An Interview With Dani Brzozowski, director of development, Open Books
FundRaising Success: How do you fund your mission?
Dani Brzozowski: Open Books’ vision is a renewable, organic and unending cycle of funding and programming. When the bookstore opens next spring, sales of donated used books will fund the literacy programming that will take place, literally, in-house. The first floor of our new space will be devoted to retail: more than 50,000 used books in a fun, funky, colorful and comfortable Chicago environment complete with a fake fireplace, ancestral oil paintings, a suit of armor, a multitude of bird cages, a constellation of twinkling lights, a children’s area furnished with giant foam books, and lots of secret seats just big enough for a reader and a book. The rest of the space will be classrooms, computer labs, and offices for other literacy organizations in the city. The hope is that this model will bring Chicago’s fight for literacy physically together in one inspiring, creative and powerful illiteracy center.
FS: What are the biggest challenges your organization faces as far as fundraising is concerned? How do you overcome them?
DB: One of the big challenges we face is transitioning our corps of young volunteers to a corps of young donors. Because the average age of our volunteers is very young (early to mid-20s), we don’t have a constituency that’s necessarily prepared to bring a lot of accumulated wealth to the fundraising table. But they are hugely committed to the fight against illiteracy; they’re dedicated to Open Books and the programs we offer. I don’t see the challenge as convincing our volunteers to be financially supportive so much as showing them the value of their gifts. It’s part of the struggle many organizations have when trying to engage young donors: So many young people are reluctant to give because they perceive their dollar contributions as petty. The challenge is to show them that their dollars are incredibly worthwhile.