Creative Fundraising Ideas for Libraries

In a recent thread on the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) listserv, librarians and staff shared fundraising ideas and stories. The original poster on the ARSL was looking for ideas that could both increase patron traffic and visibility of a very small library. ARSL members rallied and swapped ideas and examples of successful library-related fundraising ideas. This couldn't be better timing as we've been covering fundraising tactics over on's blog.

To explore the topic further, I also tapped into the Friends of Libraries U.S.A.'s knowledgeable network for some ideas as well as some other library fundraising examples I've seen around the Internet.  

Book Baskets and Other Sales

One library shared the idea of a book basket fundraiser, a twist on the traditional book sale fundraiser. They pull the "practically new" books from the public donations and add small decorations to make themed book gift baskets. 

Another cool idea comes from the North Kinston Free Library in Rhode Island. The Friends of the NKFL publishes "A Century of Books for All the Mind's Journeys," a guide to 100 American classics. Each year highlights a different classic book. The guide is available at the library for $5.


Auctions are a pretty standard fundraising method, but I love this twist from the Van Zandt County Library in Texas. The Friends of the Library holds a chance auction, in which they sell tickets or "chances" for $1 each or 11 for $10. Participants can put your tickets in a bucket for any items you wanted. For example, there was a bucket to win a computer as well as a bucket to win a TV. You can put all your tickets in one basket or divvy them up among the different prizes. The librarian who shared this event with ARSL gave another gem of advice: Businesses get hit up for cash pretty often so they might be more eager to donate merchandise instead.

Events and Parties

Here in San Francisco, our Friends of the Library group puts on a monthly after-hours cocktail party called IMBIBE for members. Rather than a fundraising event it is a special perk for purchasing a membership at the Friends of the SFPL. Held in a different branch library across the city, members enjoy free adult beverages and food while mingling with special literary guests.

I also love the Town of Pelham Public Library's Novel Night. Residents of this New York town bring favorite books to life by hosting themed dinners. Attendees dress up as the characters from the various books and eat food pertinent to the selected novel.

Another creative event idea comes from the Santa Cruz County Public Law Library. The Central California library recently organized a Scrabble tournament and raised about $5,000 for the library and Santa Cruz Teen Peer Court.

Have any awesome fundraising ideas? Share them in the comments below! 


Fun to do things "beyond the book sale", although I love book sales, too :)  Here are a few Kansas examples that spring to mind.

The Tonganoxie Library has an annual 5K run fundraiser during Tonganoxie Days:

The Bonner Springs Library has a beautiful biannual Jazz on the Lake event:

The Lawrence Public Library works with local artists to create a series of Banned Book trading cards and then sells them with proceeds going to both the library and the artists

The Morrill Public Library in Hiawatha has a gorgeous annual spring tea:

The Basehor Community Library has a big fish tank that is extremely popular with kids of all ages. A wishing well sits next to it, encouraging donations to help with costs.


See example below from Middletown Free Library.  Be sure to check out the great bookmobile graphic on the back....

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A couple of years ago our Friends group hosted a wine tasting that featured about 15 wines. They were donated by the local grocery store, by the Friends, and one by the presenter himself. Because our library has a no alcohol on premises policy, we rented the former library, now a community center. Even with the rental fee this was a good fundraiser. We should have brought more of each wine however, as people showed up at the last minute, and the crowd did not get enough of each wine.

We, recently, hosted a wine and chocolate our library.  The presenter had a catering liscense and brought the wine and chocolate.  We paid only for the bottles that were opened.

Great ideas, Brenda! Thanks for sharing. 

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