Books as Prizes - Where's the Money Coming From?

In the Afterschool Program Facebook group, we were chatting recently about books as prizes for SLP and the question came up, "How do you afford books as prizes?" We shared some ideas on inexpensive sources: Half Price books; Scholastic Literacy Partnership, Scholastic Book Fair Warehouse sales; ARCs from conferences.

But that begs the question - where does the money come from? After all,  books are our priciest prize.

One thing we did to find the money was change how we program.

We booked performers for years - singers, magicians, storytellers, performers of one kind and another.  A very few could generate a crowd of 100-150 kids in our auditorium. Most would result in crowds of 25-45 kids and adults - and this in a city of 51,000 population!

The costs involved with performers were substantial - $200 if we were lucky; $300-$500 and up more likely. Add mileage, hotel and expenses and ouch! When we had 25 people in the audience, it meant we were paying anywhere from $10-30 per person in attendance for the program. That didn't seem like a sustainable use of money.

We were also developing some amazing in-house programs led by staff.  It occurred to us that if we continued this strong staff programming and cut back on performers, we would have enough money to fund the hundreds of books that we want to give to kids as prizes.

So we made it so. We still book a performer or two for special events. The money we saved went directly to buying books as prizes for babies through teens. Parents and kids both love these books. Kids get to choose freely from a variety that we put out. We fill our program room for two weeks in August with books for kids to choose from who have completed their SLP in previous weeks.

Of course, we could also have written grants, looked for donors or sought money in other ways. But we chose to enfold books into existing programming money. By changing our priorities we made sure we could make a book in the hand of a child happen. Seems worth it!

(For more thoughts on sustainability and funding in Youth Services, see this series starting here that I wrote last fall).

Photo courtesy of Pixabay


  1. Yes, rearranging our Summer Reading Club spending is part of what we've done, too. Since we went to online SRC logging, we had TONS of leftover plastic bags last year, so this year I ordered less than half our usual amount and it was first-come first-served. We saved a little money by ditching our grand prize drawings and plastic prizes, too. The other part of it is that we carefully cull from our book donations all year. Anything that's like-new (no noticeable cover wear, no inscriptions inside) goes into the prize cabinet. Our Friends of the Library are amazing about letting us have first pick of donations!

    1. We to get first dibs on the book donations that come into the library. I also get some great deals at Savers. Sometimes I can walk out of the story with 50 children's books that are popular with the kids and in great condition. It is really a great deal when I have my 30% off coupon!

  2. Thanks, Marge. I have a lot to think about for next year!