Bacilio Mendez II, SLA-NY Diversity Chair
LGBT Collections at The New York Public Library, speak to the membership was a bit outside of the scope of the Special Libraries Association, given his affiliation with the behemoth NYPL, but, as he stated at the March 22nd SLA-NY Diversity Committee event, his work is "more like that of a special library or special collection than you would think."
"When it comes to fundraising," Baumann affirmed, "we're essentially all in the same uncomfortable boat of convincing people with money, in a recession, that what we do is great and posing the question 'Don't you want to be a part of something great?' We are all in the business of no less than making history and, while it seems daunting, convincing people that they want to make history right along with you, isn't all that hard. Recession or not."
The crowd of SLA-NY members that gathered at the historic Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in Greenwich Village were all looking to hear how they could secure funding for their own niche collections in uncertain economic times, so it was no wonder that Baumann was met with a slew of questions. Most notable was that of Diversity Committee member Clara Cabrera who asked: "What would you say is the worst enemy of those looking to start a fundraising venture?"
"Embarrassment," Baumann deftly noted. "Look, you can't be afraid to ask rich people for money. Period. They have what you want and, when it comes down to it, you have what they need -- an opportunity for them to look good while spending their money. We at NYPL never thought that we'd have any business asking The Getty Foundation or Estée Lauder for money, but here we are with them as two of our biggest sponsors. The second most important step in your fundraising plan is to resolve to not be embarrassed to ask for money."
Cabrera, jumped in with, "And the most important step would be?"
After a bit of a shared laugh from the room and Baumann, he came back with, "Getting a list together of all the people you know with money and combining it with the lists of names everyone else on your board or committee has to offer. Think of it as a six degrees type of situation. Don't underestimate who you know or who you are only a few people removed from. What you may think of as flimsy connections could end up being your biggest donors."