If anything deserves a little extra cash these days, it’s our libraries. They provide invaluable academic support, creative literacy programs, and diverse e-resources (like Mango!) that keep their whole community going strong. But all these great services come at a price, and unfortunately it’s not getting any cheaper for librarians to keep up with high patron demand.
Our tip? Research possible funding opportunities early and often.
With all the options out there, however, it can be a downright overwhelming process. There are government grants, community foundations, professional associations, and even corporations that all offer funding for library programming. Before you start searching, it’s a good idea to identify what exactly you need funded, and how much it will cost. Do you have an exciting new K-8 reading program starting next week? Are there some awesome language e-resources you’re just itching to add to the collection (hint, hint)? Be prepared to prove their value - outline the specific benefits and relevancy of this particular program or resource. Then, once you’re ready to secure funding, you’ll have a much easier time narrowing down all those choices. Here are our top picks for the best places to start your search.
The Foundation Center.
If there’s a one-stop shop for the best, most up-to-date foundation and grant information, The Foundation Center is arguably it. Apart from an extensive foundation directory - including both national and local options - you’ll find current trends in grant writing and library fundraising best practices. If you’re looking for specific data related to libraries in your geographic region, for example, you can even generate custom data reports based on expert research. Keep in mind that this one does have a cost to access many of its services, but it’s worth taking a look to determine if your library could benefit.
American Library Association.
You really can’t go wrong with the ALA - after all, it’s tailored to fit the unique needs of libraries right off the bat. This page provides hundreds of tried and true grant options, from programs like Bookapalooza that offer select libraries free reading materials each year, to the prestigious ALA Excellence in Library Programming Award. The best part? This site is 100% free to use, and includes updated application instructions and deadlines for each funding opportunity.
Library Grants Blog.
If you’re reading this, we already know you love yourself a blog or two. Trust us - this is one you’ll want to add to your subscription pile. Created by librarians Stephanie Gerding and Pam MacKellar, the Library Grants Blog sends you the freshest grant opportunities straight to your inbox, free of charge. Most recently, they posted about the NASA@ My Library Grant: a chance to receive free materials and training to lead educational STEM programming for all ages. Back in November, they highlighted the AASL Innovative Reading Grant, offering support to one lucky library for their creative program designed to encourage children to read more. Whatever your funding needs may be, you never know when something great might turn up in your morning email.
WebJunction’s Fundraising for Libraries.
Whether you’re interested in learning more about library advocacy, youth services, or marketing for eBooks, WebJunction has a free training course to fit your needs. They’ve also got a total of 8 webinar recordings devoted specifically to library fundraising (what more could you ask for?). In Sue Hall’s presentation titled “Beyond Book Sales: Practical Ideas for Raising Funds for Your Library,” for example, you’ll explore fresh new ways to approach library fundraising - from recruiting the right volunteers to creating an actionable plan and seeing it through. WebJunction’s got your back on this one.
Council on Foundations: Community Foundation Locator.
Sure, federal and nation-wide grants are great, but sometimes you need something a little closer to home. Plus, it’s likely that the majority of your library’s funding will end up coming from these local and state organizations. Use the map icon to click on your state and explore the many opportunities waiting right in your own backyard. The site includes direct links to each foundation’s page, contact information, and whether it has been accredited by the National Standards board.
Scholastic Library Grants.
This one includes a few unique grant opportunities, such as the Starbucks Foundation, that aren’t listed on many of the other sites we mentioned. We love Starbucks’ commitment to funding youth programs promoting literacy along with community action - the perfect recipe for an all-star public library, if you ask us. Scholastic’s list is organized by grants with set deadlines, like Starbucks’, and those that are ongoing throughout the year, like the PLA New Leaders Travel Grant.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re only a few steps away from securing that dream funding opportunity. With so many resources like these available, you’re bound to find a grant (or two, or three…) that perfectly align with your library’s mission and programming goals. Looking for advice on funding your Mango subscription? We’ve got another blog post on just that. Or, download our case study on what makes a modern library today, and learn how to cater to the needs of your individual community. From one literacy-loving group to another, we can’t wait to see where you’ll go from here.