The Mill Valley Library Foundation has a rich legacy and history in the community. Here is a short history of the Foundation from its beginnings to the present day.
The Foundation was created in 1983 in the wake of Proposition 13’s passage and amidst growing certainty that tax-based funding for the Mill Valley Public Library was unpredictable and limited. The City Librarian at that time declared the Foundation “will serve a role unlike any of the other support groups. Its concern is for the Library’s future. It will solicit funds for long-range projects which will supplement the City’s tax-based ability to fund the Library.”
By 1989, after funds raised were distributed as grants and depleted, the Foundation determined that funding a long-term endowment was preferable to short-term fundraising. The Foundation adopted a Statement of Purpose declaring the Foundation’s mission to build an endowment and to use the income and appreciation to help support the Library.
In 2000, the Foundation implemented a multi-year Major Donor campaign to increase the Endowment. As a result of this campaign and a deliberate investment policy, the Endowment grew over the ensuing decade. Because the Endowment value approached, but never reached, the initially targeted level of $1 million, funds were retained rather than directed to support the Library.
2000 - 2009
In early 2010, persistent recession and increasing constraints of City-support stood in sharp contrast to the City Librarian’s visionary strategic plan. Consequently, the Foundation reevaluated its mission and direction. To respond to the Library’s current priorities, the Foundation committed to conducting annual fundraising campaigns, the first of which was the Centennial Campaign (2010-11). The first “Beyond the Book Bash” fundraising event was also held in 2010. These fundraising efforts provided a vital source of funds for the Library. At the same time, the Foundation continued to build its endowment, with the goal of eventually being able to implement “perpetual” funding for the library. This growth occurs through planned gifts, a portion of the annual fundraising revenues, and endowment investment earnings.
In 2011, the first “Storybook Ball” fundraising event was held. This year also saw some of the first Foundation-sponsored programs at the library, such as “First Fridays” (note that many library programs are also sponsored by, or sponsored jointly with, the Friends of the Mill Valley Library). Either a “Beyond the Book Bash” or “Storybook Ball” fundraising event took place in most years between 2012 and 2019.
The years 2011 – 2018 also saw the steady growth of the endowment principal, with a revised goal of activating the Endowment upon reaching $2.3 million. This was the amount that the Foundation Board of Directors identified as the target amount needed to allow a “crossover” to fund the then current level of Foundation’s annual support in perpetuity via annual grants. The annual grants would then grow based on a payout formula tied to the Endowment’s previous 3-year “rolling average” year-end principal balance. That goal was finally achieved at the end of 2018.
In late 2018, the Mill Valley City Council voted to transfer $350,000 (approximately 50%) from a large bequest it had received from the Zimmer Family Living Trust for the benefit of the Mill Valley Public Library, to the Mill Valley Library Foundation. This amount was added to the existing endowment principal, allowing the endowment balance to reach its target “crossover” amount of $2.3 million as of January 2019.
2011 - 2018
Once this milestone was achieved, the Foundation “activated” its Endowment with the adoption of a 3.5% payout policy that now provides stable and predictable annual grants to the library. The Foundation’s first grant in July 2019 was in the amount of $65,500. This and future annual grants support the library’s free, award-winning programming as well as other services the library provides to the community – such as expanded digital content, classes, technology, and more – beyond what the City’s budget provides.
In 2019, the Foundation also launched its “Legacy Giving” program and now accepts bequests and other planned gifts for the benefit of the Library. Unless subject to restrictions (which are required to be acceptable to both the Foundation and the Mill Valley Public Library), legacy monies received are added to the Endowment principal and will help increase the size of future perpetual annual grants to the Library.
In 2020, despite the COVID 19 pandemic, prior year fundraising and Endowment investment performance enabled the Foundation’s 2020 annual grant to the Library to increase to $76,500, more than 15% higher than the 2019 grant. And although the Foundation had to cancel its planned “Storybook Ball” fall social event due to the pandemic, the Foundation pivoted to produce a Mill Valley Public Library-themed downloadable coloring book to engage with our patrons in another way. Last but not least, the Foundation was able to conduct its annual year-end fundraising Appeal, which was highly successful, and attracted donations from more community members than ever before.
In 2021 the Foundation responded to the pandemic by creating 'Story Walk', an outdoor, community-based fundraising event. And in both 2021 and 2022, the Foundation continued its other annual fundraising activities in support of the Library, and provided annual grants at a level as high, or higher, than in 2020.
In 2023, MVLF celebrated a major milestone - over $1 million in grants to the Mill Valley Public Library since 2011! The Foundation's 2023 annual grant of $100,000 brought the total amount of grants to the Library since 2011 to $1,022,000, and we look forward to making even larger annual grant/s to the Library in the future.