By Linda Lovely
Let me begin by saying I admire the many authors who generously donate time and potential profits to raise funds and awareness for their favorite charities. They do so by arranging for charities to sell their books and pocket the profits, by forgoing speaking fees to headline charity lunches and dinners, by spending countless hours organizing charity auctions.
In most cases, the partnership offers a win-win for charities and authors. The charities pocket money they might not otherwise receive, get free publicity, and have an opportunity to expand their donor base. Authors gain name recognition and, hopefully, fans, who will become dedicated readers of current and future books.
Earlier this month fellow RTG blogger, Marcia King-Gamble, suggested folks consider charitable efficiency when making donation decisions. She noted, for example, that the Red Cross spends 92.1% of its income on programs that benefit the community with administrative expenses representing less than 5% of total overhead.
That prompted me to consider at what point author-charity partnerships might become more advantageous to authors than charities. Let’s look at a hypothetical charitable event where an author will sell books. The nonprofit provides lots of free promotion in exchange for the author donating a “portion” of the profits.
The Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum
sells NO WAKE ZONE and keeps all profits--.
about $8 per book. We had a signing &
books are sold in the museum gift shop.
In this instance, shouldn’t the people who are urged to buy books to support the charity know the split? If the book retails for $16, how many dollars will the charity pocket versus the author? Let’s say the actual book costs $8, leaving $8 profit. If the author donates only a quarter of the profits, the charity is asking donors to spend $16 (on something they might not otherwise want or buy) in order to reap $2. This isn’t a terribly efficient way to raise money. However, it’s definitely a win for the author who gets all the benefits—promotion, sales, income.
As an author, I can argue this is no different than all the other businesses that donate a “portion” of profits on specific products to charities. When I buy from one online retailer, I’m told the charity I identified as my recipient will get a piece of the action. While I’m sure that “piece” is very, very small, I signed up because I’d make the purchase anyway, and my favorite charity might as well benefit.
So, fellow authors and nonprofit organizers, I’d love to hear what you think. If you’re involved in such an event, should you let your audience know what the various parties will gain?
So far, I’ve been involved as an author with two fundraising initiatives. In one case, I spoke at a luncheon. I received nothing for speaking and the nonprofit made its money from its sale of luncheon tickets. I benefited from the publicity and from a post-luncheon book-signing handled by a local bookstore. However, book purchases were entirely voluntary for attendees.
In the second instance, I provided signed paperback copies of one of my mysteries at cost to a nonprofit that’s near and dear to me. The nonprofit didn’t front a penny. It pocketed ALL profits as it made sales, and it reimbursed me for actual book costs after the fact.
So let’s hear your opinions. What model should authors and charities adopt for fundraising? Should charitable donations per sale of a book or the percentage of charitable proceeds from a luncheon or dinner be made public?