#1: Donate Money
The #1 thing we can always use is money. We are a small, grassroots group that is fiscally sponsored by a nonprofit. It is extremely difficult, for several reasons, for a group like ours to obtain a grant from a foundation (e.g., we are horizontally structured, our focus is on prison, our “project” is essentially what we always do, it’s hard to gauge evaluation other than anecdotally), and this is why we get the majority of our funds from individuals like you. We’re beyond grateful that this is possible.
What makes donating to NYC Books Through Bars different from donating to other organizations is that you know what 100% of your money is being spent on—postage to mail books. That is our only expense, and it is a high one, because we never have a lack of request letters. The more money we have, the more postage we can buy, and the more request letters we can fulfill. Your donations correlate completely with how many books get sent out every month. To donate, online or via mail, go to the Donate Funds page.
#2: Volunteer at a Packing Session
Every Sunday afternoon and Monday evening, volunteers meet at our space in the basement of Freebird Books to read letters from people in prison and send them books. You can drop in anytime during volunteer hours—no need to email ahead or arrive right when we start (or to stay for the whole session). We are the most informal of groups, and you won’t need to fill out any forms to volunteer. Once you come to a few sessions, you can be added to our volunteer listserv, where we discuss planning initiatives and more. Note that our space is small, so unfortunately we cannot accommodate a large group that wants to come together. Learn more about volunteering on our Volunteer page.
#3: Donate Stamps
Skip the middleman (which would be one of us, the NYC Books Through Bars volunteers) going to the post office and directly purchase our only expense, which is postage to send books. Due to USPS policies, we can only use Automated Postal Center stamps, which come from the machines located in post offices. There are easy to follow, step-by-step instructions of how to do this on our Donate Stamps page.
#4: Donate Used Books
Of course, we would not be able to operate without book donations. Due to our small number of volunteers and our limited schedules and access to vehicles, we usually cannot pick up books. Books should be dropped off at our location in Red Hook, Brooklyn, either on a weekend (when the bookstore upstairs is open) or on a Monday evening (during volunteer hours). The books we need the most are the ones we frequently receive requests for. These include dictionaries, thesauruses, and history books (especially African American and Native American). If you have books to donate and aren’t sure if we will be able to use them, send us an e-mail at email@example.com. Learn more about our book donation policies on the Donate Books page.
#5: Donate Supplies
Ever shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s and forget to bring your own bag? Well, the paper bags they use are perfect for wrapping up books for shipment. If you accumulate a bunch of them and can stop by our location in Red Hook on a weekend (when the bookstore upstairs is open) or on a Monday evening (during volunteer hours), we would be very thankful and put them to good use! We can also always use clear packing type and ink pads (for our “Media Mail” and return address stamps). And if you happen to have any large rolls of paper lying around (like the ones they sell at Staples), we would love to take them off your hands!
#6: Hold a Dictionary Drive
The most requested item by far is a dictionary, and we never have enough to send. Whether it’s at your school, place of worship, workplace, or community center, holding a paperback dictionary drive for us would be phenomenal. We can set you up with flyers, sample letters, a newsletter signup, and whatever else you think might help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if you want to plan one!
#9: Host a Fundraiser
Do you have any ideas for a fundraiser that would benefit NYC Books Through Bars? Whether it’s knowing someone in a band (or being in band yourself) whose proceeds from a show could benefit us, knowing of a bar where part of the proceeds for a night could benefit us, or planning a fundraising night as part of an event at your school, there are tons of ideas out there that are waiting to be acted on! People love doing something fun for a good cause. We can set you up with flyers, sample letters, Books Through Bars merchandise, and whatever else you think you’ll need to make the fundraiser a success. Email email@example.com to let us know if you want to plan one!
#8: Leave Flyers at Your School, Workplace, or Community Center
Spread the work about NYC Books Through Bars in an easy way! Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will send you flyers.
#9: Spread the Word on Social Media
#10: Hold a Book Drive
A book drive would not only spread the word about what NYC Books Through Bars does, but it would also help us to gather genres of books that we always need. Whether it’s at your school, place of worship, workplace, or community center, a paperback book drive would be a huge help to our cause. We can provide flyers that describe exactly what kind of books we are looking for (as listed on our Donate Books page) and what books we cannot use, as well as sample letters and a newsletter signup. We may also be able to pick up the books at the end of the drive. Email email@example.com to let us know if you want to plan one!