Mt. Lebanon Public Library serious about raising money

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Faced with funding cuts in recent years and preparing for further cuts in the future, the Mt. Lebanon Public Library plans to hone its fundraising efforts to fill in the gaps.

The library has contracted with a fundraising consultant, who made several suggestions library director Cynthia Richey said she hoped would propel the library toward its goal of collecting $300,000 to $400,000 in donations over the next three years.

"I think more libraries will be doing this as the traditional government funding streams are reduced, because it's a matter of survival," Ms. Richey said.

The library saw its funding drop from $1.62 million in 2009, to $1.58 million in 2010 and $1.56 million this year, as the state and the Allegheny County Library Association decreased funding. The library has benefited from a supportive municipality, which increased funding to the library by about $150,000 over the past two years, including an additional $38,500 recently, which the library used to resume its Sunday hours of operation.

Despite the most recent municipal funding influx, the library let go two full-time librarians, one full-time assistant and one part-time librarian in January, resulting in a staff of 36 full-time and part-time employees, down from 50 a few years ago.

The Mt. Lebanon Commission helped the library to narrow the funding gap, Ms. Richey said.

"We could see the writing on the wall, and we knew that business as usual was no longer sustainable," she said.

At the beginning of 2010, the library's board of trustees formed a fundraising committee with members of the Friends of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library group, and last fall, they hired a fundraising consultant. The consultant conducted an audit of the library's fundraising past and then developed a plan.

The library has used creative fundraising techniques in the past, raising money with proceeds from a small bookstore in the basement of the library, an annual garden tour and a donation page on the website.

The consultant prepared a list of suggestions, including setting up a planned giving program to encourage people to put the library in their wills or charitable trusts; creating a brand for the library to better market it as a recipient for donations; publicizing that donations can be made to the library through United Way; and planning a large gala to celebrate the library's 80th anniversary in 2012.

"She's given us a timeline for us to stick to, a three-year plan to help us guide our fundraising efforts," library board president Chris Cahillane said.

One of her suggestions was that the library perform a year-end appeal. It did it for the first time during the six weeks between Thanksgiving and Dec. 31 last year, and Ms. Richey said the library raised about $22,000.

In the fall, the library raised $7,400 through the Pittsburgh Foundation Day of Giving, an event they will participate in next year, as well. The library will also seek out larger gifts from foundations and community members and remind people that membership dues in the Friends of Mt. Lebanon Public Library benefit the library financially.


Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


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