How to Run a Used Books Fundraiser





Even though the balance of book buying has shifted from print to e-book downloads, many of us still own and love printed books, new or used. Printed books are still in demand, especially when they can be had for a low price at a fundraiser like this.

Essentially, a used books fundraiser brings together those who are cleaning out their book shelves with those who like a good (printed) read for a bargain price.

You’ll need to answer a few questions to get your used book fundraiser off the ground: How do you acquire books to sell? Do you have a place for your event that is large enough to display the books and accommodate a good crowd of people? Do you have enough volunteers to collect the books, stage the event and help market and sell the books?

1. Where do you get books for your used books fundraiser?

– Start by asking everyone you know: your family, friends, work colleagues, fellow volunteers, your boss. Don’t forget to search your own premisses for books: do you have some books boxed up in storage somewhere that no one has looked at in years? Besides these rather obvious sources for books, also consider:

– Community, college and school libraries: often libraries will have books to give away for free. You might not want the ones that are all worn, but there might still be plenty that are worthy of your fundraiser

– Used books stores: they might have too much inventory, remodeling, moving, you name it. In any case they might have books for you

– Set up collection boxes: partner with local grocery stores, coffee shops and any business that has a lot of foot traffic. Add signs that will ask for ‘gently used books’ and at the same time announce your actual fundraiser. You might not have the exact date yet, but you could give some basic details.

girl reading books at a used books fundraiser

Find a venue for your used books fundraiser

If you’re putting this on as a school fundraiser, you’ll already have a gymnasium, cafeteria or other hall for your event. A school cafeteria with built in tables is actually quite perfect for this type event. If you’re not raising funds for a school, you might start by asking schools if they rent out space for this kind of event. Schools are limited to what kind of events they can rent their facilities for, but if it is somehow related to children, you might have an easy in.

Other possible venues: first, consider what your contacts have to offer. Their companies might be able to make space available for free if it’s for a good cause. Also, try buildings that rent out temporary office and meeting space, or even libraries themselves and plan your fundraiser as a joint venture. Other venues, like hotels, also rent space, but might be too expensive for you to make any sizable profit. But who knows, maybe you do have a connection that leads to free space.

The main idea is that you’ll get the space you need either for free or for the lowest possible fee.

Do you have enough volunteers?

Depending on how many books you’ll receive or how large your venue will be, you’ll need to plan for the following jobs:

  • Collect and sort through the books
  • Some folks might want help with cleaning out their books from storage, basements, shelves
  • Create posters, signs, fliers and other promotional materials
  • Put up signs and posters in designated spots around town
  • Create signs and tags for prices
  • Set up the venue, decorate, organize books
  • If you offer refreshments, you’ll need an area where volunteers can set up to sell drinks, cookies etc.
  • Help visitors find books they might like
  • Update your blog and social media accounts
  • Clean up at the end of the day

Some points to remember when marketing your fundraiser

  • You could ask local authors to appear at your used books fundraiser. They might do a book reading and signing and promote literacy in some other way
  • Tie in a bake sale or other money maker
  • Approach local businesses
  • Don’t forget to promote your event through email and social media and update your blog
  • Showcase the best reasons to support your cause
  • You’re selling books at a low cost
  • By making low-price books available you’re promoting literacy in your area
  • You provide an easy way to relieve people of books that they don’t want anymore
  • It’s a fun event that brings family and community together
  • It’s a ‘green fundraiser

Reasons to buy printed books

In this day and age there are many skeptics and cynics who don’t see why anyone would still want to buy printed books. Here are a few ideas on how to convince them otherwise:

  • To hold a book in your hand and flip pages feels great
  • Who doesn’t love the smell of the printed book?
  • There is no need for a battery or power to read a book
  • No one will tell you to turn off your book on an airplane
  • When you ‘buy’ an e-book, you’re actually only buying a license to read it. You don’t own the book.
  • Not everyone can afford an e-reader or iPad
  • It’s hard to pass along a book in electronic form
  • You can’t inscribe an e-book for someone to find 20 years later
  • Books look great on a bookshelf!
  • To have a personal library evokes feelings of security
  • Books have sentiments and feelings attached


If these reasons aren’t enough, here are a few more:

  • Displaying books on your bookshelf makes you look smart
  • When you get mad you can throw a book, but you probably won’t throw an e-reader 😉
  • You can’t fix a wobbly chair leg with an e-reader
  • It’s too expensive to burn e-readers in protest
  • Can’t use an e-book as a make shift step ladder or booster seat

In holding a used book fundraiser for a worthy cause you’ll be surprised at the amount of support that you and your cause will receive. But what to do with the leftover books that didn’t sell? You can donate them, sell the more valuable ones on Ebay.

You can also check with Paperbackswap.com, a service where you can swap books with others, to see if you qualify for their “Books for Schools” campaign.

They ask their members to nominate schools for the program and if a school is selected for participation (they select schools based on need), they then ask their members to donate credits for books (each credit is good for one book) and/or a small amount of money to defray shipping costs. Last year they sent between 500 to 1250 new books to EACH of the participating 16 schools! More about the program here.

You can also sell them ‘by the pound’ for non-literacy uses such as furniture, decorative items, jewelry and more!

Image: iStockphoto/McIninch



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  1. Posted by 10 Eco-Friendly Fundraising Ideas 18th August, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    […] Essentially, a used books fundraiser brings together those who are cleaning out their book shelves with those who like a good (printed) read for a bargain price. Find everything from locating venues, gathering volunteers, and marketing your used book fundraiser here at FundraisingIP. […]

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