In a perfect world, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) would not exist.
However, this is not a perfect world, and that’s why Binc is here: to be the safety net for the employees and owners of bookstores and comic shops struggling with unforeseen financial, medical, and mental health needs. In the past 27 years, over $11 million dollars have been distributed to over 10,000 bookstore and comic shop employees, owners, and their families.
Binc Is Here
These very real stories are in the news every day: Record rainfall and violent storms. Hurricanes level Main Street. Floods rush away all the belongings of devastated families. Wildfires cause whole towns to evacuate. Waiting times increase for desperately needed dental and medical intervention. Rising utility costs siphon funds from already tight food budgets.
And when you read about it in the news, know that Binc is there to answer the calls for help.
Established by Borders booksellers in 1996 as the Borders Group Foundation to help co-workers in need, the re-imagined foundation expanded the mission—and assistance—to include all physical bookstores and comic shop employees and owners within the United States. Binc is the only nonprofit in the country dedicated to assisting booksellers and comic shop employees and owners in need.
The first grant given was funded by book people to help book people, donating from their weekly paychecks. Today, that same desire to help those in need is seen in Binc’s donors: publishers, authors, illustrators, distributors, store owners, booksellers, and those individuals who love the impact a thriving bookstore or comic shop brings to their community.
Their small but mighty team of seven is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with staff members working remotely in Wyoming, Kentucky, and California. Many publishers recognize and look forward to seeing the cheerful orange and purple Binc banner at trade shows, but may not know exactly what Binc does.
What Does Binc Do?
Binc’s core program is helping book and comics sellers through life’s emergencies like serious medical expenses, housing stability, natural disasters, domestic violence, funeral expenses, caregiving, and utilities shut-off prevention. Assistance for these qualifying events is done through grants and is accessed quickly through an inquiry form on Binc’s website, bincfoundation.org.
Each inquiry is answered personally by a Binc program manager. They work with every person through phone calls and email to find the best way to assist them through their crisis. Additional support resources are offered to every applicant and most often include free access to financial training through Best Money Moves, guidance on negotiating medical bills, and recommending local resources.
A new program added in 2022 addresses the growing need for mental health therapy. The Mental Health Wellness program is open to all employees and owners of bookstores and comic shops, and their families, upon request, providing two months of free therapy with licensed and accredited psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers, and professional counselors of BetterHelp.
This confidential therapy is free and users have up to four live sessions a month plus unlimited texting. They access therapy any way they prefer: talk, text, phone, or video contact with the therapist they personally choose.
Since the start of the Mental Health Wellness program last year 1,070+ video sessions and thousands of calls and texts have helped participants cope with issues like stress, depression, trauma, grief, family conflicts, and even goal-setting and life coaching.
Another program aimed at expanding professional opportunities is the scholarship program. Throughout the year, existing booksellers and comic shop employees have the opportunity to increase their understanding of their business by applying for several scholarships to attend national and regional book and comic association meetings.
The professional development scholarship opportunity also extends to a better understanding of the publishing business. In 2019, the first Denver Publishing Institute (DPI) scholarship, worth up to $7000 sponsored by Sourcebooks, was awarded. The winner of the DPI scholarship immerses themselves in a four-week summer program held both at the institute or online.
Publishers and Binc
Publisher support of Binc strengthens the bookstore and comic shop safety net and builds awareness throughout the industry. Publishers of all sizes have found inventive ways to demonstrate their support and advocacy.
One way that broadens exposure and creates revenue both for the publisher and Binc is partnering with Humble Bundle and designating Binc as the charity of choice. Consumers receive a remarkable value when they purchase a curated bundle of digital titles during a Humble Bundle campaign. The publisher’s titles receive tremendous exposure on social media, which is also elevated by Binc, and Binc receives a portion of the purchase price.
Among the many publishers that have used their partnership with Humble Bundle to give support to the bookselling and comic community are Abrams, AdventureKEEN, Chronicle, Cosplay Like A Pro, Image Comics, Kodansha, Morgan & Claypool, No Starch Press, Simon and Schuster, Skyhorse, Stone Bridge Press, and Wiley.
Some other tried-and-true ways to support the bookselling community through Binc:
- Bring Binc in the celebration surrounding the launch of a new book release by donating based on the number sold, or preordered as Harlequin has done, or donating based on backlist titles like AdventurKEEN.
- Host a fun corporate event and donate proceeds to Binc, like Chronicle Books did to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
- Maximize employee giving to Binc by offering a company program to match employee’s donations to Binc.
- Offer a company employee payroll deduction program.
- Turn a company donation into a matching challenge during Binc’s annual fundraising campaign.
- Become a sponsor for Binc’s biennial survey, an industry event, or to encourage sustaining donors.
- Make a monetary gift to Binc at any time.
Publishers are also powerful advocates for Binc and can amplify the message that help is only a phone call away whenever an unexpected financial catastrophe blindsides an employee or owner of a bookstore or comic shop.
- Industry events and trade shows provide the opportunity to display the Binc supporter logo and show the attendees that you participate in keeping their safety net strong, and sales reps can share information about Binc during store visits.
- Sharing the stories of employees assisted in your internal communications lets your team know the concrete ways the company they work for is changing lives. Binc shines a light on the life-saving impact donors make in the lives of booksellers and comic retailers in its free monthly newsletter and on its website. Confidentiality is a core component of all the assistance Binc provides, so the stories in Binc’s monthly newsletter are edited to protect the privacy of recipients.
- Publishers and distributors can include Binc flyers in their shipments.
- Websites of supporters can proudly display a digital Binc supporter badge.
Every safety net is most effective when many hands help to keep it steady and secure. Binc’s Director of Development Kathy Bartson is always glad to answer questions and discuss your ideas about raising awareness and funds.