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It is an exceptional case when a repository has unlimited financial resources and all of the political capital or institutional support it needs to meet all of its goals. Unless you operate in these exceptional circumstances you will need to gather financial support with a fundraising campaign and advocate for improved circumstances for your repository. Similar to raising the public profile of your repository successful fundraising and advocacy efforts depend on coordinated and thoughtful planning. Effective fundraising and advocacy depend on both describing the value of your repository to your organization or community and, most importantly, articulating a vision of what you could accomplish with increased financial support, or organizational changes. Ultimately your local circumstances will drive your approaches to fundraising and advocacy but coordinating them with your outreach activities and marketing tools will allow your repository to meet its goals and fulfil its mission.
In this section you will assess the following:
Advocacy is the process of influencing people to take action to support your repository or the broader historical records community. It can help to stabilize your financial resources, raise the public profile of your repository and improve your ability to fulfill your mission. Regardless of whether your advocacy efforts are directed internally or externally, advocacy is as important to the long-term success of your program as are your efforts to preserve your historical records. If you want your program to survive and grow, you must advocate for it.
Effective advocacy begins with deciding what support you need for your repository and who can provide it. Do you want to increase your budget, hire additional staff, or improve your facilities? If so, you may need to cultivate a relationship with your executive officers or board chair and make them aware of the unique value of your repository. Are they aware that you produced records to support a legal action, provided photographs for a public relations campaign, or made a presentation to new staff on the history of your organization? Highlighting success such as these will build credibility for your program and improve the perception of your repository as a program or department worthy of ongoing support.
Consider enlisting the support of the people who use your collections in your advocacy efforts. The historians, genealogists, journalists, students, and teachers who use your collections will have information about how your collections were valuable to their work or how your collections affected people in your community. Collecting these stories from your users or having users advocate on your behalf will demonstrate how your repository is valuable to a broad community.
Advocating for changes to public policy can be more complex than enlisting the support of people in your organization or community. State and federal laws restrict the amount and types of advocacy non-profit organizations can engage in and you should be aware of these limitations before you begin contacting public officials. When working for changes in local, state or federal laws it helps to work with a coalition of partners sharing a common goal. National, regional and local professional organizations such as the Society of American Archivists (SAA), the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) routinely undertake advocacy efforts that depend on your support. These advocacy campaigns commonly supply sample letters, fact sheets and brochures you can use to make your case to your elected officials.
Regardless of whether you aim to change legislation or ask your board for additional funds, the keys to successful advocacy are the same. Determine what you want to change, who has the power to make those changes and demonstrate to them how your repository, your users or the archival profession will benefit from the change. How you go about advocating for your repository will depend on your local circumstances but a little persistence and creativity will allow you to improve your repository infrastructure, attract new users and acquire new collections.
- Increases awareness of your repository’s work.
- Justifies your requests for increased resources
- Raises the public profile of your repository and the profession in general.
- Increases resources available to your repository.
Standards and Best Practices
- Society of American Archivists Advocacy Agenda
- Society of American Archivists American Archives Month
- American Library Association Library Advocate’s Handbook
- Council of State Archivists Issues
- Smucker, Bob The Non-Profit Lobbying Guide
- Larry Hackman Many Happy Returns: Advocacy and the Development of Archives Society of American Archivists (2011)
If your expected income does not fund all of the projects in your annual or strategic plan you can seek out additional income to close the gap. Many repositories use a combination of grant funding and private donations to upgrade their repository’s infrastructure and improve services to their users. If you undertake a fundraising campaign it is important that it is aligned with your strategic plan as well as the overall goals of your parent organization. Many archivists make the mistake of undertaking projects because funding is available, not because the project supports their repository’s mission.
Grants are traditionally awarded for specific projects such as improving your HVAC system, digitizing a heavily used collection, or conducting a preservation assessment of your repository. Preparing grant applications takes time and skill and you should consider taking a grant writing workshop before writing your application. Before applying you should also consider whether you have the appropriate resources to manage and complete the project and if the project will benefit your repository.
Membership programs, individual giving, grants, fundraising events, income earned from publications or reproductions, in-kind donations and planned giving are all possible sources of additional income. Typically, grants fund specific projects while these other sources of revenue can be used to fund operational expenses.
If you decide to solicit private donations as part of your fundraising campaign, begin by developing a case statement that explains your mission and history, identifies challenges to your program and what solutions are possible with donor support. Having built your case for funding, you will need to identify potential donors and publicize your fundraising campaign. It is equally important to set realistic and attainable goals given the size of your repository and your local community. Fundraising involves more than simply acquiring funds from private donors. Being a responsible steward of the funds you raise and conscientiously acknowledging your donors demonstrates your credibility and increases the likelihood of future donations.
Whatever combination of fundraising options you decide on, it should be guided by a fundraising plan. A fundraising plan identifies your financial needs, the strategies you will employ to meet those needs, sets a schedule for meeting your goals and is approved by your governing body or parent organization. Your plan should not depend on a single source of external support and should employ a combination of approaches. Depending on a single grant or annual donation risks the financial stability of your repository should those funds become unavailable.
Successful fundraising requires committing staff time and energy to the project. Depending on your available resources you can hire a fundraising professional, seek out training for you or your staff, or use a consultant to help plan your fundraising campaign. During the planning stages of your campaign you may find that some of your Board Members have fundraising experience, or may have connections to established fundraising professionals. Enlisting their support will improve your chances of success. In addition to drawing on outside professionals, developing in-house expertise will also improve your fundraising efforts. Many national, regional, and local professional organizations offer workshops on grant writing and sponsor other opportunities for training.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to fundraising and you will need to explore what options work best for your repository. Over the long-term you should aim for a balance between different sources of income.
- Supports new projects and improvements to your repository.
- Demonstrates the credibility of your repository as a responsible steward of resources.
- Raises the profile of your repository.