Hello Book Thing friends,
We hope this hibernation update finds you and your communities healthy. These are challenging times.
Naturally, the Book Thing remains closed with no prospect of any public openings or volunteer events until after the current public health emergency measures have been rescinded.
With libraries closed, schools making do with remote learning, parents trying to work from home — if they’re lucky enough to still have a job — and everyone generally hunkered down, it is particularly painful to us not to be giving away lots of books right now. Books for reading aloud, books for learning, for solace, for escape! Books because you finally have time to dig into your reading list, or study up on engine repair, or learn a foreign language. Books because the knowledge and stories within their covers connect us to each other across time and space.
So, you might wonder, what could possibly be happening at The Book Thing? Indeed! Between our ongoing hibernation and the closure of non-essential businesses, there is very little happening on-site. But there is much we can do remotely.
Here are some of the other things that have been keeping us busy:
- We put our overdue 2018 tax paperwork on hold so that we could prepare financial reporting for 2019 to support applications for disaster relief funding from the State of Maryland or the federally-funded Small Business Administration (SBA). We were not able to complete the necessary forensic accounting before the initial funding ran out. But now that Congress has appropriated more money to the SBA, we have our documentation in order and we might be able to get help from one of its programs. We say “might” because it turns out that the loss of our nonprofit status complicates matters, and lenders are overwhelmed already.
- Our overdue tax paperwork from 2016 and 2017 is complete. Together with our accountant, we have resumed work on 2018, which is well underway. Filing these returns as a package is one of the requirements for getting our nonprofit status back. We know we’ve been repeating this for months, but forensic accounting is very time-consuming.
- The Board has begun work on the other requirement for nonprofit reinstatement: an IRS application form and justification letter. These documents are critical, and we will work with legal counsel to be sure they are prepared correctly.
- We are investigating the possibility of fiscal sponsorship, which would allow The Book Thing to operate as a nonprofit under the umbrella of another nonprofit while we wait for reinstatement.
- Our two part-time employees are working remotely. They are our sales team, and without their expertise, we would have had to dissolve long ago. To keep the lights on, the Book Thing has always sold a tiny fraction of donated books (less than 1%) via online book sale platforms. Especially now, this small revenue stream is the only thing keeping us afloat. The safety and well-being of these two staff members is our first concern. They appraise from home and coordinate to arrange shipping. Hats off to their dedication!
- We donated more than 400 books to Health Care for the Homeless this month. They will be sending paperbacks to their clients.
- We hope to provide books for distribution through programs that are serving schoolchildren and hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. For now, we are on hold until our two partners are ready to move forward.
In the next month, we will continue to work on nonprofit reinstatement, fiscal sponsorship, and Board matters. Due to the disruptions of the pandemic, we will not be able to file our overdue tax returns and our application for nonprofit reinstatement in April, as we had hoped. We’re now aiming for late May or early June. After that, we’ll be waiting for an IRS ruling, but we don’t know how long that might take.
All our plans for public events remain on hold until local public health emergency measures have been lifted. However, as mentioned above, we’re hoping to coordinate with programs that are permitted to continue operations in order to send books out the door to people in need.
What can you do?
- Do you have ideas for how we can safely give away books during the pandemic? Do you know a place that would like to host “satellite” bookshelves in the future? Please contact us!
- If you can, please donate. Your financial support will help us to survive this challenging time and pay for professional tax/legal advice.
- If you have fundraising or grant-writing expertise, we’d still love to hear from you via the Contact form. We want to be ready to seek out appropriate levels of nonprofit funding as soon as we’re eligible to do so. Thank you to those who have contacted us so far.
- If you have prior Board experience and/or relevant expertise, please reach out. We are still collecting expressions of interest and have not yet begun Board development activities. Experience with strategy, non-profit management, accounting, fundraising, legal counsel, and the like is particularly valuable.
- Please stay tuned. We will continue to use our website and social media to keep you informed of our progress.
We’re sorry we didn’t manage to hold one last special public opening for people to stock up on books before the coronavirus made it to the Baltimore area and public gatherings got too risky. Be healthy. Be safe. Take care of one another.
Please direct all inquiries to the Board of Directors via the Contact form on our website.
To donate, you can:
Mail a check to:
The Book Thing
3001 Vineyard Lane
Baltimore, MD 21218
Please Note: Due to the revocation of our nonprofit status, donations made after 5/15/19 may not be tax-deductible. Please consult a tax professional.