Kinder Than Ever

This year, in keeping with my “simplifying” goal, I took last year’s Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK) Week and made it easier for both the public and the library staff. Plus, it’s been a bajillion times funner.

Last year, we had people picking Lost materials to purchase for patrons who had yet to pay for the items. It went well, but it took a heck of a lot of prep work, and honestly I did had neither the time nor physical ability to do something like that again.

My idea that I proposed to my Director, and then she proposed to our Library Board, was that we just straight-up collect money during RAOK Week, and then during the following weeks, help pay fines of any patron who comes in and uses the library – up to $1.00 per patron (to spread the love as widely as possible). It was wholeheartedly approved.

As I was trying to figure out how best to make this work, I started with the foundation that we should make it a friendly competition like we did with the Cats Vs Dogs fundraiser. But how on earth do you make kindness competitive?

Because I had to settle on something, I went with the basic “boys vs girls.” But how to represent that and keep it friendly? I didn’t have a clue, time was running out, and so I started to work on the marketing.

And then it happened. The stars aligned, and somewhere in Africa a butterfly flapped its wings.

I was changing the hue of our library’s mascot in Photoshop to blue for boys, when I realized something: we have two dragon puppets that hang out in our office: a blue one and a pink one. Boys Vs Girls. We could let the puppets win something in the competition. Like a trophy, or a crown. A “kindness” crown. WITH SPARKLIES! (I threw together a yellow construction paper with tons of jewel stickers on it).

And so it came to be: a friendly competition to see which puppet gets to wear the Kindness Crown for the year!Let me tell you: if your library doesn’t have those plastic “vortex” coin spinners, then you should totally invest in them. Most kids beg and beg their parent for coins to put in the funnel. They usually do it at the end of their visit, so the kids leave feeling happy, and the parents feel good about donating to our library (usually either our Friends group or our Foundation).Oh, and to keep people in the know/stoke the competitive fires, I made an updated-daily display on our whiteboard:We didn’t really advertise what the money would go to (if anyone asked, then we’d tell them) – we just said that we’d do something really cool with it. And it truly has been cool.

As I write this post, we’re well into the first week of March, and both library locations still have plenty of money to help pay fines. We raised a little over $30 which is pretty impressive for a one-week mostly-coin fundraiser where people aren’t clear on what their money is going to.

What’s been happening has been beyond awesome. None of us really enjoy mentioning to patrons that they have fines when they’re checking out. But this fundraiser has allowed us to say things like “Oh, you have 30 cents in fines. That’s wonderful because I can pay that off using the money that everyone gave during our Random Acts of Kindness Week!” And you know what? About a third of the time that person will add to the kindness money, and usually more than their fine amount was!

It’s just the warmest-fuzziest thing all around for everyone.

UPDATE: It took us over a whole month to use up the last of the Kindness money. In 2016 we gave the money we raised (with our Friends group matching the donation up to $100) to our state’s Library Commission because they were having financial difficulties. We plan to return to fine forgiveness in 2017.

Oh! You might like to know who won the inaugural Kindness Crown Competition: the boys did! By fifteen cents!

2 thoughts on “Kinder Than Ever

  1. I love it! We’re encouraged to work with people on their fines, and I waive a whole lot of pocket change for patrons that I know struggle to make ends meet. If I wasn’t allowed to do that, though, this would be an amazing way to build up goodwill. Putting it on a child’s level is incredibly sweet, too. I can only imagine that a lot of people must have been touched to know a child wanted to help them (even if the kiddos didn’t know that’s what it was for).

    • Thanks! I think next year it’s going to go to a whole other level. I heard some fun conversations at the funnels, like one mom who tried to encourage her son to give equally to the boys and girls because it’s about kindness, and he was like, “NOPE,” and put all his change in the boys’. Too cute!

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