Strategic Philanthropy: How FirstBook is ending Knowledge Poverty with an innovative funding model

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“A book is a device to ignite the imagination”. – Alan Bennett, but how many children are privileged enough to buy and read books. In an effort to fight the lack of access to quality educational resources for children, founder of FirstBook is delivering two pronged result by ensuring that every disadvantaged child get high quality books at deeply reduced prices while driving publishers to work towards a social cause and stay motivated.

Here’s how they do

  1. Developing an online marketplace where paperback version of popular children books is sold at discounted prices (discounts ranging from 50-90%) by placing large non-refundable order with publishers.

Outcomes to children/ low cost educational institutes

Increased educational opportunities for children

Benefit to Publishers

  • Huge saving on marketing cost. This is because FirstBook is partnered with huge number of low cost private schools and organisations wherein these books are supplied, thus helping the publishers to achieve their targets and develop a new customer base.
  • Donation to Firstbook help them realize tax benefit
  1. Through their National Book Bank Programme, they have turned into nation’s first Clearinghouse for storing Publisher’s excess inventory. This initiative immensely helped publishers solve the dilemma of being stuck with unsold books returned from retailers.

Benefit to Publishers

  • Sense of delight in realising that book goes to a rightful owner instead of being shredded or destroyed.
  • Provides them a one-stop solution for donation as soliciting to the needs through individual donation to schools and libraries becomes inefficient and costly.
  1. While working with teachers and kids, they realised that despite making available the most popular books, most of the stories were not relevant to these kids’ lives and identities as the traditional audience for children’s literature has been largely affluent and white, and most kids’ books reflect that. To address this, First Book promoted books by authors of diverse background, something, that would resonate with the children they serve.

 Outcome

The customer- driven solution gave the publishing industry an opportunity to produce more diverse titles and as the success of this initiative grows; FirstBook plans to make the content available to all the children and not just the kids they serve.

BUSINESS INSIGHTS FOR US

  1. CUSTOMER CENTERED DESIGN: Firstbook realised that just providing books will not solve the larger purpose of inculcating reading habits among children. Even in a donor funded organisation, customer should come first and thus tweaking your service to integrate customer’s needs and expectations can go a long way in  in an organisation’s culture can give the organization an enduring competitive advantage.
  2. ONE AT A TIME: Focus on serving one customer at a time. The model once successful can be replicated to create new market opportunities.
  3. Design a system, which will benefit your stakeholders and enable a win-win situation. They in turn will protect your interest. This will put into motion a self-perpetuating cycle. In case of FirstBook, both publishers and the company were able to turn their respective barriers into new frontiers for the other.