June 23, 2015
Washington bookstore goes nonprofit
by Nick Davies
A struggling independent bookstore in Auburn, Washington (about 30 miles south of Seattle) is taking innovative measures to stay in business. Robert Whale writes for the Auburn Reporter that Finally Found Books has taken steps to establish itself as a nonprofit organization, which should help keep it in business.
Store owner Todd Hulbert has struggled to make Finally Found financially viable since he opened it in August 2013, so much so that he decided to shut it down this January—but couldn’t find any buyers. “We started to see revenues go down substantially from the previous year,” he tells the Reporter, “and things didn’t get any better in February, March or April. I finally said, ‘It’s either time to shut it up, or we can look at forming a nonprofit.'”
Hulbert went with the latter option, and earlier this month, a new nonprofit, the Washington Literary Organization started raising money to purchase Finally Found. He points out several benefits that go along with shifting to a nonprofit model, among them the ability to raise money through grants and donations, offering tax deductions for book donations, and a staff of volunteers.
Finally Found has already gotten an enthusiastic response from locals who are stepping in to take those volunteer roles, pitching in “to take on responsibilities in the business and support existing and upcoming literary programs.” Thirteen of them have formed the newly minted WLO’s board of directors.
Under the management of a nonprofit, Finally Found will be increasing its literary programs to provide services to the community. For example, three developmentally disabled students have been working at the store as interns, and the WLO plans to expand that program to “many more such kids” in order to provide them with real world work experience. They’ll also continue to donate gift certificates—in increasing quantities—to teachers in area school districts, shut-in seniors, PTA auctions, fundraisers, Friends of the Library, the Veterans’ Administration, and churches.
There are also plans, Hulbert says, for new programs, such as Traveling Story Time for children, tutoring, reading hours, and providing a meeting space for literary events.
The last step to complete the transition to a nonprofit is for Finally Found and the WLO to raise $250,000 “to purchase the store and maintain a large capital reserve to support its programs.” They have a long way to go until they reach that quarter-million dollar target, and are currently accepting donations on their website.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.