Grassroots Fundraising Advice for Library Giving Day 2021

Why not mobilize your community—your biggest advocates, the people who are already in your corner—to help raise support for your library?

Whether your library is academic, public, national, or special, it is providing indispensable value to the environment it's embedded in. Your library provides knowledge and an avenue for connection to the community.

Imagine what your community could do for your library in return. Why not mobilize your community—your biggest advocates, the people who are already in your corner—to help raise support for your library?

There are tons of cost-effective ways to raise support for your library through grassroots fundraising. You can increase awareness, reach new donors, AND raise more money to ensure your library thrives.

At the heart of fundraising is people, not money. People are the best avenue. In 2019, the largest source of charitable giving came from individuals at $309.66 billion, or 69% of total giving. In four of the last five years, charitable giving by individuals has grown. No donation is too small; it all adds up to have a huge impact. This is why grassroots fundraising is perfect for your library!

TWO FREE On-Demand Webinars for Library Giving Day 2021 #LibraryGivingDay:

Webinar 1: Getting the Most Out of Library Giving Day: From Fundraising to Friendraising, a Quick Start Guide to Making the Most of a Development Campaign.

Webinar 2: Library Giving Day: An Opportunity to Cultivate Major Donors

What is library grassroots fundraising?

“Grassroots” is when a movement, effort, or campaign derives its resources and reason from a community/region/people with common interests. When the desired amount of funds is raised with ordinary or small donors’ contributions, it is grassroots fundraising. This means your library, no matter its size, can derive a considerable amount of revenue from its community. The common interests may be knowledge, community, arts and culture...but the avenue is all the same: your library!  

Grassroots fundraising has many benefits, including:

  • Expanding your reach by tapping into your supporters’ networks
  • Diversifying your library’s revenue, helping you to become less dependent on a single source (or a few major donors) for support
  • Helping supporters fostering a greater sense of community and personal investment in your library, rooting for its long-term success

Different Methods of Grassroots Fundraising Your Library Can Try

Before diving into the strategy behind library grassroots fundraising, let’s take a look at the different grassroots fundraising methods. There are different types of grassroots fundraising you can use to support your library—all of them have different benefits and draws.

You may decide to focus on one method or create a multi-faceted approach. The method you choose will likely depend on your library staff/volunteer capacity and supporters’ preference. Choose methods that you will be able to work on consistently and sustainably for the best results.

Face-to-face solicitations

Many people think of a door-to-door salesman when they think of face-to-face fundraising, but there are lots of different ways you can make this grassroots fundraising method work for you.

If you’re a public library in a small community, maybe you should go door-to-door to reach supporters in the surrounding neighborhood. You can also hold community meetings with current and prospective supporters. Or, you can ask your current supporters to go face-to-face for you by reaching out to their family and friends.

The bottom line? You’re making personal connections to foster genuine supporter relationships that last for your library.

Best for: introducing new supporters to your cause, securing larger gifts from new and/or prospective donors, upgrading current donors to larger giving levels

Phone calls

Personal phone calls are a quick and easy way to connect with current supporters, follow-up with lapsed supporters, and even reach new potential donors. This is especially great if you have limited human resources but still want to reach a lot of people since it is less time intensive.  

You can do this on a weekly or monthly basis, or make a large event out of it! You can host a phone-a-thon, where all of your team members (staff, board, volunteers, etc.) spend an entire day reaching out to people. It doesn’t take long to do and is a great way to directly address anything that may be holding supporters back from supporting your library.

Best for: reaching large groups with limited human resources, upgrading supporters to donors (people who have joined your contact list but haven’t contributed), when you need to run a remote grassroots fundraiser but still want to make personal connections


This can include text-to-give or text-to-donate campaigns. Supporters can opt-in to receive texts from your organization and within minutes can support your library by clicking a link or responding to the text.

This method of grassroots fundraising is great for people who are already committed to supporting your library and are looking for an effortless way to give AND to generate first time donations from people who have signed up for your contact list but haven’t taken that first step to support your library.

Best for: recurring donors, first-time donations, reaching large groups of people instantly and directly

Peer-to-peer fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising is when supporters are going beyond donating to your library, but asking others to support your library on your behalf. Supporters are mobilized to host their own fundraiser or fundraising event on behalf of your library, either in-person, online, or a combination of the two.

This method of grassroots fundraising has really taken off. There are LOTS of reasons why people decide to give. But, did you know that according to a recent survey by Psychology Today over 85% of respondents said the reason they gave was simply because someone asked them to. This method of grassroots fundraising really can be a win-win for your library. You’re taking the supporter relationship to a whole new level when they are willing to advocate on your behalf. When they agree to fundraise for you, supporters take ownership of their support for the library AND help you reach an entirely new pool of prospective donors who are already more likely to trust your library because their friend, family member, or colleague is willing to back you up.

Best for: expanding your reach, mobilizing donors who have a far and wide reach, fostering sense of friendly competition, reaching a specific fundraising goal or deadline

Your donations help us secure funding for libraries in the United States.

Email marketing

Email is a great outreach channel (especially if a person’s email is the only contact info you have access to) to reach new donors and stay in touch with old ones. Plus, there’s great ROI for email as over half of people who receive an email about a crowdfunding campaign make a donation!

Not only does email marketing help you reach a wide audience with your grassroots fundraising solicitation, but it also helps you build a relationship with supporters through consistent communication. Email can also be a bit longer than text or social media appeals, so you have a chance to also mix in advocacy and educational efforts with your fundraising appeals.

Best for: Mixing advocacy with appeals (utilize more text, images, videos, different CTAs, etc.), drive traffic to donation site, reach new donors by promoting and growing subscriber list, building relationships with donors by keeping them updated with what’s going on with your library 


These are the fundraising events that everyone knows and loves. This can include endurance events such as walks, runs, or cycling. This can also include creative fundraising events, such as galas, silent auctions, and benefit dinners. Not only are supporters excited to participate, but this is an easy way for them to invite prospective donors to get to know and support your library.

This form of grassroots fundraising will take more time and preparation (and a greater financial investment) but could have a huge impact on your yearly revenue. It’s okay for this type of fundraising to happen less frequently as you’re likely making a larger ask. This is a great way to mobilize individual donors through grassroots fundraising AND reach out to potential corporate sponsors or partner organizations.

Best for: reaching new donors, strengthening relationships, upgrading existing donors to higher giving amounts, diversifying grassroots fundraising (people can simple give or purchase merch, raffle tickets, etc. at your event)  

Social media

Social media is a missed opportunity for many libraries. There are 3.96 billion people currently using social media worldwide. It’s a great way to reach new people and build community among current supporters. In fact, 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media end up taking some sort of action. 

Social media is a critical factor in grassroots fundraising success: for every order of magnitude increase in Facebook friends (10, 100, 1000), the probability of success increases drastically (from 9%-, 20%, to 40%). Think about how a little investment here can impact your library! Your focus for social media will be less about soliciting donations and more about introducing people to your library and generating leads for greater involvement (visiting donation sites, registering for events, connecting with other library lovers, etc.).

Best for: introducing people to your cause, providing hub for P2P fundraising to take place, build social proof/credibility, drive traffic to website/donation page

Once you choose your grassroots fundraising method (or methods), you can begin to think strategically about how you’ll use these to support your library.

Crowd Funding

Crowdfunding websites enable anyone with an idea to raise money from virtual strangers and eliminate many of the barriers to soliciting small contributions from individuals, often in exchange for various rewards.

The EveryLibrary Institute supports peer-to-peer fundraising with our platform. is the first and only crowdfunding platform for libraries and people who care about libraries. This free-to-use service help raise money for libraries and for projects in the communities that they serve. The library or campaign manager brings the project and then the EveryLibrary Institute advertises the project to a national network of over 350,000 people who support libraries. 

Best for: reaching new diverse audiences with projects that enact noticeable changes in the library and for the community. 

You can get started right now with a crowdfunding campaign by signing up at today.