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MALF Blog

Minnesota Association of Library Friends

Introducing "Friends 101"

Posted by jim on April 1, 2021

Self-promotion and volunteer recruitment are two perennial challenges for Friends. Knowing this, MALF is excited to share a little something to boost your “elevator pitch.”

Background: Earlier this year, in partnership with the Library and Information Science program at St. Catherine University, MALF crafted a 20-minute “Friends 101” video for inclusion in the institution’s LIS master’s degree curriculum. Topics included:

  • Who are Friends, exactly?
  • What do Friends do? What can’t they do?
  • What are commonplace Friends fundraisers?
  • Where does an umbrella organization like MALF come in?

Naturally, librarian trainees are not the only people who stand to benefit from this primer. So, we’ve just *recut* that video for use with a wider of audiences and situations. View/download it here, and use however you see fit!

The more things change, the more they stay the same:

While the pandemic has forced the Minnesota Book Awards online for the second year running, this linchpin program is holding strong. Registration is now open for the culminating announcement ceremony on Thursday, April 29. It is free to “attend.”


Click here to register. Click here to read up on the 36 finalist authors and titles in each of nine literary categories.

As one upshot to the online format, The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library (organizers of the Minnesota Book Awards) are pursuing new and creative participatory opportunities for book lovers. Among these is a call for “bookish selfies.” From their website:

"We’re asking readers from every corner of Minnesota to show us their love of reading – and their state. It’s easy: take a selfie with a book you love in a place you love. Any book. Any place. (Let’s see some Minnesota landmarks, people)! Then share it on social media with #mnbookawards for the chance to be featured during this year’s virtual Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony!"

Visit thefriends.org/selfie for more details.

In a recent survey of Minnesota nonprofits, GiveMN determined that only 30 percent are confident in their fundraising knowledge and current strategies. Charities serving Greater Minnesota feel at a particular disadvantage in this regard. As one means of bridging the gap, GiveMN has created the RaiseMN Campaign Institute.  

Funded with support from the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, RaiseMN is a six-month fundraising training regimen for small- and medium-sized nonprofits (defined as ≤$2 million a year in revenue). Participating organizations will be paired with a seasoned professional as their personal fundraiser coach, enjoy a variety of cohort learning and networking opportunities, and come away with custom, actionable fundraising strategies.

Friends of the Library organizations and other eligible nonprofits must be based outside the Twin Cities, currently conduct at least one fundraising activity per annum, and have board members or other internal stakeholders ready to invest time and energy in the RaiseMN Campaign Institute curriculum.


Click here to learn more, and to access the application form. Submit your candidacy by Friday, April 2. Direct any questions you may have to raisemn@givemn.org.

Online Learning Opportunities Galore!

Posted by jim on March 8, 2021

We’re all eagerly awaiting the return of in-person workshops, author talks, and other events. However, there’s been one upshot to the pandemic. With trainings, fundraisers, and other programming migrating online out of necessity, it has suddenly become time and cost effective to indulge in a variety of opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach. MALF has flagged a few upcoming programs that might be of special interest to Friends.

Webinar: Retraining Volunteers Amid Uncertainty (March 11)
Even before COVID-19 reared its head, nonprofits of all stripes reported a shared and worrying trend. Finding long-term volunteers (and would-be leaders) is harder than it used to be. With the pandemic now causing so much uncertainty, recruiting and retaining dedicated volunteers has become an even bigger challenge.

This upcoming Thursday, March 11 (1 p.m. CT), Sterling Volunteers and VQ Volunteer Strategies are offering a FREE webinar on this important topic.
 Click here to learn more – and here to jump straight to registration for “Retraining Volunteers Amid Uncertainty: Converting One-Timers to Repeat Volunteers.”

Showcase: Penguin Random House Book Festival (April 6)
Penguin Random House is teaming up with Library Journal to celebrate 2021 National Library Week in a new and exciting way. Mark your calendars for Tuesday, April 6, when librarians, Friends and other book lovers are invited to gather together (virtually, of course) for a day-long celebration of the written word. PRH will showcase current and upcoming release from its impressive stable of imprints, including Knopf, Doubleday, Pantheon, Vintage, Putnam, Riverhead and Ballantine. Whether you are interested in mysteries, memoirs, or a mix of everything, the inaugural Penguin Random House Book Festival is sure to leave you with a long “must read” list!

Click here to reserve your spot, and to learn more about free e-galley book opportunities, prize giveaways, and other fun festival tie-ins!

Conference: ALA Annual Exhibition (June 23-29)
Every summer, the American Library Association holds a national convention in a major city. In a normal year, registration and travel costs preclude Friends of the Library from attending this mega event, which is dominated by librarians and other field practitioners. For the June 23-29, 2021 conference, organizers are moving the whole affair online.

As with every ALA Annual Exhibition itinerary, this one will be chock-full of high profile author presentations, can’t-miss keynotes, and hundreds of educational programs covering nearly every aspect of librarianship. Tickets are reasonable, starting at $69. On the fence? 
Visit their website, or follow conference developments on Twitter (@ALAConferences, #alaac21). Don’t wait too long, though; early bird rates all expire April 16!

Auctions built around themed gift baskets are a common Friends fundraising strategy. In general, they are favored by charities in communities with a strong commercial sector. This makes sense. After all, the majority of the donated baskets come from local businesses. However, the tiny town of Cook, Minnesota (pop. 570) is something of an exception to that rule – and Standout Friend Linda Kronholm is a chief reason why.

Kronholm is a driving force behind the Friends of the Cook Public Library’s annual Holiday Basket Fundraiser. Contrary to what the name would suggest, planning for this lucrative event is a year-round commitment, and one that Linda tackles with an alacrity that would put Santa himself to shame!

In addition to scouting donations, FOL president Kathy Sacchetti reports that Kronholm plays point on the “decking out” of the library as a winter wonderland, and coordinates many of the logistics associated with a holiday tea that the Friends run in conjunction with the auction. (For a town of Cook’s size, it really is a community happening!)

In truth, Kronholm’s leadership role with the Holiday Basket Fundraiser is just one of many ways in which this long-serving board member and group vice president contributes to the success of the Cook Public Library. “This is demonstrated daily by her frequent emails and attendance at nearly all library functions!” explained Sacchetti.

Call For Panelists: Forthcoming Book Sale Webinar

Posted by jim on March 1, 2021

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this past year’s limitations on travel and social activities have had an indirect impact on another favorite pastime: leisure-time reading. More people are reading – and on the whole, readers are reading more. In contrast to that marked uptick, it is a slow and confused time for that most tried-and-true Friends of the Library fundraiser: used book sales.

With accruing inventories and “pent up demand” on the one hand, but safety considerations like building occupancy rules on the other, how are Friends managing today? This question will be the crux of MALF’s next free webinar.

Unlike recent installments, this next program will be a panel discussion – and speaker slots are still available! If your group has insights and replicable ideas to share on the topics of online book sales, flash sales, or other book-based fundraising alternatives, MALF would love to showcase your stories. Email
 info@mnlibraryfriends.org to learn more!

MALF's COVID-19 Grant Program Returns For 2021

Posted by jim on February 23, 2021

It would be a futile exercise (not to mention a depressing one) to try and list out the many ways that the pandemic has adversely impacted Minnesota’s libraries. Suffice it to say, COVID-19 has upended normal for each and every one. Fortunately for many, the stalwart support of local Friends of the Library helped somewhat to “blunt the blow” in 2020. 

Last year, MALF encouraged and empowered Friends to redouble their support by piloting a new grant initiative: the aptly named COVID-19 Grant Response Program. In all, 15 member organizations received thousands of dollars to fill fundraising shortfalls or offset important expenses that the Friends’ coffers could not otherwise cover.

With coronavirus still a defining characteristic of our daily lives, MALF is pleased to announce the renewal of this popular grant program for 2021! Between now and Friday, April 30, MALF invites member Friends groups to put their names forward for one of ten $400 mini-grants.

This program is, by design, broad and responsive in nature. A wide array of purchases and priorities are qualified for consideration, so long as you can demonstrate value for your library and, by extension, its patrons. See the form for eligibility and applications requirements. (We promise they are mercifully few!) Note: Organizations who received financial assistance from MALF in 2020, as part of this or any other grant initiative, are eligible to (re)apply.

In early May, MALF’s awards committee will randomly draw the ten winners from a pool of all fully eligible requests. All applicants will be notified of outcomes around this time.  

Interested in applying, but unsure how to most effectively deploy $400? We recommend asking with your library’s leadership team! You can also peruse
 MALF’s blog for featurettes on all the 2020 award recipients, which is sure to give you ideas.

April 4-10 Marks National Library Week

Posted by jim on February 4, 2021

The American Library Association has announced the 2021 dates for National Library Week. Mark your calendars for April 4-10!

As the name suggests, the raison d'être of National Library Week is to spotlight the mission and achievements of our libraries. There is no one right way to celebrate. ALA recommends customizing the opportunity to the circumstances and needs of your library.

In years past, Friends have leaned on National Library Week as the framework for successful public advocacy and funding initiatives, major membership drives, and substantial capital campaign fundraising efforts. Visit the ALA website for ideas, case studies, and a “library” of usable templates.
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“Welcome to Your Library” is the theme of the 63rd(!) year of National Library Week. ALA selected it to promote the idea that, in practice, library service extends well beyond the four walls of a building. That’s not a new concept, but in light of COVID closures and continued restrictions, the message is particularly timely!


If you decide to conduct a program or project around National Library Week, be sure to keep it in mind for the 2021 cycle of MALF’s own Evy Nordley Award!

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