What can we do together?
Q&A with a Toledo-based library on building community capacity
Toledo-Lucas County Public Library (TLCPL) has been part of Candid’s Funding Information Network since 1980, providing local nonprofits and the public with access to Candid’s resources, including Foundation Directory, for free.
We spoke with Zach Huber, Toledo-Lucas’s specialist librarian, to showcase what their library has been able to achieve by being a part of the Funding Information Network.
Candid: What would you like people to know about your services and how you view your role in the community?
Zach: Prior to working in libraries, I worked in the nonprofit sector for six years. I had never considered turning to a local library for resources to help my organization build capacity, but libraries can do just that. Philanthropic consultants can be costly to many organizations and often focus on high level initiatives that a nonprofit might not be positioned to focus on just yet. The self-service model of public libraries allows individuals to explore at their own pace, and a librarian like me can help guide the process by sharing vetted tools and resources and how to maximize their impact.
I have long said that the library is a great place to start because if we don’t have the answer, we can connect you to the person or agency that does.
Candid: Can you tell us about the patrons who visit your location looking for support?
Zach: Customers who visit the TLCPL in search of nonprofit assistance usually fall into one of three buckets. First are the passionate individuals looking to start a new nonprofit to meet an emerging/existing need in their community. They typically don’t have formalized knowledge of fundraising but are eager to learn.
Second are representatives of nonprofits who are turning to grants to help their organization grow capacity. These are often founders of nonprofits and also don’t have a lot of experience in fundraising.
And third, we see a number of individuals from established organizations who are looking for professional development or to learn new skills. They may have experience in nonprofits but haven’t worked on the fundraising side yet.
In the Toledo nonprofit community, we’re fortunate that the Center for Nonprofit Resources also provides support to the area. We find that the Center is best positioned to serve experienced nonprofit professionals and established organizations that are seeking to increase capacity at a higher level. This allows the library to focus more on start-up nonprofits and grant seekers, for whom our resources are best positioned to serve.
Candid: How does your library support the work of nonprofits in the community?
Zach: Being a member of the Funding Information Network and offering public access to Foundation Directory has long been at the core of what we offer the nonprofit community. When I came on board in 2019, the library modified the traditional business reference department and formed what is now the Small Business and Nonprofit Department. This department is staffed with two librarians who don’t work on a traditional reference desk, which allows us to devote more one-to-one time serving customers through appointments.
In these appointments, we have the time to listen to customers’ needs and connect them to the appropriate resources or community partner. Sometimes, through our conversations, it’s decided that a nonprofit may not be the best fit for an idea, or that the organization has some more work to do before it’s ready to apply for a grant. These discussions are a valuable service in itself.
Through the resources at TLCPL, customers can find and evaluate grant funders, download a mailing list of constituents for no cost, perform basic research on prospective donors, draft a strategic plan, and learn about trends across the nonprofit sector. My role is to contextualize those tools and teach customers how to best use them.
Recently, our department started a structured outreach program at branch locations so customers can access our services throughout the county and not just a singular site. Lastly, I try to keep my customers informed of new resources and local opportunities through a monthly newsletter.
Candid: Can you provide any examples of success stories from your work?
Zach: Being in this role for just a couple years—and during the pandemic—hasn’t given me the opportunity to hear back from a lot of the organizations I’ve worked with. I take heart when I see someone I’ve worked with who has finally been approved for 501(c)3 tax exempt status, or see the grant recipients in Foundation Directory and know I’ve worked with them, or even see some of the great projects these agencies are working on.
One customer, a nonprofit board member, was extremely pleased after learning about TLCPL’s resources, saying “I would like to thank you for opening our eyes to the possibilities that exist for our agency.”
Candid: Is there anything else we didn’t ask that you’d like to add or share?
Zach: Get a library card!
Find a Funding Information Network partner near you and learn more about the benefits of joining Candid’s global network of libraries, community foundations, and other nonprofit resource centers providing database access and support to local nonprofits.