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Visualizing Philanthropic Funding for Libraries

A data visualization tool for libraries to track and find vital funding to serve their communities’ 21st century information needs.

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Describe your project.

Foundation Center will map philanthropic giving for US libraries to increase understanding of funding for both libraries and library supporters. Our mapping technology allows users to search and see funding at the national-, state-, and local-levels to answer key questions about funding trends by region. Data visualizations such as maps, network constellations, and partnership pathways can showcase key networks of funders and recipients as well as individual grants which highlight what services and programs are winning grants.

This project can be the first step in providing open access to a funding map for libraries, with potential to scale to overlay other funding sources and demographic data. We would look for other partners to scale this project and incorporate additional data sets.

We are also in the process of identifying partners interested in hosting this map and promoting it to the larger librarian community. Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and the Library Information Technology Association (LITA, a division of the American Library Association) are interested in and supportive of the advancement of this project proposal.

How does this project advance the library field?

While there is a robust history of philanthropic funding for libraries in the United States, most public libraries are nearly entirely reliant on government funding for financial support. Local funding (excluding state and federal funding) accounts for nearly 85% of public library funding. State funding has decreased nearly 43% over the past decade (IMLS Public Libraries in the United States Survey 2012). Library funding initiatives are consistently challenged by local communities forced to choose between allocating taxes and other support between public services.

In an attempt to offset these challenges, many libraries establish foundations or friends group to support their fundraising efforts. Many of these organizations are successful at rallying community support and attracting individual donations. However, many of these groups lack the tools and data required to effectively prospect potential donors. Knowing that the American philanthropic market gives upwards of $55 billion in grants each year, libraries should be able to secure a part of that funding. With more diverse funding, from local or national funders, libraries can continue to innovate and pursue the programs and services they need to best serve their community.

Who is the audience and what are their information needs?

Public libraries in the United States are the audience for the first iteration of this funding map. However, there would be the potential to expand the data globally.

Given that only about 10% of private foundations even have a website, it can be incredibly difficult for individuals fundraising on behalf of libraries to find the information they need without subscribing to prospecting databases. The funding map for libraries would make this information available to the library and library-funding community.

Please list your team members and their qualifications.

Amanda Dillon, Knowledge Services Manager, Foundation Center. Amanda provides leadership, direction, and oversight of the technical development of Foundation Center's custom maps, data visualization platforms, and knowledge portals. Amanda has worked on a number of comparable projects to date, including Equal Footing (http://equal-footing.org) and Youth Giving (http://youthgiving.org).

Kate Tkacik, Manager of the Funding Information Network, Foundation Center. Kate is a librarian and works directly with Foundation Center's network of more than 460 libraries and nonprofit resource centers which provide access to Foundation Center's tools and training to their local social sector communities. Kate is a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2014 ALA Emerging Leader. Learn more about Foundation Center's Funding Information Network at http://foundationcenter.org/fin.

Rachel Frick, Director of Business Development, Digital Public Library of America. Rachel is responsible for building out DPLA’s sustainability plan and forging extensive new relationships in order to build DPLA’s visibility, impact, and financial resources. Prior to DPLA, Rachel served as the director of the Digital Library Federation program at the Council on Library and Information Resources where she was instrumental in building a large and diverse community of practitioners who advance research, teaching and learning through the application of digital library research, technology and services.

Organization name and location (City, State).

Foundation Center
New York, NY

Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. Our mission is to strengthen the social sector by advancing knowledge about philanthropy in the U.S. and around the world.

What are the obstacles to implementing your idea, and how will you address them?

We see two main obstacles to implementing our idea: the overall lack of grant-seeking knowledge and capacity of the library community, and the ongoing maintenance costs of the map year over year.

We plan to tackle the first obstacle, a lack of fundraising knowledge and capacity, head on, by incorporating several layers of support for library professionals into this proposal. Creating a searchable, customized map of library funding is only one step towards addressing the deep funding needs of librarianship and the future sustainability of libraries; we also need to prepare library professionals as effective grantseekers. Foundation Center has a strong reputation for being a go-to resource for designing and implementing nonprofit capacity building courses, including classes on proposal writing and grantseeking basics. We will draw on this core competency to develop informational resources and trainings to help users navigate the tool, and then take a deeper educational approach by developing customized open-access grantseeking trainings to be delivered in-person, by webinar, and through self-paced e-learning. It is critical that we maximize our outreach and training in the first two years following the launch of the project through to the last mile to help under-resourced libraries not only find the right opportunity to make a funding ask, but to do so confidently with successful proposals.

To maximize access to these learning opportunities we plan to utilize various online learning formats (webinars, recordings, self paced e-learning), and to leverage the extensive combined networks of both Foundation Center and DPLA. Foundation Center maintains the Funding Information Network, which is a network of more than 450 organizations--80% of which are libraries (the remaining group is made up of nonprofit resource centers and community foundations)--that have full access to many of our fundraising tools and trainings. Likewise, DPLA has an extensive network, which is comprised of over 1900 cultural heritage organizations and growing, with the goal of a presences in every state by the end of 2017. DPLA’s network is comprised of “hubs” that act as collaboration points, organizing data to flow to DPLA’s main portal, by also as centers by which they disseminate knowledge and best practice, as demonstrated in their Knight News Challenge funded program “Getting it Right About Rights”. DPLA hubs as a natural dissemination point for the work outlined here, as it also plays into DPLA’s commitment to support each hub’s efforts toward financial sustainability. These are prime hosting organizations for trainings and, of equal importance, train-the-trainer events where we can convene key leaders to prepare them with the skills needed to take back to their local library systems. We see this data visualization map, combined with training, as the key means through which libraries and librarians can gain 21st century funding development skills.

How will you spread the word about your project? Who are you trying to reach?

We are trying to reach libraries, librarians, as well as both current and potential library supporters. When we originally brainstormed this project we envisioned our minimum viable product to be a funding map for public libraries in the US. After reviewing the scope of the data we have, we are excited by the potential to include data on public, academic, school, and government libraries, as well as archives and special collections--including digital collections.

To reach this audience, we will strategically leverage both Foundation Center’s Funding Information Network and DPLA’s community network to create an online campaign to spread the word. Our combined networks will be critical to providing broad open access to (and assisting in the adoption of) the funding map.

Our online campaign will deploy the extensive reaches of both Foundation Center and DPLA to promote the mapping tool and training opportunities. We will develop a communications plan and create a toolkit which will include copy, images, social media posts, and other downloadables that are open and accessible to any interested partners. We will create a series of blog posts, content for Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, linked images partners can embed on their websites, as well as press releases. We will also pursue publishing articles and/or blog posts to both Library Journal as well as American Libraries. Beyond the library community, we will elevate this project to the philanthropic community by sharing through Foundation Center’s own publications and websites including Philanthropy News Digest, GrantCraft, and our numerous enewsletters that are received by the grantmaking community.

The extensive training and capacity building plan that we are incorporating into this project would also be a means through which to spread the word. DPLA is committed to providing the opportunity to host an in-person event during its annual DPLAfest. Additional in-person trainings, live- and recorded-webinars, and special events would promote awareness, adoption, and continued professional development around both the map and fundraising capacity for the library community.

How much do you think your project will cost, and what are the major expenses?

We estimate the total costs of our project will be $300,000 over two years. The three major expenses of the project will be (1) the technical build and initial maintenance costs of the custom map portal, (2) the development and delivery of grantseeking training and capacity-building events for libraries, librarians, and library supporters, and (3) the development of a communications plan and toolkit to ensure those who need these resources most learn about how to access them and so that funders who may not be making grants to libraries yet, learn more about the need and gaps in funding. A basic breakdown of the anticipated costs over two years is as follows:

Technical Build and Maintenance
$60,000: Initial costs to build the custom map build including data for public, academic, school, government libraries, as well as archives and special and digital collections. Demographic data, points of interests, and government grant funding data could also be overlayed.

$50,000: Maintenance and server hosting costs of custom map, and weekly grants data updates for two years.

Grantseeking Training & Capacity Building for Libraries

$150,000: Fundraising training and capacity-building resources and events for libraries, librarians, and library supporters including:
-developing an advisory committee comprised of funders, library leaders, and map users;
-delivering a series of in-person trainings (including train-the-trainer) at Foundation Center and DPLA affiliate organizations across the United States;
-delivering a series of live-webinars and short recorded how-to videos;
-developing a self-paced e-learning module
-incorporating fundraising training opportunities into key professional development events following the launch at the American Library Association conference, including Foundation Center’s Network Days in October 2016, DPLA Fest in Spring 2017
-Scholarships for attendees from under-resourced communities and libraries to attend these professional development opportunities

Communications and Marketing

$40,000: Communications plan and toolkit including:
-embeddable, dynamic widget for the custom map to be used by library partners and other professional associations;
-blog series;
-trade publication articles;
-media tool kit of copy and downloadables

Attachments (1)


A letter of support for this project from Digital Public Library of America


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