Branching Out and Taking Root: POP Project’s 2016 in Review and Look ahead to 2017

The POP Project added one more ring of growth last year to our history as an Asheville-based volunteer nonprofit. Though the year took us in many directions, we spread our branches and dug in deep to keep reaching toward our mission.

POP sorted, packed, and delivered more than 6,800 free books in 2016 with a total value of more than $34,000! These books were delivered to local area schools, children’s programs, shelters, housing and healthcare centers, food pantries, and detention centers to serve the people most in need of a greater access to books.

We also held a number of volunteer opportunities, coordinated local activities to promote literacy, and participated in several strategic community collaborations. Here’s a look back at our highlights of 2016:

Branching Out and Taking Root: POP Project’s 2016 in Review and Look ahead to 2017

POP’s Best Moments of 2016:

  • Our First Grant!: POP started the year with an unexpected boon when we received our first community grant from Asheville’s own Glass Foundation. The $1,000 grant was used to purchase books for children whose families are served by the Literacy Council.
  • Record Days of Impact Deliveries: Over two afternoons in April and October, groups of corporate volunteers helped POP sort, count, pack, and deliver nearly $12,000 of books to agencies around Asheville and Buncombe County—all in a matter of hours. That’s 35% of our annual total deliveries!
  • Little Libraries around Buncombe County: POP was also surprised last spring with our second grant ever, this one from the Duke Energy Foundation. We’re currently working with Green Opportunities’ GO Build Program to build and maintain little free libraries across the community. Already in place are libraries at Leicester Elementary and Food for Fairview.
  • Rethink Ink Book Sale Fundraiser: Last summer, POP raised $150 during a book sale fundraiser held on the Willow’s Dream rooftop patio in downtown Asheville. The annual event allows us to promote reading and books, even in the face of digital technology, while raising money by selling books we are unable to deliver into the community.
  • Two New Board Members: Even as our existing board members chose to stay on to further POP’s mission, we welcomed two additional board members, Lisa Coffey and Joanna Bolick. After only a few months, they have steered POP in some exciting new directions! Lisa has been serving as our volunteer grant writer and Joanna helped us find a wonderful new storage space (more details to come).
  • Banned Books Week: POP celebrated Banned Books Week this year by posting about renowned banned books to our Facebook page. We revealed a reason each book was banned and followers placed their guesses about which book matched each clue. Each answer was revealed the next day.
  • Give!Local Online Fundraiser: POP was one of 47 nonprofits selected for the second annual Mountain Xpress online fundraising program. Thanks to tremendous support, POP raised nearly $700 over 60 days!
  • Collaborative Holiday Dinner Fundraiser: POP was asked to be the nonprofit recipient of this year’s annual dinner collaboration between Rhubarb, Catawba Brewing, and Gaining Ground Farm. In total, 49 people attended the dinner and POP raised $650 while enjoying a chef-inspired four-course meal. Yum!

POP’s Book Delivery Program Keeps Growing!

2016 was another big year for book deliveries by the POP Project. Our goal was to increase our 2015 donations by 8 percent to 8,000 books. We were not able to meet that goal. However, we did expand our reach to new locations, begin our little library program in earnest, and managed transitions among our volunteer delivery coordinators. All in all, those changes brought an increase in breadth to our delivery program that we expect to translated to increased deliveries this year.

Our 2016 deliveries totalled 6,829 books, and had a value of $34,145. Here’s a breakdown of our donations for 2016 as compared to 2015:

2015 2016
Schools and Children’s Programs 3,103 2,921
State Prisons; Local Jails and Detention Centers 937 774
Community Nonprofits, Housing Centers, and Organizations in WNC 3,058 2,663
Little Libraries 197 396
Other (including books sold at Rethink Ink) 251 75

2016 Book Delivery Locations

A-B Tech
A-HOPE Day Center
Asheville City Preschool
Biltmore United Methodist Church
Buncombe County Detention Facility
Buncombe County WIC Program
CARING for Children, Inc.
Children First
Community Action Opportunities / Head Start
Craggie Correctional Facility
Deaverview Apartments
Enka High School
Enka Middle School
Erwin Middle School
Food for Fairview
Four Seasons Hospice Home Store
Charles George VA Medical Center
Goodwill Industries
Green Opportunities
Haywood Street Congregation
Hominy Valley Community Market
Leicester Elementary
Literacy Council of Buncombe County
Mother Love
Neil Dobbins Rehab Center
Oakley Partnership for Children (SmartStart)
RHA Community Room
Sand Hill Elementary
Western Carolina Rescue Ministries
YMCA / RISE / After-school programs

Holiday Fundraising through Give!Local

In total, POP needed to raise $3,000 to meet our operating costs for 2017. POP was one of 47 nonprofits selected for the second annual Mountain Xpress online fundraising program. Thanks to our supporters, POP raised $705 through Give!Local, or 23% of our operating budget for 2017!

Give!Local was just one focus for POP during the end-of-year fundraising season. We also raised $650 through our holiday dinner collaboration with Rhubarb, Catawba Brewing, and Gaining Ground Farm. Several private donations were also placed via the POP Project website.

Ultimately, what put us over the top of our fundraising goal was a special surprise donation of $1,500 from Ligature Partners. The executive search firm based in Providence, RI, and with an office in Asheville, chose POP as one of its three recipients for their end-of-year giving!

Together with our Give!Local and offline donations, POP begins 2017 with our full $3,000 operations fundraising goal, plus an additional 10%! This is the first year that POP has been able to begin with a full budget. We are very excited about the amount of money raised and would like to thank all our generous donors for their support.

Our Thanks to You, Our Community of Supporters, for a Great 2016!

Thank you to our supporters, donors, volunteers, social media followers, and book donors for all your help last year. We collected and sorted through many books to determine their best homes. We made 72 book deliveries to 31 programs and organizations in our community. We made a difference to the lives of more than 8,000 thousand men, women, and children in Asheville, Buncombe County, and across Western North Carolina. And we couldn’t have done this without your help, support, and belief in the power of a good book.

Here’s to an even bigger and better year of giving in 2017!

Continuing the Momentum in 2017—and How You can Help

POP made a significant impact to our community during 2016, but we still have a long way to go before everyone in WNC has sufficient access to books. We want to keep expanding our donation base, programs, and volunteer opportunities for the coming year, and we need help doing it.

Here are just a few of our goals for 2017, along with ways you can help us meet them:

  • Better expand into surrounding counties in WNC: POP still plans to expand further east and west of Buncombe to cover additional counties in Western North Carolina that could benefit from a greater access to those books. This includes regular book deliveries, and also installing free little libraries. Do you know of any shelters, development centers, detention centers, food pantries, or healthcare facilities in your area that could benefit from a few good books? Let us know how we can help.
  • Hold our annual “Rethink Ink” book sale fundraiser: POP accepts almost all kinds of books, and so we have collected many that we currently cannot find homes for. Our “Rethink Ink” fundraiser encourages people to keep paper books alive during the digital revolution, while also serving as one of our largest fundraising events of the year. Look for more information later in the spring about this year’s book sale fundraiser.
  • Increase the number of books we donate: In 2016, POP was able to find homes for more than $34,000 worth of books. That’s great work, but we still want to break that $40K mark! By expanding our programs and the reach of our donations, we plan to donate even more this year! If you are interested in helping us transport books, or you know any organizations that could benefit from a greater access to books, let us know.
  • More programming for Banned Books Week 2017: Banned Books Week is a national week devoted to showcasing the power of the printed word. The POP Project is committed to bringing Banned Books Week to life in Asheville by creating events and partnering with local organizations who work to ensure that banning books becomes an idea of the past.
  • Add additional drop box locations around Asheville: Our sincerest thanks to the Literacy Council and Spellbound Children’s Bookshop for their continued support of the POP Project by hosting drop boxes in North and Central Asheville, where book donors can come to drop off a handful of books at a time. POP would like to make drop boxes available to people on all sides of town. Contact us if your business or organization is interested in hosting a drop box.

The POP Project works to make sure no book goes without a home, goes unread, sits on a shelf and collects dust, and that all of the books with which we are entrusted are used for constructive, personal expansion. If you can help with any of these projects, or if you think there are additional areas in which POP can serve WNC, contact us today!

Additional Ways to Help in 2017

There are many more ways to ensure that POP continues to make a positive impact on our community in 2017. Please consider donating time or, money, or ideas that will directly impact our programs.