The Love Your Library initiative is a month-long fundraising and awareness campaign for the libraries of Allegheny County, jointly coordinated by the Allegheny County Library Association and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Every September, for the past four years, the 46 independent Allegheny County libraries have worked together under the Love Your Library branding to promote local giving and appreciation of libraries.
Initially imagined as one day of match driven fundraising, Bernita Buncher of the Jack Buncher Foundation suggested a month-long drive with a match pool to incentivize giving. From its onset, the campaign was intended to strengthen the fundraising efforts already undertaken by libraries and provide helpful tools for those newer to raising private support. Each year, with incredible generosity, the Foundation has provided a match pool for qualifying dollars raised. The Foundation has also provided funds for the development and distribution of critical marketing. The creative team at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh developed digital and physical collateral (window clings, lawn signs, buttons, letterheads, social media graphics and more) for libraries to use in their individual fundraising initiatives. Support also allowed for countywide marketing in a variety of locations, from online advertisements, print and radio, to public signage.
Many libraries have moved existing fundraising activities to September to take advantage of the match and the visibility of this collective campaign. One of the benefits of the initiative is that it allows libraries to take a hyper-local approach to community giving, within the framework of a larger campaign. Small libraries to large, rural to urban, libraries have tailored their events and asks to their individual communities. Fundraising activities have been widely varied: appeal letters to escape room events, dine-to-donate partnerships, and sponsor-supported wine tasting events. At the end of the month, libraries submit a tally sheet and a percentage match is calculated based on all qualifying funds raised.
2019 saw Allegheny County libraries raise over one million dollars through the Love Your Library campaign. Of this, $706,169 was eligible for a prorated match from the Jack Buncher Foundation, which provided $156,944 in matching contributions. Over the four years, the Love Your Library campaign has raised more than $3.1 million for libraries.
Donations and matching funds have had significant impacts on the libraries’ ability to support essential services, improve facilities and offer educational programs for children and adults. The responses from select libraries tell the story of the significance of the program. One library stated, “These funds allow us to offer additional high quality programs for our patrons…” Another library indicated, “We increased the number of children’s programs by 50% with funding from the campaign.”
With the leadership and generosity of the Jack Buncher Foundation, Love Your Library month has been an incredibly successful movement. Allegheny County Libraries have gone from strength to strength in their fundraising efforts and the campaign has emphasized the importance of libraries as true community anchors and reinforced the need for local giving.