October 2015

Q&A: The Truth About Prizes

This has been a post that’s been swirling around in my head for a long time, and it’s one I haven’t looked forward to writing. However, it’s necessary. Maybe more necessary now than ever in the life of the Readathon. Dewey was spirited and inclusive, but she was also a realist, and so I’ll be realistic with you now. 

Prizes are one of the biggest burdens to the Readathon. One of the most fun for participants but always burdensome. Here’s a quick and dirty, transparent FAQ about prizes and the future of them.

  1. Why didn’t I receive my prize? Publishers, companies, individuals…they’ve all flaked out at some point. Are we sorry when this happens? God, yes. It’s embarrassing to us and feels like a failure. On the flip side, there’s not much we can do about it. We solicit donations because we cannot shoulder the cost of providing prizes or shipping them beyond what we donate ourselves, so that falls to the individual donors, their preferences, and their means.
  2. Doesn’t selling swag help cover the costs? Nope! We made $14 off the last Readathon and those funds are long gone to a very small portion of the cost of running the site.
  3. Why are there fewer prizes this year? Publishers are not as forthcoming with their donations as they used to be. We’ve been very lucky for a very long time, but now we have to reach out to more publishers, more vendors, and more individuals to garner half the prizes we used to have. Also, there are never any volunteers…aside from one or two individuals (Kerry, Irish)…who help solicit prizes.

Having fewer prizes this year was also a strategic move. No joke, sometimes it takes six months, the whole duration of time between Readathons, to get prizes squared away.

  • People forget to claim their prize for a few weeks
  • A lot of things have to happen in spreadsheets to pull all the info together for distribution to donors
  • Donors don’t notice the email alerting them to their winner(s)
  • Follow up has to happen when people contact us that they haven’t received their prize(s)

In short, we went for fewer prizes this year, but still great quality with an emphasis on e-gifts and “prize packs.”

A couple of years ago we did a very large survey after the Readathon and asked people to rate different parts of the event by importance, and prizes came in dead last. It seems that to the majority of us, READING and COMMUNITY are more important than prizes, and at the end of the day that gives us some solace if prizes just aren’t going right. In the  future, we may decide to phase them out, but because of the feedback you’ve given us, we know that wouldn’t be a deal breaker.

We thank you so much for being here for your love of reading and each other more than the love of swag. 

I also need to add an extra thank you to all of the individuals who consistently donate to this event. People like Ciska, Irish, Rachel, Katja, and Jenn (To name a few. So sorry to anyone I’m forgetting). Even when they don’t participate, they’re right there donating prizes and keeping a special eye on making sure our international participants have items to choose from.