done one of these so far and I am planning to apply for one during the next round. Several years ago I did a Teen Services grant and had a whole $20,000 to spend! While I am eternally grateful for this, it was definitely not an easy thing to do. It was a 2-year grant with multiple reports that included measuring leadership. Grants are not exactly my forte, but once you understand the formula and what they want to see, it gets easier. I won’t win any awards for my grant writing, but it got the job done and we did some really cool stuff!
There are obviously more ways to find money, but these are my main sources. It’s probably my least favorite thing to do and I would love to actually know in advance how much money I have to spend. But usually, when it comes to outside programs, I book first and beg for money later! Many places like to know what they are spending the money on and having the program already booked with an invoice to submit is very helpful in moving the grant application along (this is mostly for the banks I work with.) I typically make flyers with their logo on it when I submit the application. Please leave suggestions for other ways to procure program funds in the comments!! And oddly enough, this will post on my birthday! Hoping for some extra free money today!! Haha.