While I was in Iraq, I was greatly assisted by Laurel from Books for Soldiers who sent us many care packages at the hospital. I polled the staff for movies that we wanted to see, and Laurel delivered on every one. It made a lot of difference, not only to have a great movie to distract us for a couple of hours, but also to know that someone back in America had heart with the troops, rather than with celeb gossip or cell phone ring tones.
A little while ago I heard from Laurel that BFS was having a tough time financially with the upkeep of their website.
Below is a letter from Storm Williams the founder of BFS:
Books For Soldiers2008 Fundraising Update Newsletter April 2008
It Is A Bad Economy
Starting at the first of this year, BFS started a robust fundraising campaign here in North Carolina. We contacted small companies and some large companies you probably have heard of. To date, we have received a stack of letters that begin with "we deeply regret not being able to donate this year" and no cash. From our corporate donation campaign we have received a tad under thirty dollars from a philanthropy grants group in Winston Salem, NC. That was it, nothing else.Times are tough for all non-profit groups, food banks from all around North Carolina and across the nation are suffering from a lack of donations and a sharp increase of those in need. The article below arrived in my email today about a women's shelter closing because of a lack of donations.
The Next Step
The BFS Board of Directors have discussed this problem for some time and have decided to have another go at fundraising. We are working on a different campaign aimed at companies in larger states - California for example. Every time we want to do fundraising in a state (cold call, direct mail, advertising) we need to file with that state's Secretary of State - filing in all states if prohibitively expensive so we have to pick and choose.In our last newsletter, we reported on the hacker attacks that coincided with our 5th Anniversary. Those DNS attacks didn't help our balance sheet. Our final IT bill from the datacenter for that week was a tad over $11,000. If you recall, the hackers brought down the whole datacenter just to try to kill us.The Board set a goal of $70,000 to raise by November 1st of this year. If that amount is not raised, the site will close on December 31st, 2008.If we cannot make the fundraising target, the Board will seek to sell the site to another 501(c)(3) and any new owner will need to be qualified - have the IT talent to run the site, the funding to keep it going and the funding for the required upgrades, both software and hardware. We would also stop accepting new OVs on November 1st and stop accepting new books requests from soldiers on December 1st, 2008.
What Does It Take?*
It takes a lot to run BFS on a monthly basis. The monthly funds required to run an operation like BFS are large. Here is a partial summary of where the donations go.All figures are a monthly average for 2007.
Books, DVDs, other carepackage items
IT Services (server farm, hosting, bandwidth)
IT Maintenance Contract
IT Security Software License Fees
$350There are other things like broken computers, the occasional software purchase, insurance, pencils, toilet paper for the bathroom, etc. that we purchase.No one at BFS receives a salary.The BFS presence on MySpace, Flickr, YouTube are all free. Our presence in Second Life has also been donated.We will be disabling the uploading of photos in the next few weeks to save bandwidth. Please post your photos to the Flickr BFS Group (http://www.flickr.com/groups/booksforsoldiers) and include the Flickr link to the photo in your forum post. If you want keep your photos on BFS, place them on Flickr and post the code in your post. Instructions can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/help/photos/#68My hopes is that eventually we can raise more than the $70k survival goal. Last year our goal for 2008 was to move to a website design where the cumbersome OV process was performed online and searching and finding soldiers would be a breeze - subscribing to soldier requests is my favorite new BFS feature. Now we are just struggling to stay open.
How You Can Help
The ONLY reason we are open today is because of the OVs that have donated so far this year, but now I need to ask more of everyone.1) Office party fundraiser - Coordinate a "Save BFS Day" at work and urge, beg, cajole your co-workers into coughing up something for BFS.2) Have your company cough up some cash. We will send your company a formal donation request, just send us the company name, contact name and address and we will get it out right away. Send these requests to me personally (firstname.lastname@example.org)3) Have your place of worship pass the plate (hat, kippah, whatever) for BFS. Consult with your church's leader about holding a "Save BFS Offering" one day this month. Checks should be made out to "Books For Soldiers." If they have any questions or concerns, please contact me directly to set up a call.4) Visit our donation page and give what you can.http://booksforsoldiers.com/donate.phpor by checkBooks For Soldiers2008 Fund Drive353 Jonestown Rd #123Winston Salem, NC 27104
I started BFS five years ago and fully expected it to be online for only six weeks, that is the length of time I thought it would take for our troops to finish up in Baghdad and come back home. I am also terrible at predicting who is going to win the next NASCAR race.If worse come to worse, it has been a good run - a great run in fact. In the first 6 months of operation, we collectively shipped over 400 tons of packages to the Middle East, that is when I stopped counting. We also built the largest English library in the Middle East - together with US soldiers at the Baghdad International Airport in the months following the fall of Baghdad.We have done a lot of tremendous work, made a lot of great friends and even a wedding or two! We have also lost a lot of friends and we have received way too many memorial flags. Either way, you can all be proud of what we have achieved.I promise that we will do everything in our power to meet our fundraising goals and will appreciate any help from you.Thank-you for your support, patience and hard work over the last 5 years.And most of all thank-you for your support of our troops.Storm WilliamsFounderBooks For Soldiers(end quote)
In this same discussion, I came across an excellent idea from Andrew Carroll in the Washington Post urging Americans to use their tax rebate checks to support charities that help the troops. I guess it is up to the thousand points of light again.