Everywhere you turn in the world of libraries today, you can hear people talking about the need for private fundraising.
One would genuinely believe that these library foundations would be an effective response to a library’s financial problems that would be greeted with wide open arms by library directors and trustees. And a number of them are. But you can find the same number of library foundations that have had a rocky relationship with the library that they aim to support.
So where is the difference?
It could be in many areas. Private funding should always serve to improve a publicly funded institution’s program and services. It is not meant to replace public funding. Yet the interest in creating library foundations has arisen from the dramatic loss of public funding which many libraries have experienced in recent years. Making a foundation replace public funding can be misguided. The day-to-day operating needs of the library will always clash with the interests of personal donors, so there is the motivation for seeking out private funding for the library. In case a huge loss in public funding is a concern, you may want to create a grassroots advocacy program when you create a collection foundation. Having citizens actively associated with lobbying for the library’s running budget (as opposed to the library employees and director) can create remarkable results.
Even when a library foundation is established for the correct role of raising private money for enhancements, there can be problems between the foundation and the library.
Problems associated with personality conflict
One of the most difficult problems that may arise might be a personality conflict. You will find individuals who just don’t get along because of their differences. And if these differences exist in the leadership of the foundation and the leadership in the library, it is unlikely that good communication will exist, resulting in the foundation not being helpful to the library’s needs.
But even if good communication exists between the foundation library and the foundation, it might be years before the library enjoys the fruits of the foundation’s work. Library foundations are generally staffed by fundraising pros. Staff costs cash. Before the foundation can offer support to this library, it needs to pay for its unique operating costs. Some professionals believe that it takes, at least, four years for a newly staffed organization to raise significantly more than it pays through staffing costs.
The other thing to keep in mind is that a library foundation is a unique organization, just as the library is. Companies need proper management. As a non-profit organization, the library foundation must recruit and navigate a continual stream of new panel members; it needs to adhere to human resource policies for the staff; it needs to keep donor information in a database; it needs to adhere to strict accounting insurance policies; it must file annually andfollow all local and state regulatory rules for non-profits; it needs regular means of communication; it needs annual audits of its finances; and it needs up-to-dateinvestment insurance policies. In short, a foundation libraryneeds your help in order to be able to fulfill its purpose.