Wednesday, November 28, 2018

'Tis the Season

By Frank Boles
As the end of the year approaches, many people who support not-for-profit organizations will receive more than your fair share of “holiday greetings,” with a gentle (or maybe not so gentle) request for an end of year gift. The first one I received arrived in today’s mail. The flood will follow.
There’s a good reason for this; 30 percent of all annual giving takes place in December. Willie Sutton allegedly told a reporter that he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” This sensible, if in Sutton’s specific case illegal, approach to fundraising also applies to those of us who raise money for libraries. While we keep it legal, If 30 percent of all annual gifts are going to be given in December, we are going to be sending year–end invitations to donate, because that’s when the money is being given.
And yes, I’ve got my hand out too. The Clarke Historical Library plays an important part in documenting Michigan history, in documenting Central Michigan University, and in preserving the best in children’s literature. Through exhibits and speakers we sponsor, we play a vital role in the cultural life of campus, the community, and the state. We offer ways to learn that are very different from other campus activities. And like most special libraries, as times get tough and campus enrollments shrink, much of what we can do depends on the value others place in our mission and activities.
One example of how this works is the images of the Soo Locks found on our website.
In this fiscal year a bit more than 20 percent of the Clarke Library’s budget will come from non-university funding sources. The reality is without help we would be a significantly smaller, poorer, less capable shop. We would have less money to add key new items to the collection itself. We would have far less interesting and informative exhibits, many fewer speakers, and likely no longer be able to freely travel exhibits around the state. Things would change, and not for the better.
It would be grand to say that we have reached a happy turning point – that enrollment will increase (and with it tuition dollars), state support will soar and my years of begging on behalf of the library will come to an end. And we may have reached a turning point, but not a very happy one. With a rapid decline in the number of students graduating from high schools in Michigan, CMU enrollment is not likely to increase. And the chance of the state funding the resulting financial shortfall created by declining enrollment is not good.
If the Clarke Library is to remain active and vital, it is going to need outside help – help you give. It is the end of the year, and likely you will be thinking about supporting things you believe are important.  As you weigh the many options you will have, I hope you will remember what the Clarke Library does, how important that is, and go beyond appreciating what we do to partnering with us, through a financial gift.
Believe me when I say, we could use the money – and would spend it wisely.