New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

Building a Foundation for Fundraising Success

By: Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, Director and Lori Abbatepaolo, Grants Administrator, Middle Country Public Library

The Middle Country Library Foundation is a 501c(3) organization established in 1997 to raise funds (the need for a 501c(3) status) and provide the governance structure (the need to keep project funds separate from operations) for the Library’s initiatives that extend beyond the local community.  The Board is comprised of corporate representatives who assist with fund raising and influence corporate and government entities; the Library director and a board member serve as ex-officio members.  The Foundation embraces collaborative, innovative, and replicable initiatives that benefit Middle Country residents, the residents of the Long Island region, and public libraries nationally. More than 85% of all funds collected directly benefit Library projects.  The Foundation does not employ its own staff and therefore, some funds are allocated to reimburse the library for administrative costs and partial salaries for staff involved in fundraising or business functions related to the Foundation’s work.

Through grant writing, the Foundation regularly supports 2-1-1 Long Island - a free, non-emergency information and referral database that connects residents to a wide range of community resources; the Miller Business Resource Center; Family Place Libraries™: Building Foundations for Early Learning; the Nature Explorium - an outdoor learning environment for children and families; adult literacy; and teen services. In addition to grant writing, the Foundation raises funds through an annual campaign and the solicitation of corporate sponsorships for three major programs - the Women’s EXPO, Strictly Business and Distinguished Speakers Series. This summer, the Foundation will be hosting its first fundraising event – A Night at the Library – the goal of which is to raise $20,000.

In 2000, it launched its first major capital campaign that involved raising a $1 million to support the expansion of two buildings, allowing the Library to create unique areas and purchase special items.   The Foundation also raised $40,000 to create the Reading Garden, adjacent to the adult reading room, adorned with a sculpture by a local artist.  When the Teen Resource Center (Selden) and the Underground (Centereach) were developed for teens, the Foundation purchased a “funky” desk and a juice bar. One of its most dynamic fund raising campaigns involved the creation of the Nature Explorium – 5,000 square foot outdoor area adjacent to the children’s room.  Over $150,000 was raised through grant writing, corporate sponsorships, the Book Path and READ plaques.

At the end of the capital campaign, the Foundation was able to garner a $1 million dollar endowment for Family Place from Amy and Horace Hagedorn.  The board had also designated an additional $200,000 for a general endowment fund. Since then, these funds have grown to $1.5 million through investments and individual contributions. A future goal for the Foundation is to establish a planned giving program to attract long-term sustainable dollars to help the Library thrive and grow, even as tax cap limitations are imposed.  To begin this process, the Library’s recently retired director established the Sandra L. Feinberg Fund for Innovation which will, hopefully, generate contributions from residents and other supporters.  With all of our fundraising efforts, the Foundation and the Library work hand-in-hand focusing on the expansion and sustainability of ongoing projects and the changing role of libraries and how Middle Country Public Library can maintain its leadership role into the future.