We launched this year by selecting our Q1, 2022 Grants for Good recipient, a free book gifting program supporting the Lisbon, Iowa community. The local Lisbon program is one of many affiliates of the Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, supporting communities throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, and Australia. Since its launch in 1995, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has surpassed many goals and milestones with the support of partners such as the local Lisbon program.

Apex consultant and Program Project Manager Michelle P. nominated Imagination Library and shared more during our video interview.

What is the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program?

"It's a nonprofit whose mission is to establish the Imagination Library as a high-quality, effective, instantly recognized global book gifting resource that policymakers, early childhood organizations, and families can trust to help inspire a love of reading and learning in children. They believe that a love for reading and learning provides children the most powerful opportunity to dream even more. Moreover, this was Dolly's way of ensuring that every child would have books, regardless of their family's income."

"Their core values are inspiring, educating, and supporting. They have a research group that goes out and tries to demonstrate the importance of reading, parents reading with their children, or caregivers reading with their children. This program runs from age zero, the day they're born, through age four. And when they turn five, that's when they graduate from the program. The assumption is that they will go to school and get that reading there. They have 2 million kids registered, and they have gifted over 179 million books!"

Can you tell us about the affiliate program in Lisbon, Iowa?

"We're looking to expand and reach out and make literacy a key factor for Lisbon, Iowa. We have a core group of people who are very avid attendees of the library. In general, Lisbon is a small community of various small towns residing under one zip code. A team of us find kids that can participate in the free book gifting program. Any child under the age of five in the Lisbon zip code can register. Once registered, they get in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library database. The organization then uses that to send books to kids identified by age group. A book goes out every month, delivered directly to the child's home address, and personalized with their name."

"We've helped 200 kids a year, and that's about $5,000 a year. We are very small. We do pretty small things. So, to help, we created a fund-raising committee and are just doing fabulously. I use my program project management skills and other previous experience. There's also someone who's been a social therapist and is also very good at writing grants. Our enrollment is well ahead of our goal. We have at least 50% of the kids enrolled now. Our team fund-raising stretch goal would be to identify five years of funding. So, if at any point, this group decides we can't do it and sustain it, then we've got five years to ramp down. That means an infant that comes in this year will be able to complete the program and graduate to grade school, and we will have enough funding to support that. So we are at that level and feel it's a sustainable level."

"We have raised almost $12,000 from Apex's Grants for Good program, the Lisbon school district, the City of Lisbon, and some larger businesses in the communities. Some people are very seriously supporting us and believe it's a good value for the community."

How did you hear about the program?

"The new town president told us about the program from where he lived before. He had two small children and really believed in the program and thought it would be of value to our community. He said that he'd become an anonymous donor and seeded us. He gave us a very generous starting fund. And he also agreed to join our board and help us. Next, he approached us with the details, and we took the next few months to work through it."

Why did you get involved?

"My program project management skills came into play as I created the plans to identify who needs to do what and when for some of the other fund-raising we do. We have a significant fundraiser that brings in about $1,000 a year. I've worked with the group now for many years, and I did not believe our group would be able to support this program. So, I kept raising questions and bringing material to them, including forecasts and projections. I was trying to get them to see how much work this would be."

"We needed committed people to own enrollment, fund-raising, and the administration. I'm the chair, and we have a fund-raising lead and a co-lead. We have a finance person to manage the monies in and out. We also have an enrollment person who keeps track of all the books and manages the IP addresses. The Dolly Parton organization has a business operating system for each affiliate to get lists and reports and see how many books have gone out. We've got that support to provide initial information."

"Our team is all volunteers. It's intense, especially as we were rolling out and trying to get things going. Some individuals don't know or want to engage at the level we need. One of our next goals is to find a couple of new high-energy board members to help us with fund-raising."

"We're getting many requests from other community residents to open our zip code. But of course, we need the funding. We need to get some board members from the other community so that they can drive and raise funds because it will help."

Anything else you'd like to tell us about the program?

"Another person and I are trying to get the program statewide. The Dolly Parton organization works with state governments and tries to get the program statewide. In Iowa, we've got about 20,000 kids raised. So that's what we are doing now; we're driving for that statewide program, including Marion and Cedar Rapids, two very large communities."

"The Dolly Parton organization has a person responsible for developing the relationship with the state's education department. If we can get the state engaged in reaching out to all of Iowa's children, 50% of our funding will be supported. If we're fully enrolled, we'd only have to come up with about $2,500 as a board versus the $5,000 a year."


If you would like to support this organization or are interested in finding an affiliate in your community, visit Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

Since its inception, our Grants for Good program has offered our consultants the opportunity to nominate a nonprofit to receive a donation from Apex Systems. Participation in our program allows consultants to be a crucial part of our culture while making a difference in local communities. Are you an Apex consultant, and do you have a nonprofit you'd like to nominate? If so, read more on our Grants for Good program page.