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"Sing Their Praises" - MCN Unsung Hero Award

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Posted by jim

Every day, volunteers of all kinds work tirelessly, but without fanfare, to better their communities. They rarely receive the recognition that these selfless contributions deserve.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits knows this. For the past four years, the organization has offered its prestigious Unsung Hero Award, “in acknowledgment of the recipient’s role in creating a positive impact on Minnesota.”


Candidates must be Minnesota residents, and self-nominations will not be accepted. Otherwise, eligibility criteria are few!

While the award is a competitive one, top prize includes $10,000 and a special recognition at MCN’s annual conference in Rochester in October.
 Click here to up on application procedures – and about 2015-2018 recipients, to better gauge if the colleague you have in mind would be competitive. Submit by Monday, May 27. As always, good luck!

While you’re at it: Be sure to submit your high achiever for MALF’s own Stand Up for Standout Friends. This Friends-specific recognition opportunity is open to all MALF member organizations. Click here to review recipient honors and application steps. Stand Up for Standout Friends submissions are due Friday, August 2.

Can Minnesota Claim America's 'Best Small Library'?

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Posted by jim

Nestled in the heart of Appalachia, the three-branch Madison County Public Libraries system is one of the smallest in North Carolina. It is also, in many ways, the most impressive – this according to Library Journal, who named it the “Best Small Library in America” last year.

The reasons for Madison’s selection are many, but its programmatic achievements top the list. Last year, event and class attendance exceeded 16,000. That’s pretty astounding, for a library serving a population of only 21,000 (and which does so on a modest budget, to boot).

The annual ‘Best Small Library’ distinction is bestowed annually by Library Journal and Baker & Taylor. As the name suggests, its intent is to encourage and showcase the exemplary work of modestly-sized libraries. The winner receives $5,000, a
 feature story in Library Journal, and a number of other perks.

Do you feel that your Friends efforts contribute to making your local library the ‘Best’ of its kind? Consider nominating it for the 2019 award cycle, which runs from now to July 2.


Judging is based on a number of factors, including: creativity in developing and implementing replicable programming; volunteer support base; sustained cooperation with other community organizations; and evidence of the library’s long-standing value as a community center. Only public libraries with service populations under 25,000 are eligible for consideration.

For more information, including comprehensive judging criteria and step-by-step nomination instructions,
 visit Library Journal.

Evy Nordley Entries Due June 21

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Posted by jim under Grants & Awards

While you have awards on the mind, spare a thought for MALF’s own Evy Nordley Award for Best Project. Evy Nordley is one of only a handful of monetary prizes in the country earmarked specifically and solely for Friends of the Library efforts.

Top prize is $1,000, with first- and second- place runners-up each also receiving an honorarium. Finalists will also have an opportunity to share details about their outstanding library program, membership drive, fundraising campaign, or other initiative with peers at the 2019 Minnesota Library Association conference.


Click here to brush up on entry requirements and recommendations, and to download the 2019 nomination form.

Mark your calendars: Applications are due June 21. MLA 2019 will be held this year on September 19-20, at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake. Registration and other conference details will follow early this summer.

April 'Quick Tip': TechSoup Webinars

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Posted by jim

Public libraries are an ever-evolving community institution. And, just as libraries themselves must adapt with the times, so must we. This is often easier said than done, however.

Fortunately, TechSoup offers a comprehensive (and free!) library of
 recorded webinars to help Friends understand the latest charity trends, and to integrate best practices into their day-to-day operations. This archive truly runs the gamut – how to write a killer grant application, leverage social media for effective storytelling, migrate your Friends’ data to “the cloud,” and so much more. Each session is led by an industry expert, and runs between 30-60 minutes in length.

Not sure where to start? Look for the 
Categories menu option, and review the twenty topic areas TechSoup has to choose from.

MCN Invites 'Nonprofit Mission Award' Nominations

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Posted by jim

Minnesota is home to more than 30,000 registered and active nonprofits.(1) Do the math, and that comes out to one charity for every 187 residents! With such a healthy, diverse philanthropic landscape, we're sure you'd agree that there is ample room for more than one charity recognition opportunity.

Here’s another one to add to your list. Between now and May 17, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits invites you to submit your organization for a 2019 Nonprofit Mission Award.

As that name suggests, the intent here is to elevate the work of Minnesota nonprofits who have done exemplary, impactful work – and over the past year, in particular. Grassroots efforts by local Friends of the Library are particularly suited to compete in the 
InnovationAdvocacyand Responsive Philanthropy categories.

Each has its own criteria, so be sure to read carefully. Submissions will be judged by the Council of Nonprofit’s member base, with winners notified in July and recognized in September. And did we mention? Winning organizations each receive a professional 
videography package!

Four Types of Board Members - And Why to Recruit Each, Pt. 2

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Posted by jim under Advice

MALF is pleased to present this two-part miniseries on Friends leadership recruitment, adapted with permission from a piece originally prepared by and for Library Strategies, our office management firm. We've heard from you, our members, that this is a topic of great and increasing importance.

Click here (Part I) to learn about our first two psychographic profiles: so-called "Curtain Raisers" and "Friend Raisers."

3) Barn Raisers. Amish communities across America maintain the age-old tradition of “barn raising,” where families come together and pool their time and tools to erect a barn in the span of a day. You probably don’t have much use for a barn, but the basic principles hold true: little can get done without “elbow grease,” but many hands make for light work.

Barn Raisers are crucial to Friends and Foundations, particularly those with no paid staff to handle the “brunt” of on-the-ground duties. For instance, no book sale will get off the ground without organizers willing to sort books and coordinate volunteer shifts, and no author event can occur without a point person to oversee logistics.

If your board of directors is light on Barn Raisers, reconsider your nomination criteria with this need in mind. The archetypal “Friend Raiser” may have the influence to drive others to your functions, and “Curtain Raisers” the affluence to drive large donations based on their own charitable example. But, in addition to influence and affluence, consider work ethic and leadership interest when seeking and vetting candidates.

4) Consciousness Raisers. Ultimately, all your directors’ collective efforts are intended to better the library, and no public library can get by on private funding alone. For this reason – though this one may not roll off the tongue like the other three – Consciousness Raisers are arguably the most valuable psychographic profile of all.

Consciousness Raisers bring the knowledge and gumption required to lobby for the library’s continued public funding in public forums, and spearhead grassroots advocacy efforts within your community.

Dividends may not be immediate, but depending on a given director’s skill set, an hour spent in candid conversation at the office of your county commissioner might be exponentially more valuable to your cause than an hour spent directly soliciting private donations.

Remember, advocacy is essential everywhere. If you live in a small community or represent a budding nonprofit, you may be tempted to concentrate overmuch on recruiting Barn Raisers and Friend Raisers… and give Consciousness Raisers short shrift. Don’t! We know of many instances where a corps of activism-minded directors made a major impact on a small community’s public library funding levels.

Naturally, these four psychographic profiles are not mutually exclusive. In practice, for example, a Consciousness Raiser with a knack for public advocacy might also have a grassroots network they can tap as Barn Raisers or Friend Raisers. However, conceptualizing your leaders’ (and prospective leaders’) characteristics in this way will help ensure that you maintain a balanced board of directors.

Introducing 'Library Giving Day'

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Posted by jim under Fundraising, Events

Odds are, your Friends participate in Minnesota’s celebrated Give to the Max Day every fall. You probably also know about – even if you don’t fundraise around – National Friends of Libraries Week. And, if you are keyed into the giving landscape, you may also be familiar with Giving TuesdayAll three are excellent opportunities for Friends of the Library to marshal grassroots enthusiasm and needed funds for their local library. Unfortunately for us, all three “holidays” are clustered in the span of just one month late in the year – a potential recipe for donor fatigue.

Fortunately, there is a new kid on the block: Library Giving Day. Celebrated in April (in this case, Wednesday, April 10) in conjunction with National Libraries Week, Library Giving Day is a tailor-made and well-timed spring counterweight to Give to the Max Day in November.

Currently in its pilot season, Library Giving Day is the brainchild of the nationally reputed Seattle Public Library Foundation. Its stated purpose is right there in the name: to stoke increased visibility for and private donations to library- related causes, via parallel efforts in all corners of the country.   

As a means to this end, the organizers have helpfully prepared an online toolkit chock full of Library Giving Day- branded materials to get you started. These include flyer, press release, and solicitation letter templates – plus a host of logos and suggested social media post verbiage.

If you choose to participate in Library Giving Day, regardless of the forms your efforts take, please do two things to both boost your efforts and help event organizers gauge participation in this pilot year.

  • Register your library and Friends in Library Giving Day’s searchable database, so that prospective donors can more easily find you.
  • Tag all of your posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #LibraryGivingDay.   

On the fence about taking part? Watch this archived webinar.

'Minnesota Writers Directory' Now Live

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Posted by jim under Programs, Authors

One in four Evy Nordley Award candidate projects includes a Minnesota author as a keynote speaker, panelist, or sponsor. That stat alone is a compelling proof that partnership opportunities abound between Friends of the Library and the state’s grassroots literary community.

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As we all know, however, brainstorming author programs and actually bringing them to fruition can be different things entirely. The Minnesota Center for the Book is endeavoring to bridge that gap with a free and first-of-its kind writers directory.

Aptly named the Minnesota Writers Directory, this interactive database allows users to ascertain, at a glance, whether a given author is available for library talks, writer workshops, special fundraisers, book club gatherings, school visits, and more. It also provides contact details for the author in question (or their booking agent or publicist, as appropriate). You can hone your search by county of residence, writing genre, target age demographic, or past accolades like a Minnesota Book Award.

Minnesota Center for the Book is a designation bestowed on The Friends of the Saint Paul Public (FSPPL) by the Library of Congress. Per federal requirements, each state contains a Center for the Book. However, Minnesota is one of only a handful of instances where the recognized organization is a nonprofit – and the only instance where a Friends group holds the distinction.

Four Types of Board Members - And Why to Recruit Each, Pt. 1

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Posted by jim under Donors, Board Recruitment

MALF is pleased to present this two-part miniseries on Friends leadership recruitment, adapted with permission from a piece originally prepared by and for Library Strategies, our office management firm. We've heard from you, our members, that this is a topic of great and increasing importance.

When a Friends or Foundation board looks for new directors, it can be tempting to prioritize deep pockets over all else. It’s an understandable impulse. After all, fundraising is a major part of our “raison d’être,” and most nonprofit boards boast an 80%+ giving rate.  

Even so, board donations alone will never sustain your organization. As you vet new directors, consider other assets candidates could bring to the table to further your mission. Specifically, don’t overlook potential directors who fit one of these four profiles.

1) Curtain Raisers. No matter how well-networked you are, odds are that you yourself do not know everyone in the community who might be receptive to aiding your organization in some big way. Whether you are seeking more large donations, new leaders to fill upcoming vacancies – or, more likely still, some combination – turn to your board’s Curtain Raisers.

Put simply, Curtain Raisers facilitate new connections; these adroit networkers are your best bet for reaching as-yet-untapped contributors. Studies have conclusively shown that in-person, one-on-one asks from a passionate personal connection are the best way to increase your fundraising and recruitment reach.

You can get the most out of your Curtain Raisers by doing two things. First, actively identify areas in which they can help. (“We are $5k short of our campaign goal. Do you know anyone who might bridge that gap for us?” “Our treasurer’s term is up next year, and we don’t have a finance person on deck to replace her. Do you know anyone?”) Second, as problems or opportunities arise, be receptive to their referrals and encourage them to reach out to strong prospects (“I might know someone who can help…”)

2) Friend Raisers. Friend Raisers (alternatively known as “Cheerleaders”) are much like Curtain Raisers in several key respects. They boast a robust network and are willing to tap into it to benefit your organization. However, whereas Curtain Raisers are invaluable in securing sizable donations or long-term commitments, Friend Raisers cast a wider net and are valuable allies in furtherance of one-off or shorter-term programming and publicity efforts.

If your Friends group or Foundation hosts special events of any kind – be they ticketed galas, free library programs, or one-off parties to celebrate a major milestone of some kind – look to your Friend Raisers. They will drum up attendants who might not otherwise have heard of your programs, and – just as critically – stoke enthusiasm among those who are within your sphere but may not have turned out otherwise.

Attending an in-library author reading, annual gala, or even a well-orchestrated used book sale represents a minimal commitment on the part of those approached. However, if you leave a positive and lasting impression, you may sow the seeds for a donation (or time commitment) at a later date.

What of the other two psychographic profiles, Barn Raisers and Consciousness Raisers? Keep your eyes peeled for our next e-newsletter!

Remembering Joan B. Larson

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Posted by jim under Obituary

MALF honors the life and memory of Joan B. Larson, who passed away February 23 at the age of 89.

Long-time library staff and supporters may remember Larson best as head of the Northern Lights Library Network – a cooperative of 280 public, school and special libraries in northern Minnesota. Under Larson's leadership, the consortium pooled valuable administrative, technological, and educational support services for the betterment of all.

However, she was also a staunch Friends leader, both at the local and state level. Larson served for a full ten years on the Minnesota Association of Library Friends board. Among other priorities, she was a driving force behind MALF’s first foray into Literary Landmarks™ – starting with the dedication of the Sinclair Lewis boyhood homestead in Sauk Centre (2013).

On top of MALF, Joan contributed her time and energy to a dizzying litany of like-minded organizations: her local Douglas County Friends and Foundation; the Minnesota Library Association (of which she was president); the Minnesota Reading Coalition; and the American Library Association / United for Libraries.

MALF named Joan as its
 'Library Friend of the Year' in 2014, and the Minnesota Library Association singled her out with a Distinguished Achievement Award in 2009. She will be missed! Family asks that, in lieu of flowers, charitable gifts be given in Joan’s name to the Douglas County Library Friends and Foundation. [Obituary]

No National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) in 2019

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Posted by jim under Advocacy

For many years running, the American Library Association has hosted its own advocacy “holiday” in Washington D.C.: the aptly named National Library Legislative Day (NLLD). ALA’s Washington Office is taking a break in 2019… on paper, anyway.
 
Our nation’s capital will play host to ALA’s Annual Conference from June 20-25 – just weeks after NLLD typically falls. For that reason, advocacy activities will be folded into ALA’s flagship event, which is expected to draw 25,000+ attendees.

Click here to learn more about the Conference (including scholarship opportunities), and expect NLLD proper back in 2020!

Why Just One Day? Mark Virtual Library Legislative Week!

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Posted by jim under Advocacy

Not everyone can converge on the Capitol on February 26. Work obligations, busy personal schedules, and (dare we say it) weather make it impractical. For this reason, Legislative Day organizers are orchestrating a virtual counterpart to the big event.
 
Virtual Library Legislative Week runs February 25 – March 1, and there are no shortage of ways to “celebrate.” MLA’s Advocacy particularly recommends the following:
 
1. Review (and, if desired, research further) the issues and talking points collected by MLA here. If you don’t know who represents you at the state or federal level, not to worry: just click here!
 
2. Draft an email. MLA has helpfully collected all Minnesota legislators’ contact information here to help make that easy. These do get read, and it can make a difference!
 
3. Punctuate those points by calling their offices. You will likely speak to an aide; but don’t be discouraged. Well-placed aides often have great sway with elected representatives. You can peruse a customizable sample call script here.

4. Want to cover all your bases? Give your favorite library-related bill or funding priority a quick shout out on social media. It might surprise you how many legislators are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Helping Libraries Help Us: MN Library Legislative Day

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Posted by jim under Advocacy

Minnesota's public, academic and special libraries are supported by a network of seven "multitype" systems. Multitypes provide an array of consortial benefits to their members: cooperative purchasing powers, training opportunities galore, grant seeking assistance – and even think tanks for particularly tricky patron reference questions.
 
Lake so many things, multitypes are supported by a biennial legislative appropriation. Without it, they cannot be robust. Consequently, increased multitype funding at the State level (from $1.3m to $2m, to be exact) is one priority of the Minnesota Library Association’s advocacy platform for 2019.
 
Even in cases like this, where the sums are not astronomical, it can be difficult to score a win. State congressmen have many demands on their time – and on the State coffers. For this reason it is incumbent on us, as Friends of the Library, to share the load with organizations like MLA by voicing our support for libraries and the budget streams that keep them functioning.
 
February 26 marks your best opportunity all year long to do this. We hope you will join MALF and Friends from across Minnesota for Library Legislative Day at the Capitol. If you haven’t already, you can register here. Still on the fence? Read on.
 
In truth, Legislative Day is a two-day affair. Join us in Saint Paul on February 25 for a legislative briefing by MLA’s state lobbyist, as well as an informal meet-and-greet with legislators and aides. If so inclined, you can then cap off Day 1 with a networking dinner (sign up here).
 
Click here to learn more about scheduling meetings with your legislators on Tuesday, and to get the ball rolling. Between sessions, you are welcome to attend a Library Fair held on site. We guarantee you will come away knowing something new about the Minnesota library landscape!

Evy Nordley Revamp; 2019 Application Window Open!

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Posted by jim under Awards

Anyone privy to national news about Friends of the Library can attest that Minnesota stands a cut above the rest. That’s something worth celebrating. Over the past twenty years, MALF has acknowledged and publicized exemplary achievements of local Friends groups through our Evy Nordley Award.

As we gear up for this flagship program’s third decade, we are happy to roll out a new, standardized application form. Built on years of participant feedback, this new template will be of benefit to applicants in several ways.

First, in lieu of a free-form project narrative, the new Evy Nordley template breaks project description down into its constituent parts: planning, publicity, evaluation, and so on. In this way, otherwise strong applications are far less likely to be docked points for accidentally omitting some critical piece of the puzzle. Second, those categories tie directly to judging criteria and panel discussion areas, lending added transparency to the process.

As in years past, supplementary materials are welcomed. Common examples include photographs, newspaper clippings, letters from program partners or beneficiaries, and budget summaries. However, these are not required.

Remember, any Friends-supported project is eligible, provided that (1) project implementation began after January 1, 2018; and (2) either the Friends or their library was the primary beneficiary. (In other words, efforts jointly developed with or sponsored by non-Friends organizations are qualified under many circumstances.)

Common project types include special events, successful fundraisers, membership drives, and stellar advocacy campaigns – but the sky is the limit! If you have specific questions about the eligibility of a particular project, call 651-366-6492 for clarity.

All entries must be postmarked or emailed by Friday, June 21. Applicants will be notified of finalist outcomes by mid-August. Representatives from the three finalist Friends groups will be asked to give a 10-minute presentation on their project Thursday, September 19as part of the annual MLA conference (to be held this year in Prior Lake, with additional details TBA).

February 26 is Minnesota Library Legislative Day

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Posted by jim

Did you know? Every public library in Minnesota benefits from a state Office of Higher Education appropriation which earmarks funds for statewide interlibrary loan delivery (ILL). It's one of dozens of ways in which state dollars impact local library service.

Crucial services like these are easy to take for granted - but we do so at our own peril. Without continued support in the state legislature, there is no guarantee that the government will sustain libraries in this way in perpetuity. With that in mind, the Minnesota Library Association maintains a standing Legislative Committee. (You can learn more about its work here.)

This body organizes an annual Library Legislative Day at the Capitol in Saint Paul. It is perhaps our best opportunity all year round to champion the valuable work of libraries in front of an audience well positioned to safeguard library funding. MALF will be there in force – and we hope to see you there!

Mark your calendars now for Tuesday, February 26, and stay tuned for further details (including how to request specific appointments). Note that, as in years past, the event will kick off with a morning legislative briefing to get attendees up to speed on bills and other measures of import to libraries. There will also be an informational library fair on site. You can make a day of it!

Ezra Jack Keats Foundation Offers Library 'Mini-Grants'

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Posted by jim under Grants & Awards

All too often, budgetary constraints prevent our public libraries from orchestrating the creative, top-notch children’s programs that staff and patrons wish to see. Equally frustrating, while myriad grants exist to defray programming costs, most are fairly restrictive in scope and intent. Fortunately, every year, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation offers a solution.

Named after the bestselling and Caldecott Award- winning illustrator, this Foundation offers 70 annual “mini-grants” to public libraries and schools, to put on whatever children’s program they desire. Since the Foundation’s inception, the program has awarded nearly $1,000,000 – that’s a lot of mini-grants!

Need inspiration? The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation’s recently remodeled website is chock full of replicable examples. For instance, the most recent Minnesota grantee (Beaver Lake Education Center in Maplewood) self-published a “collage homage” of a favorite Keats book, by having each classroom contribute a page in a different artistic medium (paper mache, oil paints, etc.)

Mini-grants are capped at $500. Applicants seeking consideration in 2019 should submit their materials online by March 31.
 Click here to learn more.

Please note, a Friends of the Library organization is ineligible for this program unless partnering directly with their affiliate Library. If, for whatever reason, this presents an issue for your hoped-for program, consider MALF’s own Chris D. Olson Event & Programming Grant as an alternative!

ALA Programs Office Introduces "Thinking Money"

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Posted by jim under Programming

MALF has maintained a blog since 2011. In that time, news about the American Library Association’s traveling exhibit opportunities routinely rank among our most popular posts. In light of that clear and continual interest from Friends, we are thrilled to share word about the ALA Programs Office’s newest exhibit: Thinking Money.

As the name suggests, Thinking Money aims to teach the fundamentals of financial literacy – budgeting accurately, spending responsibly, and investing wisely. ALA’s newest interactive exhibit is geared towards younger patrons, aged 7-11, in hopes of instilling those lessons early. (However, parents and other patrons are sure to learn a little something new and useful, as well.)

Comparable to past exhibits, ALA’s pre-fabricated displays require 1,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Each regional co-host will display Thinking Money for a six-week period sometime between late 2019 and 2021. Libraries selected as regional co-hosts are expected to organize at least four on-site programs on topics related to personal finance during their six-week window. Each will receive a $1,000 programming stipend to defray costs, as well as an expenses-paid staffer trip to Washington D.C. for orientation (during the 2019 ALA Annual Conference this June).

Think you might be interested? 
Click here to learn more, and to apply. Be sure to do so before the rapidly approaching cutoff date: Friday, February 8!