Big Ideas

Taking the Temperature of a Capital Campaign

Fundraising thermometers are almost always presented literally as thermometers, often painted on sturdy plywood and posted at a busy intersection or campus gateway.  When a fundraising milestone is met, the thermometer is filled up to that point, a process that is repeated until the campaign is complete and the thermometer is full.  These thermometers are de rigeur aspects of a campaign – necessary but rarely engaging tools.

When the Lawrence Public Library Foundation embarked on its “New Stories” capital campaign to raise a million dollars last year, they knew they needed a thermometer to show the community how the campaign was progressing.  They also knew that they wanted the thermometer to do more than measure – they wanted it to engage and excite the community and somehow reflect the nature of the campaign.  What they ended up with was the “Stack of Stories.”

Lawrnece Public Library Foundation Stack of Stories

New Stories side view


The visually arresting column, located in the middle of the lobby in a highly trafficked area,  is approximately 15 feet high and made of plexiglass.  A local glass company constructed and installed the tower as an in-kind donation to the campaign.

It is filled with books that relate to and reflect Lawrence and Kansas – from local authors to high school yearbooks to histories of the state.  The Friends of the Library generously allowed the Foundation to use books from their sale shelves.  As fundraising goals were met throughout the campaign, donors were invited to fill up the stack to the next level – they could even choose the books they wanted to add.

The centerpiece of the capital campaign revolved around enhancements to the Children’s Room and the steering committee wanted to welcome all donations, no matter how large or small.  These were the driving forces behind the “Kid’s Stack,” which was 3 feet high and located at the entrance to the Children’s Room.  Kid’s could drop in a dollar or empty their piggy banks.

The Stack of Stories was impossible to miss in the library and many, many customers stopped to browse the books inside and grab a campaign brochure.  It certainly met the Foundation’s goals of measuring the progress of the campaign and keeping the public excited and engaged.  And when the campaign met (and exceeded) the million dollar goal, the Stack of Stories was topped off with the quintessential Kansas book and a big thank you to the community:

Have you seen a great fundraising thermometer?  Please share in the comments!

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