Where Budgets and Friends Meet...

Presenting an annual budget isn’t just the job of the library director.  You’ve got Friends!

A Library Friends organization can be one of the most powerful allies a library has as the director prepares for and presents an annual budget.  A good Friends group can:

  • Help the library director determine what should be in the annual budget.  A well-balanced Friends group reflects the geo-diversity of the neighborhoods the library serves.  Friends Board members can give the library director valuable input about the community’s needs and what budgeting priorities are within their own neighborhoods.
  • Mobilize a powerful Advocacy Committee that will work throughout the year to advocate on behalf of the library with local decision-makers.  Friends Board members represent their neighborhood communities and develop relationships with their elected/appointed representatives.  A good Friends advocate is a strong voice and a valuable tool in the budgeting process – and stays connected throughout the year.
  • Develop position papers that present the library’s current economic position, its value to the community, funding needs, gaps and opportunities to expand capacity.  The library’s budget spreadsheet is made up of line items and numbers.  A library platform or a “Return on Investment” piece tells the full story of the library and all its value to citizens (in general as it supports specific populations), schools, businesses, the local economy…a good library platform tells it all! Two great examples of this include the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library's 2010 Advocacy Plan and the San Francisco Public Library Advocacy Report.  
  • Represent the library to constituent groups. Friends Board members often speak and represent the library with neighborhood groups, broadening community understanding and appreciation for the library’s value.   A well-prepared Friends Board member has a lot of credibility because of their dedicated volunteer status.
  • Advocate at the grassroots level.  Friends Board members attend city and county meetings and offer testimony on behalf of the library. They connect with decision-makers regularly, keeping the library visible throughout the year.
  • Be the literary voice for the library.  Friends Board members often write Op Ed pieces for local newspapers and “letters to the editor”.
  • Open doors.  From an elected official’s standpoint, Friends Board members can create links to groups and entities where an endorsement is sought.  This mutual “back-scratching” can benefit the library and the elected official, creating a relationship that can have long-term positive effects for the library.
  • Demonstrate how money talks!  Broadly-based private funding from Friends groups demonstrates to local officials that supporters of libraries are powerful, spread out and ready to fight for their library.
  • Mobilize other library supporters.  Friends groups organize grassroots support of bonding measures, state or local set-asides or other ballot issues that have long-term effects on libraries.
  • Fill the gaps.  One of the biggest roles a library Friends group plays is to provide funding for library programs and services that are not covered by public funding of the library’s budget.  This can be anything from funding a summer reading program to conducting a capital campaign.
  • Sing the song of success.  When successes are achieved (fending off budget cuts, renewing ballot measures, etc.) Friends can go back to library supporters and say “Look what you have done through your support – you made this possible.”  There’s nothing sweeter than success achieved through a grassroots effort.

 

Coalition Building & Strategic Partnerships

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