Personalized Appeal Yields Success for Red Bank Pubic Library

April 26, 2018
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Red Bank Library Foundation treasurer Michael Gordon, with chairperson Anne Torre. The foundation recently found success with a new way to solicit donations.

By Chris Rotolo |

RED BANK – It was the most successful fundraising effort for the Red Bank Library Foundation, thanks to an added, personalized touch.

Launched in 2013, the foundation for the Red Bank Public Library has dedicated itself to preserving the long-term fiscal health of the borough organization, which last year celebrated its 80th anniversary as the Eisner Memorial Library at 84 West Front St.

For the past four years, the trustees have organized an Annual Appeal to raise funds.

Foundation treasurer Michael Gordon said in the past, these end-of-year mass mailings to all Red Bank households failed to realize significant profit because of the postage costs.

But 2017 was different, after foundation chairperson Anne Torre refined the process.

“I’m a fundraiser and I’ve always found that personalization is key,” said Torre, who is active in several local nonprofits. “And it may have made a little bit of a difference for us.”

Torre used a survey, analyzed data and slimmed down the group of people the foundation targeted. With fellow foundation board members, Torre compiled a list of past donors and asked for names of others who were considered strong leads for donations. Torre tasked her colleagues with reaching out to those contacts they knew best, which Gordon said made all the difference.

“When we finalized the list of contacts, Anne asked us those of us who knew people on the list to include a little personal note to the appeal letter,” Gordon said. “It was a little nuance that she added to the campaign and it made this effort more successful.”

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Gordon said the final analysis showed that 73 percent of those targeted with a personalized note responded with a donation, helping the library garner nearly $15,000 in funds, while reducing the postage bill to about $1,200.

In past years Gordon disclosed that the foundation averaged about $12,000 in donations, while spending approximately $6,000 in mailing costs.

The Red Bank Public Library Eisner Memorial at 84 West Front St. operates as an independent
municipal library. A foundation raises funds to support its long-term fiscal health. Photo by Michaela Boneva

Torre credited the success of the fundraiser to the connections Gordon and his fellow library staff members are making with cardholders and community members through an expanding catalogue of educational programming.

“It’s a concerted effort to make the library about more than just books,” Torre said. “The vision is to make it an educational hub and a true community center. And you can see through our Annual Appeal that their efforts are really making a connection.”

Torre has found that public organizations like schools and libraries have trouble fundraising because of the stigma of taxpayer funding, which does satisfy much of the financing needed to preserve the Red Bank Public Library as a viable residential resource.

However, Torre also maintained that additional monies are essential to supply the library community with increased offerings that are both topical and engaging, like a recent three-part series titled “Fake News: Evaluating Published Information,” as well as bimonthly computer tutoring courses (April 6 and 20) held every other Friday, and a monthly event called “Let’s Talk About Race” (April 25), which discusses race relations in the United States with films and group discussions.

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Torre also pointed to a new summertime series that will offer local children an opportunity to learn more about and engage with nature, a program that is still being designed but is scheduled to begin in June.

“The assumption is that tax dollars pay for everything, and they do pay for a lot, but additional funding will allow us to do more for a community that has shown its willingness to support us,” Torre said. “And they’ll be able to see where their donations are going as more and more programming is provided.”

This article was first published in the April 19-26, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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