Don’t Throw it Out! Give Old Books New Life With a Book Donation Day

June 24, 2010


Pile of books

Don't throw out those old books! There's someone out there who can use them. (cc image courtesy guillermogg via flickr)

Children grow up, parents downsize, moves happen, and before you know it, that comprehensive collection of Berenstein Bears books no longer has a place in your home. But 100-plus books seems like an awful lot of paper (and good reading material) to throw in the trash. Is there a more conscientious solution to literature overcrowding?

Of course you can always unload your old books at garage sales and thrift stores, but there are a lot of people who need access to good reading material, and the likelihood of them stopping by your front lawn on a Saturday is pretty low. Fortunately, there are a number of literacy projects and non-profit organizations that accept used books and put them into the hands of folks who most need them.

So clear out the church parking lot or fellowship hall and give your community an alternative to trashing good books with a book donation day. Here’s how:

Get the word out far and wide for this event; donating books is a worthy cause that everyone in your community will want to participate in. Your church’s responsibility as the donation event host will be to collect the books everyone brings and send them on to the organizations that will distribute them to literacy programs, schools, and libraries that most need them. What will this require of you?

  • Space: Depending on the weather and the size of your town or city, the church parking lot, fellowship hall, or even a classroom or library will suffice for a book collection space. Be sure to clearly mark the collection site so that folks can easily find it and drop off their books.
  • Supplies: Supplies are simple for this activity. You’ll need bins for collecting books, signs to designate where different genres or types of books (adult or children, fiction or nonfiction, etc.) should go, signs to clearly direct participants to the event, and tax donation receipts to give to donors. You may also want to provide drinks and/or snacks for participants as a demonstration of hospitality during the event.
  • Volunteers: Enlist volunteers (book lovers, if possible!) to help with the donation day. Volunteers will be needed to direct people through the book collection, sort donations, reply to questions and concerns, hand out tax donation receipts, and send the collected books to their destination after the event is over. Be sure to thank volunteers with a tasty treat or maybe a book or two to take home!
  • Advertising: In addition to announcing and re-announcing the book donation day in your church’s material and on its website, branch out to alert your entire community about the event. Post signs in the most obvious places: libraries, bookstores, community centers, music stores, and schools. The organization you partner with and eventually send the books to may have advertising materials that you can download and distribute. Be sure to include in your advertising the time and location of the collection, and any special information donors should know, especially in terms of what books you’ll be accepting and what you won’t accept—this is for your benefit, so you won’t have to trash a bunch of unwanted books at the end of the collection! Also let potential participants know where their books will go once they’ve donated them.

On the day of the collection event, be prepared to welcome lots of well-loved literature into your arms!

  • Collect: You may want to begin collecting books a week or so ahead of the actual collection day, to accommodate donations from folks who will be out of town on the day of the event. If your church agrees to it, these books can be collected at the church office or sanctuary during designated hours. Once the event gets started on the actual collection day, welcome participants to your church’s space and explain the purpose of the event. Make clear the stewardship-motivated desire to save good books instead of filling landfills with them, and explain where the books are headed so that donors can be better informed about global issues of literacy and access to reading materials. You may print material about the organization the books will go to give to interested donors. Finally, provide donors with their tax donation receipts and get ready to see them at your church’s next book collection!
  • Sort: Most donors will probably want to drop their books off and be on their way, so don’t require them to sort the materials they bring. Volunteers can do the sorting, organizing books into categories as the receiving organization has requested.


  • Recycle: No matter how emphatically you specify what will and won’t be accepted at the book collection, you’re likely to
    Little boy reading book

    Your collected books are off to be loved in a new home! (cc image courtesy mitikusa via flickr)

    receive unasked-for materials. Some of these can be donated to a local thrift store, including—in some cases—magazines or textbooks. For materials that are, for any number of reasons, inappropriate even for these venues, you’ll have to recycle. Magazines and newspapers can go in regular paper recycling bins, but bound books will have to go to a recycling facility that will accept them. Find a facility that is local to you with this locator at

  • Send: You’ll want to find a worthy organization or project to donate your collected books to before you hold the book donation day so that you can explain to donors just where their donations will be going. But in general, when it comes to getting those donations out the door, think local first: Contact your local public library and school libraries to see if they have a need for donated books or have a local partner that could use the books you’ve collected. If local isn’t working out for you, search the comprehensive list of organizations that accept new and used books at the American Library Association’s list of Book Donation Programs.

Related Posts at Flourish
Extending the Front Porch: How to Host a Church E-Waste Collection Event

Further Reading
The American Library Association’s list of Book Donation Programs – A comprehensive list of programs, institutions, and organizations that will accept donated books.
The Reading Tree – Collects books from schools, libraries, and individuals who no longer need them, and sends them to schools, libraries, and individuals that desperately need them.

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