Everyone impacts the world through books. Whether it’s the bookstore manager or the librarian who helps a kid select his or her first book, the book publishing industry is supported by people just like you.
When life happens, it’s important to support our peers, and that's what Binc does. Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) provides financial assistance to booksellers in need. We recently spoke with Pamela French, Binc’s Executive Director, to find out more about their history and what’s important to them when it comes to helping booksellers in need.
Q: How did the Binc Foundation start?
A: The idea was planted when booksellers on one side of the country were impacted by a natural disaster, and their co-workers wanted to help them. Borders employees and executives set out to create a non-profit organization focused on helping each other.
Over the years, as the Foundation helped more and more booksellers it became a way for all Borders employees to get involved through events, fundraising, and volunteering. After Borders liquidated in 2012, the Foundation expanded to help all booksellers across the nation. We work with supportive partners like Ingram, the American Booksellers Association, and all the regional book associations to let booksellers know Binc is here to help.
This year, the Foundation celebrates 20 years of helping booksellers! More than 7,000 booksellers and their families have received just over $6M in support from Binc.
Q: What’s the importance of helping those in the book industry?
A: People get into the book industry out of a passion and love for reading, writing and sharing ideas. The Binc Foundation safety net strengthens the book industry by allowing book people to continue the work they love.
Q: What’s your history with books and their impact?
A: I’m fortunate to have always had books in my life. From a young age, I remember my parents reading to me and spending time every evening reading their own books. It was a natural path to take when I graduate from college. I answered an ad in a newspaper for a manager-in-training at Waldenbooks in Salt Lake City. I, then, spent the next 23 years on the retail side of the industry with Waldenbooks, Brentano’s, and then Borders.
Q: What has been your most memorable fundraiser?
A: One of the most memorable was a fall fundraising Zombie Apocalypse event that took place on Halloween weekend. The event was held at a brewing company complete with beer tasting and a silent auction. We even had a local dance troupe performed the dance from Thriller! They were dressed as zombie ballerinas and did an outstanding performance. It was very memorable and got a wide range of people involved
Q: What has been Binc’s proudest moment?
A: There are two that really stick out. The first was while I was visiting family in West Virginia. After three years of working to raise awareness about the Binc Foundation across the country, I walked into a bookstore to let them know about Binc. Before I even said a word the bookseller saw my card and the Binc logo and said, “Hey, I know about the Foundation.” It was one of those moments that you work towards and when it happens you know the hard work has paid off because booksellers know they can find help when they face a financial crisis.
Additionally, a dream come true moment happened this year when Ann Patchett enthusiastically agreed to be the inaugural Binc Ambassador. And she brought James Patterson on board as co-ambassador. It all came together this summer, and some days, it still feels like a dream. It’s an indication that the hard work of the volunteers, board members, store owners, and staff has paid off. More booksellers will learn about Binc not only when they need help, but if they want to give help too.
Q: How can someone get involved? What are the different committees someone can join?
A: Anyone interested in helping booksellers can get involved by joining a committee. The committees focus on programs, finance, marketing, and fundraising. We are always looking to expand our expertise within the book industry, and joining one of our committees is a great way to help. Also, if someone is interested in board service I’d love to talk with them. We are currently looking to add a lawyer and a store owner to our board.
And, of course, becoming a donor is another way to get involved and help ensure the Foundation is around for another 20 years.
Q: Last year, you gave 27 students a total of $109,000 in scholarships to fund their education. What’s the power of these scholarships for students?
A: The higher education scholarships give students the freedom to focus on their studies without worrying about where the money will come from to pay tuition or student loans. We have gotten many wonderful thank you notes from recipients saying how Binc’s scholarship has helped them achieve their career goals. Also, we’ve heard from family members about how a scholarship for their dependent helped them remain employed at their bookstore job while sending their child to college.
In one specific situation, a bookseller from Idaho was attending college to become a primary school teacher. Binc was able to assist with his final year of college, giving financial relief to his growing and financially stressed family. Binc’s scholarship helped produce one of the few male primary school teachers in the area, and this former bookseller, is now molding readers of the future and instilling a love of reading and books in children.
Q: What are Binc’s goals for the next five years? How will the organization grow to support our book community?
A: We spent that past four years not only spreading the word that the Foundation is here to help, but also working to determine if there was a longer term need for Binc. Through the number of grant requests, survey feedback, and overall interest we have determined that yes, there is a need for the Foundation’s services.
Our strategic framework for the next five years includes:
- Awareness of and pride in the role Binc plays in helping to create a healthy and diverse bookstore community. Every bookstore and employee across the country knows about Binc and takes personal pride in and ownership of Binc as “my Foundation.”
- Financially sustained by the industry; including publishers, distributors, wholesalers, authors, bookstores, and the public.
- Strong and meaningful partnerships with the industry leaders.
- Build on our program support to continue to meet the needs of the industry.