What Is the Library Support Network, and How Can It Help Your Fundraising and Advocacy? | Fundraisers Forum

Library development deserves to be on par with university and hospital fundraising. Yet many libraries find this work difficult, and few resources exist in the sector to support the professional development needed to be successful. But this is starting to change thanks to the Library Support Network.

Library Support Network logoIn my role at the helm of one of the largest public library foundations in the nation, I’ve had a firsthand look at the huge fundraising potential of our sector. Library development deserves to be on par with university and hospital fundraising.

Yet many libraries find this work difficult, and few resources exist in the sector to support the professional development needed to be successful. But this is starting to change thanks to the Library Support Network (LSN).

For the past several years, I have helped lead the development of a peer network for library fundraisers and advocates, building on the success of the International Public Library Fundraising (IPLF) Conference and Library Giving Day. These efforts have helped more than 500 public library systems raise money and increase awareness about the critical role libraries play to support their communities’ unique needs, advancing literacy and lifelong learning. 

We recently launched a two-year pilot of the LSN Community, an online community of practice designed to accelerate professional development and peer support. Members have access to facilitated chat, real-time information sharing, scheduled events for peer discussion, training webinars, and tool sharing.

Based on early response, the LSN Community will pursue funding opportunities to grow our network. I am so committed to this effort that I am preparing to step down from my CEO role at the Seattle Public Library Foundation to focus on this exciting work to transform fundraising and advocacy in public libraries at a national level.



many people on a stage, banner reads
International Public Library Fundraising Conference 2023

The seed of this idea came from the early gatherings of the IPLF Conference. Attendees consistently asked the organizers to help foster connections for continued collaboration and learning. The reason they found the conference so helpful was because they felt like they were finally among peers doing similar work, sharing best practices, supporting one another, and building networks. Each year when the conference wrapped, people would tell me how much they wished we could keep the conversations going year-round.

With support from a small group of established library fundraising leaders, we fielded a feasibility study in 2021 to understand needs and interests relevant to fundraising and advocacy. Nearly 250 people responded, and 73 percent said formalizing a Library Support Network would be DEFINITELY BENEFICIAL or EXTREMELY BENEFICIAL to their organization.

Library directors were the single largest segment of responders. They recognized that fundraising is important to their organizations but hasn’t been seen as a core competency in the library profession, and training opportunities have been limited. While a variety of organizations and resources provide general fundraising and nonprofit training, the nature of the public-private partnership that forms with library foundations and Friends groups is unique.

Enthusiasm for the survey findings led to the formation of a steering community representing libraries diverse in staff size, fundraising needs, organizational structures, budget sizes, and communities served, as well as years of experience. The steering committee has been focused on overseeing the development, funding, and launch of the community platform and programming.



Since the October 2022 launch of the LSN Community, more than 400 individuals from 220 library systems and their development partners in the United States and Canada have joined the LSN Community. New member and existing member retention rates are exceptionally high, which is atypical for a free membership network. The majority of users contribute to the online discussions, and about half participate at least weekly.

The LSN Community has already facilitated dozens of convenings and webinars and thousands of user posts, on a wide variety of topics, from monthly giving strategies to managing donor databases to marketing and digital engagement.

“Unlike other professional organizations, the LSN’s focus on working in fundraising for libraries has been especially helpful. Libraries have lots of differences from other 501(c)3 organizations, and in the LSN I could gather information and perspectives that are specific to libraries—governance structures, programs and donors, and culture,” said Selena Paulsen, development officer at Poudre Libraries, Fort Collins, CO.

These resources are especially valuable for small and rural libraries, most often constrained by resource limitations and challenges. As Dianne Connery, development director (and former library director) of Pottsboro Library, TX, put it, “Having access to experienced development professionals helps me adopt successful techniques much faster than learning through trial and error. Fundraising is a whole new skill set. Having mentors provides a professional playbook and a source of encouragement and moral support."

Access to the LSN Community is currently free thanks to the support of nearly 40 libraries, foundations, individuals, and a challenge match from the Knight Foundation. It is open to all, regardless of experience or library size. You can read more participants’ perspectives in our 2023 Impact Report.



The challenges facing libraries, particularly in small and rural communities, are real and growing. The political and social environments are changing more rapidly than at any time during my years working in and alongside libraries. Every day we are hearing from people seeking help navigating new risks to libraries. 

Libraries surrounded by donors and advocates can weather most storms. They provide the means to advance our institutions. But many libraries just don’t have that base of support. The Library Support Network that includes the Community, IPLF Conference, and Library Giving Day is helping change this.

Another dynamic at play is the actual power of a network. Increasingly, library leaders and their support organizations recognize that we are more powerful when we stand together. The collective impact of sharing resources can help all of us.

Our vision for the Library Support Network is of thriving public libraries at the heart of every healthy, vibrant, inclusive, and socially just community. To achieve this vision, we need the infrastructure to help develop a network of high-performance fundraising and advocacy organizations. If done well, this will result in more funding for our public libraries and supporters to protect and advance public libraries.

Jonna Ward serves as CEO for the Seattle Public Library Foundation, which is the largest public library foundation in the U.S. based on managed assets. Jonna has nearly 25 years of experience in library and nonprofit sectors. Her influence extends beyond Seattle, through the development of the Library Support Network, which provides resources for library leaders and fundraising professionals through the International Public Library Fundraising Conference, #LibraryGivingDay, and the online LSN Community.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing