I am a board member of First Book of Greater Richmond. Our purpose is to provide books to children who cannot afford to buy books. One way we distribute the books is personally in different schools. We go to the schools, read to the children, let the children read to us, and then we give the books to the children. The teachers also get a copy of each book. This enriches the lives of the children but also enriches the lives of their families.
The families now have books that they can share with each other. The parents now have books that they can read to their children. The gift of a book, or in the case of First Book books, is a gift that keeps on giving. It is a thrill to see the children write their name on the book. It is even more of a thrill to see the pride in their eyes when they know that the book is theirs to keep.
First Book awards grants to different entities. Most of the grants are given to title one schools. The grants allow the recipients to shop on our online bookstore. Most of the books cost the recipients $2.50. The recipients are able to purchase, at a deeply discounted rate, the books that are needed by each group. We receive donations of books from different publishers. We also receive discounted rates from different publishers.
Another way we distribute books is through mass book distributions. This is a rarity and a huge cause for celebration. In August First Book of Greater Richmond was given 400,000 books by various publishers. This was a huge undertaking. Our first task was finding warehouse space for 400,000 books. We were able to secure space that was donated to First Book.
Next we had to contact all of the eligible recipients and provide them with a list of available books. The distribution took place over five days and involved four hundred man hours for volunteers. It was a great success.
So now you are wondering how do we raise money to buy these books? We have different fundraisers throughout the year. We generally have 4 different restaurants throughout the year that give us a portion of their sales during a specific time when we advertise the specials through our Facebook page. We rented a local art studio where you can paint a picture with the assistance of an artist and drink wine at the same time. We received a portion of the profits for this. The amount that First Book earns for these fundraisers does not seem great. In the scheme of things it is. If we raise $1,000 from a restaurant that means four hundred books that we can offer to our recipients.
Our largest fund raiser each year is a golf tournament. This is a huge undertaking but the rewards are also huge. We recruit sponsors for different things. We have sponsors for lunch, dinner, hole in one contest, closest to the pin contest, etc.
We also have a silent auction at the golf tournament. Local businesses donate items for the silent auction. It is very time intensive to gather the items but it is very profitable for First Book. Another very profitable thing that we do is a raffle fundraiser.
Our one raffle of the year is what I have dubbed the “booze barrow”. It is a wheel barrow full of booze. All of the board members donate a bottle (or two or three) of booze. Another board member donates the wheel barrow. We fill the wheel barrow full of the booze and sell raffle tickets for it. Last year we relied on raffle ticket sales the day of the golf tournament. This year we started with pre-sale tickets. Last year we raised $1,240 with the raffle. This year we raised $1,860. That is a 50% increase but I think we can do better.
I think that we can do better by selling more raffle tickets prior to the tournament. The board members are the only people that sell the raffle tickets. I think we should keep this standard. Most of us try to sell the tickets to co-workers. I think we need to broaden our horizons.
I did broaden my horizons this year. I sold tickets to people inside my office but also outside my office. All of my friends know of my involvement with First Book. Not all of my neighbors knew of my involvement with First Book. They certainly do now. One neighbor that I approached told me that she did not have any cash. I informed her that we take checks. She wrote a check on the spot!
The board members did not have a contest to determine who sold the most tickets. I will propose that we do that next year. I think that the pride of all of the board members will be sufficient motivation to sell more tickets. I think we will just need to have some structure around the contest to sell the most raffle tickets.
The prize of the booze barrow goes a long way in stimulating ticket sales. I think we need to stress that the $10 raffle ticket will buy four books for children. Even if you do not win the booze barrow you are still a winner in the eyes of the children.
I think we also need to stress (when selling tickets to co-workers) that First Book is a United Way Agency. My employer is a huge supporter of United Way.