Books for Friends Founder Sarah Lackey Shares Secrets to Starting a NonProfit

Heard of Books for Friends? It’s a nonprofit that runs book drives and provides free books for homeless and underprivileged children. And, it was started by Sarah Lackey, 16, of Carlsbad, California. What does it take to start a nonprofit that allows others to participate in an activity you love? Like A Boss Girls chatted with Lackey to find out.

What inspired you to start Books for Friends?

I was always a little shy when I was in elementary school and I read a ton of books — a lot of times, I read a book a day. In middle school, I was the philanthropy commissioner on my student council. I started to do book drives, because I always had tons of books around the house. At first, we collected about 2000 books. I started in seventh grade and it’s just grown from there. I kept doing it until I graduated from middle school, and then on to high school.  Now it’s spreading to other schools, including seven schools in the San Diego area and schools in Northern California and Georgia, too.

What has been your proudest moment so far?

I have a couple! I had a fundraiser a couple months ago. We raised $3000 for Books for Friends to buy books for kids, and it was really great. I didn’t expect much because it was my first fundraiser, but a lot of people came and were really supportive. That was nice, because I haven’t gotten much community response prior to this event.

Also, I set up the library at San Diego’s Monarch School. Monarch School is a school for children who are homeless or in transitional housing. I had been working to arrange free book deliveries for the school, previously. A new campus was built and it had an empty library. We filled the entire library with books. All the kids were so happy and were hugging me — it just felt great.

Have there been any big challenges along the way?

Not too many. Though, getting started is a little bit hard. It was hard to get certified as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit. There’s a lot of paperwork to do in order to proving you are who you say you are, basically. That took a while, but once we got past that, it’s been great — people can trust you, and everyone’s happy that you’re a nonprofit.

How has being a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit changed things for you?

Before, not many people would give money donations, because they weren’t tax-deductible. Now, it’s just more trustworthy. Plus, can have a dot org URL because we’re a nonprofit.  People are more likely to partner with us now that we’re an official nonprofit.  It gives us a good reputation and makes us look more legitimate.

You’re a competitive equestrian, and you’re also in school.  How do you find the time to run your own nonprofit?

It’s definitely hard, but I find the time. On Saturdays, after I’m done riding my horse, I’ll go through all the books at the warehouse. I just find the time whenever I can.

Do you have any special goals for this year?

We’ve collected 10,000 books so far. If we can get to 18,000 and keep spreading to different organizations and schools, that will be great.

Since you’re such a big reader, what is the best book that you’ve read lately?

I just read The Beginning of Everything, by Robin Schneider. It’s about these two kids who are graduating high school, and one of them is injured in a tennis accident. He used to be the star of the school, but he kind of falls socially. This girl who’s a transfer student comes in who has a darker past, and they kind of help each other. It’s really good.

Do you have a favorite children’s book?

I don’t know if it’s technically a children’s book, but I love the Harry Potter books! Those are my favorite. I’ve read them each probably five times, and I’ve watched all the movies. I was obsessed with Harry Potter.

Is there anything people who read this article can do to help Books for Friends?

They can go to the Books for Friends website and click on the “Contact Us” button to get more information.