There are three keys to successful communication -- be clear, be clear, and be clear. In developing this “Bookcase for Every Child” website, the real challenge we face is to give you just the right amount of information -- not too little, not too much, but just enough -- so you can have a highly successful project. While all parts of the project are important, the Banquet Fundraiser is foundational because it provides the funds to build the bookcases. A few days after our first banquet in 2008, one of the ladies who attended, but who was not a part of the project said, “Your banquet was the best community fundraiser I have ever attended. It was a success on so many different levels.” The three hundred-plus people who attended enabled us to raise more than $4500, more than enough to purchase the wood and supplies to build the next fifty bookcases, with some extra to provide five hundred dollars as start-up costs for other communities to start their own project.

The following slide shows will enable you to see many people who were having a great time, becoming more aware of the problem of illiteracy, and all for the price of a good meal. This is also where much of our future help will come from.

The Bookcase Club

As mentioned in a previous section, The Bookcase Club is an important part of this process. Several weeks before the banquet, our chairman sends out about thirty letters to prominent people who have the resources to contribute fifty dollars each to help pay for the cost of the food. What this means is that all the proceeds from the banquet can be used to build bookcases. This also allows many people who may not have the opportunity to attend to participate and feel good about being a part of the overall plan to improve literacy. The fifty dollar amount is so small that having a tax deduction is not a consideration and is really a part of the overall philosophy -- that of having a large number of people do a little, rather than just a few doing a whole lot. Remember, this is a grass-roots project and is not about raising money. Rather it is to get everyone in the community involved in improving literacy. To have parents, grandparents, and the whole community aware of the problems caused by illiteracy is the only real solution.

There are countless people in every community who will buy the food for your banquet, when invited to be a part of such a worthy cause
Be sure to thank all those who contribute and become a member of The Bookcase Club. A simple “Thank You” card will be fine
While we are not 501 (C) (3) Corporation, some companies, not individuals, may need a statement to honor your request

Publicity For Banquet

Fortunately, in today’s times we don’t have to use a “town crier” to get the word out that you are having a Bookcase Literacy Banquet and that you want to invite everyone to attend. When you consider a good meal, great entertainment, and a complimentary copy of a great book, all for a worthy cause, for $15.95, it’s the best deal around. But much more important is your purpose for holding the banquet. It is to enable children being reared in disadvantaged homes in your community to have a personalized bookcase, a starter set of books, and a much brighter future by developing a passion for reading very early in life. Use every means at your disposal to get the word out, including newspaper articles, ads on your local cable television station, and a speakers bureau -- the Project Leader and committee members speaking to civic clubs, AARP, churches and other groups about your project and the purpose of your banquet. When it is done right, the enthusiasm will grow each year and your local people will really look forward to it.

Something that has served us well is when one of our committee members suggested we sell “tables of tickets” with name reservations so your guests can sit together and be identified with their civic club, church, business, political candidate or office holder. We sell a table of eight tickets for $127.60 and this past year we sold twenty-eight tables that took almost all of our space. The entertainment was the big draw as we had a sell-out crowd, not a bad problem to have. The following PDF files contain information that will give you some great ideas as you seek ways to promote attendance at your own banquet.

This article is the type your local newspaper can generate to invite people to attend your Bookcase Literacy Banquet
This article or one similar should run in your local newspaper a few days prior to your banquet
An influential pastor who supports your bookcase project can appeal to other pastor’s to get involved and encourage his or her members to attend your banquet
Members of your committee can speak to various civic clubs leading up to your banquet to encourage them to buy tickets and support your “community-wide” literacy projec

Select the Right Location

For the casual observer, it may not seem important to select the right location to hold your banquet, but it is very important. The reason is because this is a community-wide event and people from all across the community and walks of life will be attending. Some people will not attend if the banquet is held at a particular church, civic club building, places that serve alcohol, or where gambling takes place. After all, we are committed to being good role models for these pre-school children. With this in mind, the best place to hold a Bookcase Literacy Banquet is at a public school cafeteria because this is a neutral setting and everyone will feel comfortable and your attendance will grow year after year. This is also where most of the children who receive a bookcase will be attending. Another reason is because they have the kitchen facilities to prepare the meal


The Bob Courtway Middle School Cafeteria in Conway, where we hold our Annual Bookcase Literacy Banque

The Decoration Committee

It is exciting when you can create something that is good and will make a difference in people’s lives. There are many banquets held each year for worthwhile causes, in communities all across our nation; but the focus of a Bookcase Literacy Banquet is literacy. This is a great opportunity, not only for everyone on your committee to come together, but to also enlist other talented and creative people to help decorate the banquet setting with a literacy theme, that will cause your guests to say “Wow” when they enter the room. By using things like plants, books, dust jackets, crepe paper, pencils and a host of other things that you may already have on hard or can buy at the dollar store, you can definitely get the message across. We also have about three of our personalized bookcases set up as a display so everyone who attends the banquet can see what you are doing. We have found that this can be done on a very low budget, and still be most impressive.

The date, the time, and day of the banquet should be coordinated with the school, and other events taking place in the community to avoid unnecessary conflicts. However, every community is different and this is something that will have to be worked out in the best interests of your project. We start our banquets at 6:30 p.m. and our decorating committee comes together around 2 p.m., the time we can get in the school cafeteria after the students leave. The photos below will give you a visual of what it can look like. There are some things that only experience can teach and your goal should be to improve year by year. These photos, plus many others, can also be seen on the 2008 banquet fundraiser slide-show, featured earlier on the website.

The Kitchen Committee

One of the key elements in holding a successful Bookcase Literacy Banquet is to have good food, ample quantity, served hot, and in a timely manner. When you can achieve this for the total number you have in attendance, you will be successful. We have had three banquets so far, and while always looking for ways to improve, we believe we have developed a model than can be followed by other banquets that are taking place around the country. We also acknowledge that there is more than one way to achieve this, so develop a plan that works best for you and your community. For the most part this will be under the province of a kitchen committee, headed by two or three members of your central committee who will enlist others in the community to help, especially on the day of the banquet.

Here is how we do it. First, we adopted a menu from an annual spaghetti dinner held by a Catholic church in a community north of us who feed over 2,500 people, many carry-out, in about six hours. The menu consists of spaghetti, grilled sausage links, kraut, slaw, corn, sweet pickles, home-made rolls (we use French bread), coffee, tea, and home-made desserts. Everyone loves it because there are items on this menu that appeal to everyone. We purchase the food from an institutional food broker and use a school or church with an account to bill it through. There is a list of food at the end on a PDF file. We have a bank that has a service of loaning grills for community projects such as ours and several men volunteer to grill the sausage, in advance of our guests arriving.

When the food is on site, the day of the banquet, we have eight to ten volunteer cooks who arrive about 4 p.m. to prepare the food. There are great cooks in every community just waiting on someone to ask them to get involved in a project to improve literacy. When you use a public school cafeteria they will require one of two of their employees who are familiar with the equipment to be present and you will have to pay them. This is a great investment because they not only know what they are doing but are also good workers. We have about forty students, and a couple of advisors, from each of our three area high schools, on a rotating basis, to serve the meal. Most people who attend a banquet prefer a sit-down meal, where they are served, rather than having to go through a serving line. If you are organized, these students can serve the tables a lot faster than four hundred people can go through a line.

Our meal is served “family-style” where food is placed on the table and our guests share and pass the various items, which helps to create a great atmosphere. Since school cafeteria’s won't have serving bowls and utensils, we had to purchase a set of everything we needed from local discount stores, which is a one-time cost, since they can be used year after year. A list of these items is also at the end on a PDF file. After the main meal is served, students pass among our guests to offer them a home-made dessert, maybe with a cup of coffee. We ask other volunteers, who are also great cooks, to prepare twenty to twenty-five home-made desserts. Getting as many people personally involved as possible serves a real purpose. When people are involved it becomes “their” project and the focus of everything we are doing is to promote literacy, especially among children from disadvantaged homes.

Here are a few tips that we have learned from experience. 1. When you set up the banquet room, leave enough space between the tables for students to roll serving carts down the aisle to reach all guests in a timely manner. 2. Use little “tent cards” to give the name of the person or group who reserved the table and also number the tables so students can be assigned specific tables to serve. 3. In the kitchen, make sure you have enough people dipping up food to keep the students supplied otherwise you will have a bottleneck. 4. You should preset your tables with items that do not have to stay hot, including cutlery packets, knife, fork, napkin, salt & pepper, Coffee Mate, sweeter, parmesan cheese, sugar, slaw, and pickle spears. There is always a better way; just make sure your guests are pleased and happy they came, and your banquet will grow year by year.

Suggested Banquet Agenda
Food items to serve "family style"
List of serving items and utensil

Family Friendly Entertainment

We want to appeal to almost everyone, and that is why it is important to have family-friendly entertainment. Most of your guests will be adults but children should always be welcome and have a good time. For our inaugural banquet we were blessed to have a fantastic bluegrass band and a special appearance by the Arkansas State Champion Fiddle Player. At our second banquet we had the Conway High School Jazz Band who did a wonderful job. At our third banquet we had the Ward Family Singers, a popular Southern Gospel Group from our area who received a standing ovation for their performance. This coming year we plan to invite the Conway Symphony Orchestra to provide the entertainment.

Our plan is to have a wide variety of family-entertainment in the coming years. The goal is to appeal to the musical taste of most everyone in our community, because illiteracy impacts every citizen in one way or another. There is great local talent in every community and most groups and individuals will gladly perform a benefit, to support your “Bookcase for Every Child” project.


Jason Rapert, special guest Tim Trawick, and band members furnished “standing ovation” entertainment for our 2008 banquet
Members of the St. Joseph High School “Book Club” served our banquet meal. One eight grade student, Brittany Davanzo, is an accomplished violinist


The title of this book “Learning, Earning & Giving Back” embodies the essence of this bookcase project. Every person can “give back” and help to improve literacy in America

A Literacy Reminder Book

It is often said that “Birds of a feather flock together.” This is true because most people seek to be around others who make them feel comfortable. For example, people who are literate and well-educated do not spend much time, if any, around people who are illiterate and do not travel in the same social and economic circles. For this reason, the vast majority of Americans have no idea how many people are out there who are functionally illiterate and who cannot perform even simple tasks that require reading, writing, and communication skills. As previously stated, according to the Right to Read Foundation, there are forty-two million adults in this category. The cost to these individuals and to our nation is staggering.

For this reason a copy of the New Revised Edition of the founder’s book, “Learning, Earning & Giving Back” is given to each person who attends a Bookcase Literacy Banquet. This book not only serves as a reminder of the need to improve literacy but is also a great personal development book to help each individual to have a happy, successful, and fulfilled life. This book also provides an excellent way for each community to “give back” by sending $3.95 of the $15.95 ticket price for each banquet ticket sold, to provide seed money for other projects. This is part of the copyrighted commitment that each project makes for the first year only. The book will be available for future years, with the same arrangement, if there is sufficient interest, and if members of your committee want to help fund other projects in the spirit of giving back. No person associated with this project, locally or anywhere, earns any personal income. This is the reason why this project is so unique, especially in today’s times, as we seek to help our disadvantaged children have a brighter future.

Special Note to Banquet Emcee: Make the following announcement at the end of the evening. “As you leave there will be a copy of Jim Davidson’s New Revised Edition of “Learning, Earning & Giving Back” on the table near the door. Please take one as this will help us increase awareness for future banquets and help us improve literacy even more here in our community.”

Handling Your Finances

Since a Bookcase Literacy Banquet is a fundraiser, it is important to understand how your finances should be handled. It is a very simple process. There are three ways your project will receive funds, and will require two separate checking accounts. Most of your income or funds will come from ticket sales for your banquet, either for individual tickets or a table of tickets as discussed earlier. There will be some people who will also want to make small non-tax deductible contributions. These funds will also go in your main account, the (name of your town-city-county) Bookcase Project. It is from this account that the first year $3.95 for every ticket sold, and all banquet expenses, not relating to food, kitchen, table, and decorating supplies will be paid.

The other account will be called The Bookcase Club account. This is where the money from The Bookcase Club members will be deposited and goes to pay for the food, kitchen, table, and decorating supplies. Both of these accounts should be non-interest bearing accounts to avoid any problems with the IRS. Accounts that earn less than $10 each year do not have to be reported. You will need a treasurer to handle your funds, either an officer with a local bank or a member of your committee, who can be the same person. When you set up your DBA accounts, use the Social Security number of a committee member and we only require one signature on checks to pay bills. This saves a lot of hassle in trying to get committee members by the bank to sign small checks.

We are dealing with leaders -- honest ethical people -- and there is never much money in either account, as our goal is not to raise money but to build bookcases and give them to disadvantaged children. When the money is in the bank and the bills are paid, your lead craftsman will order the wood and supplies to build the bookcases. In the first two or three years, your account balances will be small, but with proper management, over time, they will begin to build up and finances will be the least of your concerns.

One of the most important things for the project leader is to make sure “thank you” notes are written to all of those who have helped make the project a success. A kind word and the simple words “thank you” go a long way. The following PDF files will be very helpful.


This is a copy of both sides of our banquet ticket. These can be printed 6-up and cut apart to save on printing costs
A form similar to this one can be mailed to prospects, used as a statement stuffer, or in high traffic areas to advertise your banquet
A verbal commitment to purchase tickets for your banquet can be followed up with a statement to give details and request payment
Copies of our check and deposit ticket for our “The Bookcase Club” to pay for food and banquet expenses are offered to assist you in keeping these funds separate to honor your commitments
Copies of our check and deposit ticket for our building account are offered as a guide to assist you in setting up your accounts. Our goal is not to raise money but to help children in low-income families
While forms used by various financial institutions vary greatly, this form was used to open our two separate bank accounts