Introduction to the Library Support Network

Fundraising and advocacy help keep public libraries strong, vibrant, and at the heart of every community. Yet, the work is demanding, the expectations are big, and the role of library development professionals often is not understood or leveraged to its fullest.

In 2016, a small group organized the first-ever annual International Public Library Fundraising Conference (IPLFC.) Since then, hundreds of people from across the US and Canada have come together for peer-to-peer sharing and learning. In 2019, Library Giving Day was launched, and 400+ libraries have signed on and raised millions of dollars for their local communities.

We are finding inspiration, new opportunities, connections, and efficiencies through the formation of an informal network that we are calling the Library Support Network.

In October of 2022, the Library Support Network (Beta) was launched. We are seeking funding to develop a robust two-year pilot to test and prove the value of this idea. Our pilot prospectus is below:


Leveraging Network Power to Transform Fundraising and Advocacy for Public Libraries

The Library Support Network was conceived to help accelerate the development of public/private library partnerships through peer-to-peer sharing, professional advice, and leading strategies for fundraising, advocacy, and joint initiatives. Having strong library support and advocacy can result in a powerful public/private partnership where a small marginal investment of private funding is used to leverage the public investment for outsized impact.

Opportunity Statement
To fulfill their missions, libraries and library support organizations must foster the goodwill and active involvement of external constituencies. Like associations that exist to support advancement professionals in specific nonprofit areas such as education (CASE) and healthcare philanthropy (AHP), a Library Support Network is needed as a source for education, networking, information, and research in library philanthropy.

The Library Support Network would function as infrastructure to help develop a network of high-performance fundraising and advocacy organizations across North America with two primary goals:

  • To support public library development through peer-to-peer sharing, professional advice, and leading strategies for high-impact development through fundraising, advocacy, and joint initiatives to help secure library resources more effectively
  • To leverage the reach and influence of the network to build a web of professional staff, volunteers, and donors to influence legislative outcomes that drive an aggressive vision for the good of public libraries across North America

Proof of Need
In Fall 2021, the Seattle Public Library Foundation commissioned a survey of library directors and support professionals to learn whether interest in this idea was widespread. 249 people responded and 73 percent of them said formalizing a Library Support Network would be DEFINITELY or EXTREMELY BENEFICIAL to their organization. Library directors were the single biggest segment of respondents to the survey.

Pilot Plan
A limited feature beta version of the Library Support Network was launched in the fall of 2022 with funding from nineteen founding library support organizations. More than 200 library fundraising professionals and library staff have signed on and many have participated in live events and are actively making connections. We are seeking grant funding to build out a two-year pilot with a robust moderated online community, where content and experiences are curated, direct connection is encouraged, and learning is facilitated Presuming the pilot validates excellent value through usage and key metrics, we anticipate a sustainable and scalable network with three revenue streams:

  • Scaled membership fees based on organizational size and member type
  • Sponsorships, such as value-added sponsored content and activities
  • Registration fees from the International Public Library Fundraising Conference

Long term, our preferred outcome is to find a permanent home with another organization whose work aligns and has a desire to support the development of strong public/private partnerships in libraries.

The Funding Opportunity
We are seeking bold philanthropists who believe in libraries and their power to improve lives, build equity, and preserve democracy. Initial planning costs are very low because of in-kind support and contributions from several libraries and support organizations. To rapidly accelerate this work, we seek a lead funder to give us the confidence to hire dedicated managers of the community and content. The Steering Committee seeks a total of $310,000 for a two-year pilot.

Get Involved

Jonna Ward, CEO of the Seattle Public Library Foundation has been a driving force behind this work. If you would like to be involved, please email: [email protected] to let her know your interest.