Fundraising Your Makerspace

Fundraising Your Makerspace

This post was originally posted on TLC SmartTech’s blog. For more blog posts by SmartTech and for all of your STEM/Makerspace needs, click here

Have an idea to start or grow your makerspace, but don’t have the funding to make it happen? Here are three ideas to raise funds for specific makerspace projects at your library (no grant writing necessary).

First, pick a specific project or goal to help expand your makerspace. Clearly define your goal and the supplies needed to get there. How much will it cost? Are there recurring costs? Is it a reasonable amount to ask your community to donate?

Image originally from Pixabay, modified by author.

For instance, your goal could be to get more 3D Printers in the Fab Lab to decrease patron wait time and encourage community use. Or maybe your Robotics program is picking up and you need more Ozobots or Cubelets to keep up with the demand of the program. Or perhaps your patrons want to be able to explore STEM concepts at home, so you want to add Blocks Rock! or Circuit Scribe kits to your circulating collection. No matter your goal, make sure it is clearly defined and relates back to your patrons’ use of the library.

Now that you know your goal, market your fundraiser! Create messaging that explains what the fundraiser is, what the money will be spent on (include a picture), and how it will positively impact the patrons and community. Place signs at the Circulation desk and self-check stations. Print it on bookmarks and post it on your website. With a tangible outcome, patrons know where their money is going and the positive impact of the project. They will be more likely to donate, and your fundraiser will have a better chance at success.

To make it more interactive and successful, track your fundraising progress in a visible, accessible way. Include your financial goal and amount of money raised so far. This encourages patrons to contribute and see how close the library is to achieving the goal. Post updates on your website at the end of the day. Fill an incremented, clear bucket with pebbles or water for every $100 or $1000 raised. Post a whiteboard sign or easel at the front entrance, and color it in as you get closer to your goal.

So what does the fundraiser look like?


Fine Forgiveness Day

This fundraiser combines a standard fine forgiveness day with an alternative bookkeeping approach to raise funds for your makerspace project. Pick a day when all fines paid that day are waived in the ILS and applied as a donation to the makerspace.

Be sure to let the patron know where their fine money is going that day. You may be surprised at how many patrons are more inclined to donate beyond their $0.25 fine when they can see that every penny will go to improving library services. A few extra quarters toward new tablets in the makerlab? You betcha!

Image from Public Domain Pictures


Interactive Gumball Machine

Image used with permission from Jackie Derr (@jmderr10), the STEM Teacher at Perrysburg Jr High School, who got this idea originally from Design Make Teach and has the gumball machine up in the cafeteria of her school. Jackie: “I added the recycle bucket for the capsules and added printing puzzles to help the kids communicate/brainstorm while completing the puzzle.”

This idea works well for a long-term or ongoing fundraising project, since you can have the gumball machine up year-round to collect funds. Just remember to change the signage when you start collecting for a new project. This fundraising machine works by being interactive. Patrons insert money and get a tangible takeaway immediately.

Spend an afternoon 3D printing small giveaways or ask your regular makerspace patrons to donate one of their own small creations to your Gumball Fundraising Machine. Each piece needs to be small enough to fit inside a 2″ gumball container and should be cost considerate of your ultimate goal. Indicate on your signage that all prizes were created in your makerspace and all proceeds go toward your project goal.

If the idea of purchasing a gumball machine seems overwhelming or expensive (as many can range from $100s to $1000s), check out this DIY functional Gumball Machine, made out of cardboard! Place your small machine at the Children’s or Circulation desk. If you are able to obtain a “real” gumball machine, place it near self-check machines or in the library foyer or other high-traffic areas of your library.

Library Bookstore

Many libraries have a Used Bookstore, typically run by the Friends foundation. Find out if any of the proceeds can go toward your next makerspace project. If not all proceeds, perhaps for one month or one week out of the year.

At the South Charleston Public Library in West Virginia, the Corner Bookstore is hard to miss when you walk in the front doors. Bookstores turn donated books into a fundraising opportunity, with the help of volunteers to sort and price every item

Director Todd Duncan shared, “Our corner bookstore generated $25,313 in revenue for the library. We budgeted for $19,000 so any excess goes into our Foundation account. We put the rest back into our general fund which is used for materials and programming.”

In addition to the usual donations of books and magazines, South Charleston Public Library also receives several other valuable donations, some of which are even listed and sold online, thereby increasing visibility of their merchandise and bringing in additional revenue for programs. Todd says that “$4,334 of our total sales were from online sales.”


Image taken by the author and used with permission from Todd Duncan, Director of South Charleston Public Library.

Fundraising doesn’t need to be complicated; it just needs to be intentional. Now that you have some ideas about how to raise money for specific projects, let us know what other fundraising events and strategies have been successful for you and your library.

Rhia Stark
STEM Specialist





Justin Larsen Larsen