As with many public libraries these days, Lawrence Public Library is not a quiet place with shushing librarians and silent stacks. But for one weekend every year, things get really crazy with the Lawrence Public Library Foundation’s Caddy Stacks Mini Golf Fundraiser. Last weekend, the sounds of golf balls bouncing off bookends and families laughing together filled the library – and the cash register drawer was ringing, too!
Caddy Stacks was organized by Kathleen Morgan, the amazing Executive Director of the Lawrence Public Library Foundation (this is the same brain behind the Stack of Stories) and her equally amazing crew of volunteers. The idea is simple in its
insanity ingenuity: For one weekend a year, there is a community-built, 18-hole mini golf course winding its way through the library both during and after regular hours of operation.
Each year, community groups build holes that reflect the year’s theme and/or their group’s mission. The basic holes were built the first year – based on plans from a 1960s-era Popular Mechanics magazine – and each year they are given a makeover by a new organization. Community groups that have built holes over the years include the Humane Society, the Boys and Girls Club, KU Alumni, and of course, the Friends of the Library. In addition to the builder, each hole has a sponsor as well – in exchange for a donation, the sponsoring entity gets their name on the flag at the hole, a spot on all PR, a line on the t-shirt, etc. There are also sponsorships available for both bigger and smaller ticket items as well.
Family Golf is always on Saturday and Sunday, during our regular operating hours, and costs $5.00 for nine holes or $20 for a family of up to six people. The first year, staff definitely had to adjust to answering reference questions while people were putting all around them, but they have since gotten used to it and have gotten on board with the fun.
In addition to Family Golf, there is always an after hours V.I.P Adult Golf Party, where guests are invited to be extra naughty in the library – they can play mini golf AND drink beer! This was the third year for Caddy Stacks at LPL and by all measures it was the best, in large part due to the great theme that was developed. The first year, there was not an overarching theme, as the event was brand new and we had to sell the concept. The second year, Caddy Stacks occurred on the weekend before Halloween, so it was a haunted course (but nothing too scary for the young golfers). The V.I.P. Party that year was a costume party, of course.
But the 2012 weekend was a huge success because it went local. Because the event took place in April (the same month as the Masters Tournament) the theme was “Lawrence Masters” and each hole celebrated a local landmark or luminary. Among others, there were holes depicting downtown Lawrence, the KU Campus, a famous pipe organ factory, and the library itself. For the V.I.P. Party, 18 “pros” were recruited to work at each hole and offer “advice” – everyone from nationally reknowned local author Laura Moriarty and filmmaker Kevin Willmott to the Chief of Police, a City Commissioner, and the School Superintendent. For $35, adults got to have fun, support the library, and schmooze with the movers and shakers of our community.
Lawrence Public Library is positioning itself as a hyper local, highly engaged public library with a fresh (and somewhat funky) perspective. While the work of a Foundation is often much more button-downed, the Caddy Stacks fundraiser reveals the many ways that the Library Foundation is in line with the library itself. I can’t imagine that there are many philanthropic Foundations out there that offer up a handmade “book jacket” as a prize and allow a Chihuahua to roam freely at a V.I.P. function!
And did I mention the golf cart that was parked in the lobby as advertising?!?!?!
While Caddy Stacks is loads of fun, it is also a TON of work! To pull it off, it requires a large network of volunteers for everything from serving as hole attendants during Family Golf to schlepping holes back and forth from storage to calling up sponsors and looking for in-kind donations. I will tell you that there is a company that will come to your library and set up a pre-fab mini golf course in your library. Kathleen will tell you that she would probably make more money from personal visits and targeted letters. However, the hard work and smaller revenue are more than made up for by the level of exposure and positive PR the Foundation receives from this event and the many, many connections that are made that both widen and deepen the community network of library supporters. And in case you’re wondering, over 700 people played the course this year and the Foundation raised approximately $17,000 for the library.
What kind of fundraisers does your library undertake? Have you ever tried mini golf? Please share in the comments!