Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, United States
A Free Book Gifting Program
In 1995, Dolly Parton launched an exciting new effort, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee, USA. Dolly’s vision was to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families. The new program gave each child a specially selected book each month. By mailing high quality, age appropriate books directly to their homes, Dolly wanted children to be excited about books and to feel the magic that books can create. Moreover, she could ensure that every child would have books, regardless of their family’s income.
Since its launch, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has set and surpassed many goals and milestones. National replication, which started in 2000, allowed more and more communities to adopt the program. State-wide coverage was established in Tennessee in 2004. Furthermore, international growth provided expansion in Canada (2006), United Kingdom (2007) and Australia (2014).
The first book order in 1995 totaled just over 1,700. Today, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library sends more than one million books per month to children around the world inspiring them to Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More.
How It Works
Each month, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library mails a high quality, age appropriate book to all registered children, addressed to them, at no cost to the child’s family. Countless parents have shared how excited their child is when their new book arrives each month. Many groups and individuals work hard behind the scenes to make that special moment possible for each child.
The Imagination Library provides the infrastructure of the core program including managing the secure central database for the Book Order System and coordinating book selections and wholesale purchasing. It also incurs the cost of the program’s administrative expenses and coordinates the monthly mailings.
The Imagination Library partners with Local Champions who help bring the program to cities, towns and communities around the world. Local Champions can be businesses, school districts, small or large organizations, or simply individuals who share in the mission and purpose of the Imagination Library.
Local Champions are responsible for enrolling children who live within the geographical area they offered the program in. They promote their local programs online and at events. While the Imagination Library negotiates wholesale pricing for the books, Local Champions are responsible for securing funds to cover that cost. Books are 100% free to enrolled children because their Local Champion has secured funds to cover the cost of the books and the shipping fees.
Becoming a Local Imagination Library Champion in 3 Steps:
Step 1: Figuring out "Do I want to do this?"
I’m interested in starting a program for children in my community.
Check to see if the Imagination Library is already offered in your community.
The Imagination Library isn’t currently supported in my community. What do I need to consider to get started?
You will need to identify financial support to sustainably cover the wholesale cost of the books and mailing
- Partnering with a Non-profit (501c3):
We mail IL books at special non-profit mailing rates, and a non-profit partner needs to be involved to qualify for these rates.
How much funding do I need?
- Decide on the geographical area you think you would like to cover – such as a county, city, school district or zip code(s)
- Get the 0-5 population from a census website. Try FactFinder
- Enter the 0-5 population into the Cost Estimator on our website.
Common financial supporters:
- United Way
- Service Clubs (Rotary, Kiwanis, Junior League, etc.)
- Local foundations
- Local businesses
- Chambers of Commerce
- Individual donors
*Contact your Regional Director to discuss your options
Where do I find a non-profit partner?
- United Way
- School Districts
- Local foundations
- Community Foundation
- Starting your own
Step 2: Putting the pieces in place.
1. Contact the Dollywood Foundation Regional Director who covers your area
Find your Regional Director.
- Let them know your intentions
- Ask any questions
- Get our Memorandum of Agreement and Affiliate Information Sheet – the two documents that we’ll put in place to outline our relationship and capture key information.
2. Begin building a support team
Key roles you should consider:
- Chairperson – a person to coordinate the effort
- Fundraising – to sustainably identify and collect local funds
- Enrollment – plan where and how to enroll children, oversee registration brochure distribution (if using) and marketing campaigns
- Database – entering new registrations, accepting pending online registrations, updating addresses, utilizing reports in the Book Order System (BOS)
- Community Outreach – collaborate with other local organizations and coalitions. Also may collect undeliverable books from local post office.
- Family Engagement – plans efforts to encourage parents to better engage their children through DPIL books and read more often.
- *TIP – Also consider engaging other community partners to build coalitions and collective impact strategies. Ask your Regional Director for help with ideas and informative docs.
3. Get Fundraising effort underway
- Engage your support team for contacts
- Consider putting together an advisory council to assist.
- Identify potential funding partners and begin meeting with them.
- *TIP – At this point you should have a good plan outlined: an idea of the funds you will need, community details/facts and partners who are willing to help – this will all help make your ask more clear and direct.
4. Complete and Submit Partnership Docs
- Return completed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and Affiliate Information Sheet (AIS) to your Regional Director
- Submit USPS form 3623 or 3624 (if non-profit hasn’t already done so) to local post office and return the non-profit authorization code to your Regional Director.
Step 3: Make final preparations and launch!
Receive your Book Order System login information and operations manual.
You may now enter registrations into the BOS. Email us to switch to Operating status when you are ready to begin accepting online registrations and start mailing books!
Think about planning a launch event to build awareness and excitement
Utilize available resources:
- Promotional materials
- Regional Directors
- Imagination Library network