The story of the Binc Foundation is one of gratitude, compassion, kindness, and generosity. Over 10,000 book and comic sellers and their families have benefitted from the simple vision of book people helping book people. One of the truly amazing things is that because of the big hearts of book and comic lovers, we have never had to turn away any qualified applicant, even during the historic events of 2020.
As the foundation celebrates its 25th anniversary, Binc’s mission of strengthening the bookselling and comic retailing communities through charitable programs that support employees, owners, and their families continues to be needed. Binc is the only nonprofit in the country dedicated to assisting bookstore and comic shop owners and employees.
Binc began in 1996 as the Borders Group Foundation, imagined and created by book people as a nonprofit to help Borders employees experiencing unforeseen financial hardships. In 2012, the foundation grew into the Book Industry Charitable Foundation. Along with the new name, the scope of the foundation expanded to include any employee or owner of a bricks-and-mortar book or comic shop across the country.
As we scaled our services nationwide, we faced the challenge of building awareness and earning credibility within the greater bookselling community. Our original three-person team, which still includes me and Kit Steinaway, approached the challenge by building personal connections at trade shows and via store visits, and by assisting booksellers in need. That individual connection is still our guiding principle. Our reach is national, but our approach is always personal.
The previous 23 years of partnering and earning respect in the bookselling community paved the way for Binc to answer the unique challenges of 2020. A dedicated group of volunteers and contractors helped to temporarily scale up grants to those in need and the receipt of contributions. Financial support for the foundation’s programs and services came from all sectors of the book and comic industries. This overwhelming support made it possible to distribute assistance not only to individuals but also to stores through the Save Indie Bookstores initiative and the Comicbook United Fund.
One of the things that I’m most proud of is that, in addition to pandemic-specific assistance, we were also able to continue helping individuals resolve their everyday financial hardships—whether the need was due to a serious medical expense, domestic violence, housing instability, essential utility shut-off, or an unexpected loss of household income.
Program managers Kit and Kate Weiss work closely with each person to help them through the unexpected emergencies that derail their household and work to return their household to a state of financial equilibrium. As our development director, Kathy Bartson, says, “Asking for assistance is one of the hardest calls someone makes.” We work to make certain that when we answer that call, we do so with compassion, confidentiality, and care.
The pandemic highlighted the needs of bookstore and comic shop owners and their employees, but also allowed them to shine as cornerstones of their communities. Last year challenged Binc like no year prior, with the number of requests for assistance increasing to that of the previous eight years combined. Extraordinarily, the past 18 months also accelerated the foundation’s growth and recognition among industry partners and a wide range of advocates and donors, who stepped forward to lay the groundwork for Binc’s continued growth and sustainability for years to come.
As is the case with all worthy endeavors, the list of thanks is long. I started to make a list of everyone to include in our thanks, but it would take the entire publication to list everyone who has helped these past 25 years. Binc is honored to partner with thousands of advocates, including agents, artists and illustrators, authors, publishers, distributors, sales reps, bookstore and comic shop owners and employees, volunteers, trade associations, readers and fans to ensure a relevant, strong, and sustainable foundation.
As a long-ago mentor once said, “It’s all about the people.” Many, many thanks to the following:
Those who had the original vision: Every Borders employee and golf outing sponsor who contributed to this legacy by advocating, volunteering, or donating;
Those who encouraged the leap of faith: Every board member past and present—particularly those who in 2011 said, ”Go big or go home, expand the good work of the foundation to all bricks-and-mortar stores nationwide”; Alison Foreman and Kit Steinaway for jumping into the unknown with me and helping to figure it out;
Those who helped Binc expand: The regional bookselling associations, the ABA (thanks Oren for taking my call in 2011), ComicsPro, Steven Malk, Phil Ollila, David Steward II;
Those who are helping Binc look to the future: John Ingram, Dominique Raccah, Erin Coffey, Donna and Mark Paz Kaufman, Josh Marwell, Andy Hunter, Allison Hill, Alyson Jones Turner, Janet Jones;
Those who advocate: Ambassadors Ann Patchett and James Patterson, Author Leadership Circle chair Garth Stein, ICv2, Shelf Awareness, Publishers Weekly, Bookshop.org, Indie Bob, Libro.fm;
Those who make monthly contributions: The 374 book and comic lovers, bookstores, and companies;
Those who make annual contributions: The over 4,000 individuals and businesses;
The team who put their hearts into helping every day: Judey, Kate, Kathy, Kera, Kit, and Mary.