By Richard Hallman, M.Ln.
Someday, when flying cars are rusting away in museums and the last sword has been beaten into whatever a plowshare is, there will be plenty of money available to libraries and librarians. Until then, librarians and the organizations that support them will probably have to keep looking everywhere for the funds needed to fix leaking roofs or buy 3D printers.
But the money is out there. It’s just a matter of knowing where—and how—to apply for it.
Show Me the Money
In addition to being a member of Brodart’s Collection Development team, I’m a librarian at Foundation Center South in Atlanta. FC is a nonprofit, headquartered in New York, which researches philanthropic giving, including grants awarded to libraries. Here are a few examples:
- In 2017, in Vandalia, IL, the Charles Ruemmelin Foundation gave $750 to the Evans Public Library for “Children’s section shelving.”
- In 2016 in Connecticut, the Thomaston Savings Bank Foundation gave $1900 to Morris Public Library for a color printer/scanner.
- In 2015, in Los Angeles California, the Cathay Bank Foundation gave Friends of the Chinatown Library $13,000 to “Develop community awareness…” and “Raise funds for capital improvement….”
That money can come from grants made by foundations and government agencies. Some foundations announce grant opportunities with deadlines. The ALA keeps a running list of such grants here: http://librarygrants.blogspot.com/. The blog is run by two librarians who wrote a book about getting grants for libraries: “Winning Grants: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians with Multimedia Tutorials and Grant Development Tools.”
Proposals: Prepare Your Outline and Find a Grantmaker
But there’s more money available to enterprising librarians who learn about the giving priorities of grantmakers and use that knowledge to craft proposals. Grant proposals are well-organized, well-researched arguments that say, in essence, “Here’s why you should give us a specific amount of money, and this is what we’ll do with it.” You can view a sample proposal outline here: http://www.hotwinds.com/Grant_Prop.html
So how do you identify grantmakers with money to award? Many of you work in libraries that offer a richly gratifying database called Foundation Directory Online. Libraries all over the country make this resource available for free. Plug a zip code in here to find the nearest library to you: http://grantspace.org/find-us. FDO, as users call it, is produced by Foundation Center.
Foundations award grants to nonprofits. Most local library foundations and “friends of” groups are nonprofits. Foundations also give grants to government agencies, including schools and libraries.
Further Preparation and Tips
How to get started with that grant proposal? Use the database mentioned above. Read up on tips from successful grant writers like this librarian in Florida. http://renovatedlearning.com/2014/10/13/10-tips-for-writing-grant-proposals/. Check your holdings for books on grant writing and check out these two free classes you can take in person, live online or recorded from Foundation Center’s Grantspace web site:
There are plenty of additional resources on FC’s grantspace.org website.
Here are a few additional tips on securing grants:
Start local: Most people believe you’re more likely to get a grant by hitting up foundations in your city, metro area or state.
Study up: Your grant proposal should send certain messages like, we read a lot about you, we know what you stand for, here’s how helping us helps you. Follow all of the grantmaker’s stated rules.
If at first you don’t succeed: Don’t be surprised or discouraged if your first proposal doesn’t get the green light. If possible, ask what you could have done differently. Try again with the same or another grantmaker.
So find those grantmakers, write your proposals, and don’t give up. The future is waiting—flying cars and all.
Budding collection developer Richard Hallman finally set aside his dreams of becoming a rock star, movie director, and/or famous novelist to embrace librarianship. Click here for more.