18 Nov Executive Summary
Dear Friends and Family,
Bridge of Books has distributed nearly 1.3 million books to underserved children across all of New Jersey’s twenty-one counties. Our core mission remains the same – to provide an ongoing source of books to underserved children throughout New Jersey in order to support the development of literacy skills and encourage a love of reading. Ongoing access to books is critical to establishing reading skills and paving the way to success in school and beyond. And given the wide-ranging needs of underserved children during the pandemic, our mission is more critical than ever. Established in 2003 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, we remain a volunteer-led organization to this day.
Our model is simple. Books are collected through book drives, individual donations, publisher overstocks, and corporate donations. Additional books that are not typically part of the collections received are purchased to supplement distributions. Once sorted and boxed by age, the books are then distributed through multiple settings, including schools, day care facilities, community centers, prisons, food pantries, and special events.
Neither the collection nor the distribution of books to kids who need them have been an issue. People understand the importance of our mission and gladly donate their books. People who work with underserved children are thrilled to find our free books as a resource for the kids they serve. Both donors and recipients are often willing to drive several hours to donate and/or pick up books. Nearly twenty years and 1.3 million books later, we have accomplished this with a volunteer executive director and volunteer working board.
Other than a paid part-time administrative assistant, we operate with very little overhead. Most importantly, we had donated operating space to house our books and a place for individual and group volunteers to sort and prepare books for distribution. Unfortunately, we lost this space during the pandemic and are currently operating out of three separate storage units in two different locations. This is not a sustainable operation. Despite extensive networking, we have been unable to find new donated space; books are piling up, donations are being deferred or rejected, and volunteer sorting has essentially been suspended. Our volunteer-led organization is now challenged to keep the mission going.
Bridge of Books is at a crossroads. In order to continue our mission, operational change is needed. First and foremost, we need to raise funds to build a sustainable infrastructure around the mission. Rented space is a priority. We cannot operate effectively without space to accept donations and prepare the books for distribution. Hiring an executive director is also integral to the sustained growth of our mission. The volunteer-led model of the past twenty years to needs to evolve into one operated by, first, a paid executive to oversee operations and, second, a development manager to push the mission forward. The board also needs to transition from working volunteers to more defined roles and responsibilities.
For all the lives we have touched, we know that there are countless children across New Jersey who still need access to the books we provide. Bridge of Books needs to exist for these children. And in order to write the next chapter, we need to both hire an executive director and rent a new home base for our operations. With your financial support, Bridge of Books can evolve into a stronger organization and get even more books into the hands of kids who need them across New Jersey.