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Purchasing Books

From: LEAVEN, Vol. 37 No. 3, June-July 2001, pp. 64-65

Dear LLLI,

We recently applied for a discount card from the local branch of a large bookstore chain. The store gave us a card for a 20 percent discount on all books we purchase at their stores. The store said that we could use the books we purchase however we like, including purchases for our Group Library, personal purchases by our Leaders, and purchases of books for resale.

We would like to encourage the mothers we meet to purchase parenting books through us, limiting the selection to books in the LLLI Bibliography. We could give them a discount (for example, a 10 percent discount to members and a 5 percent discount to nonmembers). Since this bookstore is near us, we would be able to sell books without carrying an inventory.

We have several questions. First, is there any problem with us selling books that we have not purchased through LLLI? Is there any problem selling books to mothers who do not attend our meetings? Third, we think this project has great potential as a long-term fundraiser, and we would like to share the idea with other Groups, once we see how well it works. What are the implications if Groups started buying the bulk of their books from large booksellers like this rather than from LLLI?

Mary Livermore,
Eugene, Oregon, USA

Dear Mary,

These are interesting and timely questions, as some LLL Groups are discovering that many different sources of materials are available to them. Originally, LLLI began selling books and products to Leaders to provide them with resources that were difficult to find in the general marketplace. Now, even books published by LLLI are widely available.

LLLI has always encouraged Leaders and Groups to sell books and products to members as well as to others who do not attend LLL meetings. Some Groups can fully support their Group expenses with book and product sales, along with memberships. Leaders have found very creative ways to market and sell books to their local health care providers, hospitals, health departments, and breastfeeding task forces, or to the public at health fairs and exhibits. Some Leaders use book sales as an additional avenue to reach more mothers and babies to provide breastfeeding information and support, thus expanding the work of the Group in pursuit of the LLL mission.

There is no LLLI policy that governs where LLL Leaders may purchase books. However, Leaders should be aware that a large portion of the LLLI operating budget is covered by sales of books and products. LLLI makes a profit selling these items directly to parents through catalog sales and sales via the LLLI Web site. Even though LLLI offers discounts to Leaders, there is still a margin of profit that helps LLLI to pursue its mission.

LLLI has always given Leaders a discount on most books. On books published by LLLI, Leaders receive a 20 percent discount on individual copies, 25 percent when a Leader buys 6 or more copies, and 40 percent on ten or more copies. These discounts apply to mixed titles, as long as they are LLLI published books. Special promotional packages are sometimes featured that offer even better discounts on certain books.

Leaders also receive discounts on other books and products that LLLI sells; these vary according to the discount that LLLI obtains from publishers and vendors. On most books and products LLLI gives Leaders a 15 percent discount. The bookstore chain is able to offer you a slightly better discount because they purchase books in even larger quantities than LLLI, but they are still making money on the books you buy from them.

To further assist Leaders, LLLI also extends a line of credit to every LLLI Group. These intra-organizational credit accounts are a tremendous benefit to some Groups who otherwise might not be able to afford to purchase materials. There is also a similar credit arrangement that allows Areas to obtain large quantities of books on consignment for sales at Area Conferences, health fairs, and other events.

There are several factors that a Group might want to consider when deciding where to purchase books:

1. Convenience. Groups can order books from LLLI at the same time they are doing other business, such as paying memberships or ordering Group supplies.
2. Marketing. LLLI customers are often notified of upcoming books and special introductory discounts before these are announced in LEAVEN because flyers can be placed in their orders or sent with monthly statements.
3. Credit. Groups can order from LLLI without having to pay for the merchandise immediately, using their allotted credit.
4. Shipping Costs. Groups purchasing materials from local suppliers would save the cost of shipping; some Groups can also save shipping costs by buying from an LLL depot run by their Area or country.
5. lmmediate Access. Groups purchasing from local stores would have inimediate access to the materials, no waiting time for shipping. On the other hand, it could become an added burden for a busy Leader to make an extra trip to the bookstore when she can order from LLLI by phone, fax, or online, without leaving home.
6. Competition and Outreach. The competition for sales has encouraged a more competitive approach by LLLI so that Leaders and Groups now benefit from better discounts overall. The potential for increased profits might encourage a more competitive approach among local LLL Groups, too. Groups might reach out to more mothers with LLL products when they realize the potential for increased income.
7. Mission Support. The revenue from catalogue sales helps support LLLI in its pursuit of our mission. If Groups and Leaders purchase more from LLLI the increase in sales will have a positive impact on LLLI finances and mission objectives.
8. Organizational Support. Finally, many customers purchase materials from LLL Leaders because they know we are volunteers working for a nonprofit organization. We are proud to tell them that all of the profits from our sales go toward helping other mothers and babies around the world. If a Leader purchases books from for-profit suppliers, this is no longer true.

Books that you purchase from LLLI have been carefully selected from the LLLI Bibliography. There is no need to check further to be sure a book or product will be appropriate. Any books you purchase elsewhere need to be checked against the approved books in the LLLI Bibliography. The LLLI Policies and Standing Rules Notebook (PSR) states that "All books offered for sale by LLLI shall be selected from the LLL Bibliographies." Areas and Affiliates have the option to compile their own bibliographies of books evaluated according to the LLLI Book Evaluation Guidelines. (See PSR, "Bibliographies, LLL," and LEADER'S HANDBOOK.)

Just as each mother must decide which option is best for her and her baby, each LLL Group can decide which purchasing and sales options are best for its needs. In LLLI today, there is so much diversity among Leaders and Groups that it would be difficult for any one policy or rule to fit all.

Lynne Coates, LLLI Board of Directors
Eugene, Oregon, USA
Jean Moneyhon, LLLI Board of Directors
Dahlgren, Virginia, USA

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