"Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together."
James Cash Penney, founder of JC Penney
We’ve experienced significant growth this year, and as Mr. Penney foretold, it could only happen as a result of tremendous forces aligning and working together. For Book Trust, that means more children in need had the chance to experience book choice and ownership and more people generously chose to invest in our work to realize this opportunity for the 51,000 students we served last year!
We are incredibly proud!
The numbers speak for themselves. We could not have achieved this success without the incredibly talented team at Book Trust. Our values drive our work day in and day out: Reading First, Relationships, Raise the Bar, Results. It is our team’s commitment to these values and our team’s passion for Book Trust’s mission that resulted in the tremendous growth the organization experienced in the past year.
At Book Trust, we are all learners. We constantly evaluate what works and what doesn’t work in order to determine ways to do better so that we can have a greater impact on more kids. Throughout the year, we learned lots of lessons:
1. Flexibility matters
In order to grow quickly, the organization had to be nimble enough to respond to things we didn’t predict. For instance, this year, we onboarded almost 5,000 students in New York City. That is the largest number of students Book Trust has onboarded in a single location in a single year. We started later than expected and needed more time in person with the schools than expected. We also learned that raising money in local communities was going to be more challenging than expected. We were able to adjust our path mid-course to successfully address all the challenges that we faced along the way.
2. Tenacity matters
There were moments throughout the year when 50,000 students seemed impossible and we were not on track to reach our revenue goal. Nobody was willing to give up even on those days when a funder said no or we couldn’t get a school to call us back after 3 attempts. Instead, we focused on those who said yes and the schools who did call back, celebrating our accomplishments along the way.
3. Patience matters
The building blocks we have been putting in place over the past three years allowed us to achieve the success we had this year. While we may want to “get there” faster, taking the time to ensure that the program, the organizational infrastructure, the board, and all other facets of the organization are in place is what yields responsible growth.
As we move into fiscal year 2018, we have decided that in order to ensure we can sustain last year’s rapid growth, we are going to settle into being a $5M organization (an accomplishment that fewer than 5% of US nonprofits ever achieve, by the way!). We do expect growth this year, just slightly more modest growth. Our goal is to serve 53,000 students in 22 states and increase our revenue to $5.3M. Settling into being a $5M organization also means we will have the chance to strategically plan the next phase of growth for the organization. With over 600 schools on our waitlist, there is plenty of demand for our work. This year, we’ll focus on developing strategies to meet the demand, particularly in new markets. This will help move us closer to our short-term goal of serving 100,000 students.
Each of you helped us realize this past year’s success. Whether you are a teacher who taught students how to choose books they are interested in reading, a volunteer who read with students at a book celebration, or a donor who sponsored the program at a school, it is each person’s individual contributions that led to our accomplishments. Thank you for being part of this journey to inspire a passion for reading among kids in need across America.