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DWP's Fund-Raising Pitch for Library Nets $222,480


A modest fund-raising pitch enclosed in more than 1 million Department of Water and Power bills last fall paid off handsomely in contributions to the Los Angeles Public Library, officials said Monday.

More than 21,000 DWP customers opened their checkbooks to make donations totaling $222,480, City Librarian Susan Goldberg Kent said in a report to the Library Commission. Commissioners quickly agreed to try the technique again, voting to send out a similar solicitation with utility bills starting in mid-October.

"It exceeded everyone's expectations," Library Commissioner Gary A. Ross said of last year's trial balloon. Ross, a screenwriter who was then board president, said he was kicking around ideas when a friend suggested using DWP bills to make a low-cost, citywide solicitation.

"It was unconventional, but once we set up mechanisms to make sure [utility bill] payments didn't get lost, it ran very smoothly," Ross said.

The appeal envelope, designed for free by the advertising firm of Kresser Stein Robaire, listed four things library officials wanted to do--extend hours at branch libraries, buy books in different languages, build homework centers and improve literacy programs.

"If everyone receiving this request were willing to give just $3.75, your local library could buy twice as many books, stay open four evenings a week or put a homework center in every branch," the mailer stated.

Donations averaged $10, library officials said. Some were for as little as $1, while three DWP customers wrote checks of $500 each.

"We had contributions from all over the city, from a wide variety of households. Many people showed us they were eager and willing to support the library," Kent said.

When $41,836 in printing, materials and accounting costs was subtracted, the project netted $180,644 for programs, books and services, Kent added.

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