February 17, 2018

Raising Money For Libraries: UA’s $8 Million Man

By LJ Staff

How does a librarian with no formal fundraising training become a formidable fundraiser? At a session at the ALA Annual Conference, Sam Huang, assistant dean for external relations, University of Arizona (UA) described his path. He launched his efforts as special collections curator at Northern Illinois University and was so successful he was assigned one-third of his time to raise money for the library. Then he found a full-time fundraising job at UA, which was seeking someone with an LIS background. In 2001, he was told his target was raising $7 million by 2005. “That’s scary, because I don’t have a donor base,” he recalled. He found one. He asked each of the 136 members of the library Friends group to provide 10 names-and found that his membership tripled in two years.

He’s found donors in unusual ways. He helps students move into dorms at the beginning of the semester and once, a parent offered to tip. “I said, ‘You can tip the Friends of the Library,'” Huang recalled. Since 2000, the family has given $10,000 a year.” “I don’t have funding training at all. I use my sincerity to tell them how it will impact the library,” Huang observed. “Basketball, sometimes they win, sometimes they lose, but the library is always winning.” In four years, the UA library has created 14 endowments, with a minimum of $10,000 each. He always calls it a ‘family endowment,’ so if something happens to the donor, other family members will continue to contribute. Huang also puts aside $1,000 of his income each year to give to each endowment in small chunks-and that generates additional gifts in return. In four years, he’s raised $8 million–$1 million above his target.