Online Donations: The Newest Way to Give

Online donations 101
Strengthen your online presence with old-fashioned advocacy

The Internet has revolutionized almost every aspect of our society. Little wonder, then, that it has revolutionized fundraising too. Why should your library consider online fundraising? Here are seven good reasons:

1.  It’s immediate. Donors can give with a few quick clicks.
2.  It’s cost effective. No printing or postage.
3.  It’s timely. You can take advantage of your library’s media exposure or other promotional opportunities.
4.  It brings in new donors. Search engines that drive users to your library’s website will drive them to your donation request too.
5.  It brings in younger donors. As a demographic, Internet users are younger than people who respond to direct mail.
6.  It brings in larger donations. Research has shown that households with Internet connections tend to be wealthier and better educated than those without the Internet.
7.  People expect it. We give to almost everyone else online, why not the library?

Online donations 101    

In order for your library to engage in online fundraising, it must first have an online presence. As simple as this sounds, some small libraries do not have their own websites. Therefore, step one is creating online access: via a website, Facebook page, Twitter thread, library blog or wiki.  Online exposure is paramount.  Patrons cannot donate online unless they know where to go! 

Web pages usually require some level of expertise, but website designers are not difficult to find, nor is website creation costly. Are there individuals who will create a simple website for your library at no charge? Ask around your community.

You don’t need a fancy website, but you do need one that’s attractive, easy to navigate and simple to update. The basics for your website should include your library’s name and logo, address, hours and contact information. Include your mission statement, as well as information about your library’s programs and services and how it meets community needs. Talk about what resources you must have to keep your library strong, then add a “Donate” button that will allow people to donate online. Avoid the three most common website mistakes: outdated information, difficult navigation, and boring design.

Facebook pages are free and very easy to create.  Many libraries have Facebook pages.  To create a Facebook page, go to and sign up. After that, click on “Create a Page,” then on “Local Business or Place.” You will find a dropdown menu with a “Library” option you can choose. Follow instructions from there. Use your library’s Facebook page to guide people to your website and from there to the “Donate” button.

Twitter ( can be an adventure in online visibility for your library! Check out that website and see if you and your library supporters want to start tweeting about how great your library is – and how much it needs people’s help to stay that way.

Blogging is a creative way to keep library lovers informed about what’s happening at your library and to let them know how they can get involved in many ways, from volunteering to giving. Blogging is free. Check out some of the most common blogging sites to get started: Blogger (a service of Google), Posterous, LiveJournal, WordPress, Xanga,, and Digg. Use blogs and tweets to entice people to visit your library’s website.

Once someone clicks on the “Donate” button on your website, how do they actually make a donation? Most of us may have purchased items online with a credit card or a bid on eBay, and then paid via an online account.  One secure option is PayPal: It is a wonderful option for accepting online payments without investing in an expensive Ecommerce set up. Donations can be given anonymously and paid via a donor’s own PayPal account or by credit card.  Many local schools, shelters, and churches fundraise via online utilizing this option. The librarian or other library representative would first need to set up a PayPal account for the organization and open a corporate account for the donations. In public libraries, this often must be voted on first by the Board of Trustees. The Library itself can accept PayPal donations by setting up its own account, or a separate organization like a Friends group or Foundation can also set up a PayPal account.

Other online donation sites include Razoo and Network for Good.

A creative librarian can also link a book wish list for the library via .  Patrons can then go to, order the items and have them sent directly to the library, or they can have the books sent to themselves. then donate the items in person. The library blog or PayPal page can also be linked to other local organizations and businesses: e.g. The Chamber of Commerce, Welcome Center, and City Hall.  Local community organizations like schools, churches, and business might also help spread the word.

Primary and Secondary school libraries are usually part of a middle school or high school web page and thus have IT support.  Public libraries are usually part of a much larger library system or consortium and must adhere to system rules and board regulations.  Private libraries and academic university libraries usually can exert more control over fundraising because they are the sole resource and not part of a larger system.  University libraries can often incorporate more personalized options like digital bookplates into their cataloging system: e.g. Brown University.

Strengthen your online presence with old-fashioned advocacy    

Don’t rely entirely on the Internet to tell people what the library does and needs. The library must have multiple means of exposure, publicized goals, and a positive attitude about change in order to be successful in fundraising. Many patrons feel libraries are self sufficient, and they are often unaware of financial woes, furlough days, budget cuts, and reduced staff.

Becoming visible and active in your library’s community is very important, and this is where good old-fashioned advocacy comes in. The librarian or library representatives (Friends, Foundation staff, volunteers, parents and library lovers) should attend school board, city hall and city council meetings.  When attending those meetings, ask for support frequently, but always in a friendly way.  Local community leaders often look to their own constituents first, and those constituents must keep the library on the minds of local politicians, businessmen, and administrators.  Cater a breakfast in the library before the next city hall or school board meeting. Get the public officials into the library (even if it’s just for the food), then market yourself, the library and its resources.

Weekly newspaper articles keep the library in the news and in the mind of the community.  Publicize how valuable your library is by printing increased circulation numbers, information about classes on creating resumes, and your free after-school student activities.  Make sure the local community comprehends the work and value of your library: e.g. public computer access, wireless Internet Network, free DVD, vhs, audio books, and of course print circulation. 

Align your library with other organizations like Family Connection, Head Start, the local police and fire department.  Start small, have a goal, and create an engaging online presence.  Become involved in the community first, and then start asking for support and additional resources. Always remember to be positive and optimistic. 


Online giving grows every year, and there’s every reason to assume that growth will continue. Bring your library fundraising into the 21st century by giving your library’s donors the opportunity for easy online giving. Remember all the reasons it’s a good idea! Start simple and grow your online donor base.

6. Planned Giving: Encouraging People to Leave a Legacy

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