Pay It Forward

There are innumerable benefits to coordinating a campus book drive, for student leaders and bookstores alike. The most obvious, of course, is the tremendous amount of material and financial support that Better World Books is able to provide to our literacy partners as a result of their hard work.

For student organizations, spearheading a drive is not only a meaningful service project, but also a successful fundraiser, as well as a great way to generate some buzz and raise your profile on campus, which can lead to a greater recruitment turn out.

For bookstores, supporting a drive drives foot traffic to your store, and does wonders in terms of generating goodwill toward your store – particularly during buy-back, when it’s needed most. Many stores are taking the positive PR one step further, by providing bookstore scholarships or making donations to local charities with funds provided by BWB.

But in many cases, there are far greater – yet harder to measure – implications to coordinating a book drive. For example, many of the 900+ BWB book drives that took place last Spring were coordinated by Alternative Breaks groups. Alternative Breaks is an amazing organization that provides students with the opportunity to engage in week-long, intensive service-learning projects over Winter and/or Spring Break, as opposed to hitting the beach for a week of debauchery.

These groups often use the funding they’ve generated through their campus book drive to subsidize the expense of sending large groups of students to a distant locale for a week of service. Speaking from experience (I participated in 3 Alternative Breaks as an undergrad), I can tell you that some of the students who participate in these trips will have the most profound, defining experiences of their lives. Some of these students will be so deeply moved that they will alter their course of study and their chosen career paths. Some of them will choose a life of service as a direct result of having participated in an Alternative Break. Indeed, most of the choices I’ve made in my own professional life can be traced back to my first Alternative Break in 1997, when I traveled from Kalamazoo, Michigan to Atlanta, Georgia to work with the city’s homeless population.

So please, dig deeper. Look beyond the most obvious and immediate benefits of coordinating (or simply supporting) a campus book drive. There is such great potential in cultivating a civically engaged student body. One act – be it donating a book, coordinating a drive, or supporting a student organization that is – can set off a chain reaction that will dramatically affect the lives of far more people than you’ll ever know. Pay it forward.

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