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First Book

Foolanthropy 2004

Foolanthropy 2004
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First Book is an award-winning national nonprofit organization with a single mission: to give children from low-income families their own first new books. In 2004, First Book will distribute its 30 millionth new book to children in need.

The Need: access to books. You can't teach someone to play the piano without a piano, and you can't teach a child to read without a book. Yet:

  • 61% of low income families have no books for their kids, and
  • 80% of preschools and after-schools serving this population have no age-appropriate books.

Our Solution: a steady stream of new books. First Book provides brand new, age-appropriate books to the hardest to reach children across the country.

Our Model: grassroots presence with national power:

  • First Book works with a diverse group of local volunteers from the public and private sectors who find those programs doing the best job of helping the hardest to reach kids.
  • The programs themselves choose the books for the children they serve and, therefore, can create powerful new educational opportunities.
  • The books, free to the program and child, then become the property of the children and go home with them, thereby elevating the learning environment at home as well as at the preschools and after-schools.

First BookOur Innovations: best private-sector thinking applied to social-sector issues. Two more ways First Book lowers the barriers to book ownership:

  • First Book National Book Bank is the first ever centralized online system that enables publishers to donate large quantities of books to the nonprofit sector. First Book's proprietary technology enables community-based literacy organizations to select books online, paying shipping charges only; or free, if they pick them up.
  • First Book Marketplace is a brand new online retail site, providing great children's books at the lowest possible prices in carton quantities. Recipient programs serving children from low-income families anywhere in the country can register on this site and gain more access to great new books for their kids.

Our Marketing: serious issue, playful solutions.First Book attracts corporate partners with creative, fun-loving, energetic marketing campaigns that serve both corporate business goals and the First Book mission. An example:

  • The Cat in the Hat Challenge � For the release of Universal Studios' movie The Cat in the Hat, First Book challenged news anchors in the top 25 media markets to wear the Cat's iconic stovepipe hat on air to generate a donation of 5,000 books to children in their communities. The result � every anchor plus Oprah and Katie Couric wore the hat, generating 225,000 books for kids.

Our Finances: highly efficient, lean machine. 98% of First Book's expenses go to programmatic costs, directly serving the mission. First Book collaborates with private and nonprofit partners and has developed a powerful network of strategic relationships. As a result of First Book's established infrastructure, productive national partnerships, and high efficiency, every $1 contributed to First Book results in $11 worth of books in the hands of the children who need them the most.

Our Awards: recognition for results:

  • For the third consecutive year, Charity Navigator (a national nonprofit service that evaluates the financial health of American's largest charities) has awarded its highest, 4-Star rating to First Book.
  • Forbes magazine named First Book to its list of the top 10 Gold Star charities.
  • Fast Company named First Book one of the top social entrepreneurs in the country.
  • In early 2004, First Book earned the Gold Reggie award for cause marketing in The Cat in the Hat Challenge.

Brief Statement from First Book President, Kyle Zimmer

First BookThroughout my career, I have worked at the intersection of policy, business, and social issues. From public policy positions to the practice of law, my background consistently crossed the line between the private sector and the social sector.

I founded First Book with two colleagues in 1992, distributing 12,000 books in three communities during that first year. Three years later, I began serving full-time as President of First Book. In the years since, First Book has grown rapidly to its current level of activity, providing children in hundreds of communities with millions of books annually. This year, First Book celebrates its 30 millionth new book � a wonderful milestone. As proud as we are of this accomplishment, we are conscious everyday that there are many children still waiting for our help. To increase our ability to serve more children, First Book has successfully launched several new subsidiaries, including the First Book National Book Bank, First Artists, and The First Book Marketplace. In addition, First Book is currently poised for international expansion, which is planned to roll out in the coming months.

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