Six months after opening its ambitious Advance Fund campaign to the public, Graywolf Press, the St. Paul, Minn., literary nonprofit publisher, announced late last month that it has reached its goal of raising $1 million, with 80% of that amount coming from private individuals. "Our plan all along was to finish at the end of , so we finished right on schedule," Mary Matze, Graywolf publicist, said.
Graywolf launched its fundraising drive in 2004 with the goal of dramatically raising its profile in the industry by providing larger advances to authors over the 2004—2008 period. Graywolf also plans to raise its profile among readers by more aggressively marketing frontlist titles through such initiatives as expanded author tours and bookstore promotions. All fundraising was handled in-house, primarily by publisher Fiona McCrae; Lyndsay LeClair, the press's development manager since 2003; and Margaret Telfer, a member of Graywolf's board of directors and the first chair of the Advance Fund. Fundraising strategies included one-on-one meetings between Graywolf personnel and approximately 50 prominent Minnesotans identified as major donors to the visual arts. "Nonprofit publishing is so vital, yet it is not a common philanthropic cause," McCrae said. "We had to make our case by meeting with people individually."
In addition to contributions from individuals, funds came from two corporations and four foundations, including large grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation ($15,000); the Minnesota-based Carolyn Foundation ($25,000); and a $100,000 challenge grant from the Lannan Foundation.
Matze emphasized that while the 32-year-old small publisher's reputation as a literary powerhouse was instrumental in raising funds, its association with Farrar, Straus & Giroux also played a key role in attracting donors. FSG has distributed Graywolf titles for almost five years. "The FSG connection helped people see that Graywolf might be a nonprofit, but it's invested in running a business. A lot of people want to know that a nonprofit wants to make a profit, too," Matze said.
She claims the press already is reaping the benefits of increasing advances. "Agents are offering us higher quality manuscripts by high-profile authors because we can offer larger advances," Matze said. She speculated that Graywolf might not have seen Benjamin Percy's manuscript for Refresh, Refresh (set for October release) without offering a bigger advance. Graywolf's Advance Fund initiatives are paying off in terms of its financial performance as well. Sales rose 18% between 2004 and 2006, hitting $650,000 last year.
"When I look back, I wasn't sure we were going to make it," McCrae said. "But if you have a good story, people respond. And this was to move Graywolf forward, not to fund a new program or to fix a problem. It's a nice way to end the year."