Friday, July 5, 2013

Trading Books for Donations

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

Today I'm at my favorite event: Art & the Vineyard—a Eugene festival celebrating local artists and winemakers. I love interacting with readers and writers in this gorgeous outdoor venue, under a bright blue sky!

This time will be different though. Every dime I take in will go to the new charity I founded, Housing Help. This project has been on my to-do list for years, and last month, I finally had the time, money, and head space to launch it.

In brief, the foundation's mission is to help people who are facing a housing crisis. Our first priority is to get homeless families into a place of their own. We also hope to prevent people who have had a financial setback from becoming homeless. You can read more at the website if you're interested.

The sticky issue is how to use my public profile to raise money for this great cause—without using this cause to increase my public profile and/or sell more books. I'm not sure I can do one without indirectly doing the other, but I'm going to try. I've struggled with this issue for years and even blogged about my conflicted feelings regarding the interplay of bookselling and charity. My perspective keeps evolving.

But I know my heart is in the right place. I've made significant private donations to the foundation already, and I'll continue to do so, for as long as I can.

The book sales for the A&V event are just another opportunity to make a donation. Consequently, there are no conditions, thresholds, or percentages. Every dime goes to Housing Help, and I'll give a donation receipt to everyone who buys books—letting readers take the tax break. That way, they can be generous, be certain their money is going to the cause, and get credit for their charity.

Eventually, I plan to set up apps on my website, as well as the foundation's, that will offer readers/donators a signed book for every contribution of a certain amount, say $25. Again, the money will go directly to Housing Help, and the reader/donator will get a tax-deductible receipt.

This seems like a viable way to raise money for the cause without directly benefiting from it. If you have other ideas, please share them. And if you live in the Eugene area, stop in and say Hi. Maybe trade a donation for a book. 


  1. I'm so excited about this. For you. For the families you'll help. For the ideas of selfless generosity it might give others.

    There's no doubt in my mind that you will keep everything in perspective, and maintain the focus depending on your venue and campaign.

    Proud to be your friend.

  2. What an excellent idea, LJ! And not only that, you're actually bringing it to fruition. So exciting that you'll be able to help people with a housing crisis get a home and get back on their feet. Good luck with this excellent cause and the launch of your new charity!

    1. Thanks! I'm lucky to have a couple of great women/fundraisers on my board of directors.

  3. L.J., I've worked on both sides - I've done fundraising for a charitable organization (still do) and I am a writer, so I understand the conflict. As you said, it's a continuum. (I read your referenced post, by the way. Very moving.) Here's what may be a different perspective: what is called 'charity' is not (just) a matter of goodwill or generosity, but an obligation. As I've mentioned elsewhere, in Hebrew the words for 'charity' and 'justice' have the same root.

    Another thought: If the act primarily helps another person, then the giver's benefit is ancillary. If the act primarily promotes the giver, and the benefit is ancillary, then perhaps the method of giving needs re-examining.

    I can certainly understand - and relate to - your ambivalence. I suspect not too many people wrestle with these issues the way you have. It's impressive, and I admire your dedication and effort. I hope your foundation is a tremendous success. It's work is desperately needed, and I applaud your passion. It's inspiring.

    1. Thanks, David. I appreciate your thoughtful comments and consistent support!

  4. I think it's great you're raising money for such an important issue. If by doing so, it raises your profile and books sales, I don't see it as an issue. It's clear the primary aim is to raise money for the charitable organization, and, for anyone raising funds for a great cause, a heightened profile only serves that aim better. I wish you the best of success with it.


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