RAQs: Recently Asked Questions

Topic: Friends and Library Cooperation Agreement
There are so many ways the relationship between a library and their Friends can get "complica...
Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2020 Permalink

MEMBER QUESTION

There are so many ways the relationship between a library and their Friends can get "complicated."

Can you provide a template for an agreement between a library and their Friends?

WNYLRC ATTORNEY'S RESPONSE

NOTE: As a primer to this answer, which mostly consists of the requested template, I suggest reviewing the materials in the ever-excellent "NYLA Handbook for Library Trustees,"[1] particularly the guidance and links on page 85.

"Ask the Lawyer" has addressed the issue of "Friends" relationships before.[2] This question presents a chance to address some common areas of concern pro-actively.

Of course, since an agreement is only as good as the lines of communication between the parties who are in it, aside from reviewing this template in advance of discussing it with your Friends, get ready to spend some time on this.  A good agreement is the product of a lot of discussion, back-and forth, and work for clarity—not the other way around.  And if you can, invite your lawyer to the table.

That said, a simple template can be a handy way to frame the discussion.  So with that, here it is:

 

TEMPLATE Cooperation Agreement

_____________ Library

and the

Friends of the ______________ Library

 

This agreement (the "Agreement") between the _________________ Library (the "Library") and the Friends of the  _____________ Library, Inc. (the "Friends") is intended to further the mission of the Library and the mission of the Friends by clarifying the mission-driven collaboration, shared commitments, and terms for collaboration between the two institutions ("Collaboration").

Mission-driven Collaboration

In all matters involving the Collaboration, the Library and the Friends shall be guided by their missions.

The mission of the Library is:

INSERT

 

The mission of the Friends is:

INSERT

 

In furtherance of their missions, the Parties set forth the below "Shared Commitments."

Shared Commitments of the Library and the Friends

Shared Commitment to Ethics

In all matters involving the Collaboration, the Library and the Friends shall be guided by the ethics of their institutions, including the American Library Code of Ethics, the Library Board's Code of Ethics, the oaths of office of the Library Board Members, and the Friends Board's Code of Ethics, and each parties' Conflict of Interest policy.

Shared Commitment to Legal Compliance and Transparency

As not-for-profit institutions governed by a variety of federal and state laws and regulations, the Parties operate under an array of legal obligations, and hereby commit to model compliance and all appropriate transparency in their stewardship of Library and Friend's resources.

Shared Commitment to the Success of the Library

The Parties agree that the very purpose of the creation of the Friends is the continued viability and growth of the Library, and all their Collaboration shall be to that end.

 

In furtherance of their shared commitments, the Parties set forth the below "Collaboration Terms."

Collaboration Terms

Use of Name

In consideration of the support enabled by this Agreement, the _________________ Library consents to the use of the Library's name in the name of the Friends.

Distinguishing the Entities

Although the Friends are allowed, by this Agreement, to incorporate the name of the Library into their name, each party agrees to exert extreme care to consistently distinguish one entity from the other, and to use their respective EIN's, proper corporate names, when relevant proper Charities Bureau number and corporate identification number, at all times to distinguish one from the other.   

This obligation shall be especially critical during any marketing, contracting, fund-raising, event-planning, and when either party communicates with the public or any oversight authority.

Inter-organizational Familiarity

To ensure mutual awareness of each other, the boards shall maintain a shared record of the current information for both parties, as it is available:

  • Charter (Library); Certificate of Incorporation (Friends)
  • Bylaws
  • Fiscal policies
  • Conflict of Interest policy
  • Current list of Board members and officers
  • Plan of Service (Library); Strategic Plan (Friends)
  • Social networking addresses
  • Meeting Schedule
  • Event Schedule

Board Participation

By no later than DATE, the Library and the Friends shall create and maintain a "Library-Friends Collaboration Committee," with at least three board members from each organization, for the coordination of any aspect of the Collaboration, and shall invite no less than three Library board members to serve on the committee in a voting capacity. The committee itself may also appoint three additional members, by majority vote, but the total membership shall not exceed nine. 

The Library-Friends Collaboration Committee shall have no authority to bind either the Friends or the Library.

Committee members shall serve one-year, renewable terms, which run from January to December (the Friend’s fiscal year).  The Committee shall be co-chaired by one appointee from each board, as named by the President of that board.

The stated purpose and authority of the committee shall be "To maintain a strong and routine collaboration between the Library and the Friends, to facilitate planning in furtherance of the mission of the Friends, and to ensure clarity in matters of fund-raising, fiscal goals, and specific donations."

The Library-Friends Collaboration Committee shall meet no less than quarterly, in furtherance of the commitments of this Agreement.

Annual Contribution Ratio

The Friends shall aspire to direct no less than INSERT% of their total annual income to the Library.  Any departure from this percentage shall be subject to a vote by both parties, based on the planned need to temporarily direct resources in another way, for the benefit of the library (for example, the Friends contracting with registered fund-raising counsel for a capital campaign).

Annual Planning Sheet

As part of the operations of "Library-Friends Collaboration Committee" the committee shall create for each fiscal year an "Annual Planning Sheet."  This sheet will list the special asks the library has (including but not limited to funding for acquisitions, equipment, programming, board discretionary funds, or a capital campaign), and will be used by the Committee and the Friends to determine fund-raising objectives for the year, and to pre-identify any departure from the annual contribution ratio.

Donations

The Friends will encourage donors to make "unrestricted" donations (donations without conditions).

If a restricted donation is accepted (for instance, a donation that requires a naming right, or a certain work of art be placed in the Library) the conditions of the donations must first be reviewed for consistency with the Library's controlling documents and strategic plan, and then accepted via a majority vote by the Library's board.

It is expected that at all times the Friends shall maintain appropriate records of donations and donor-restricted donations and shall issue, in a timely manner, letters of acknowledgement in furtherance of any tax credit the donor may qualify for.

Grants

The Friends may apply for grants from government and private entities for the benefit of the Library, but prior to applying for the grant, the conditions of the grant must first be reviewed for consistency with the Library's controlling documents and strategic plan, and then accepted via a majority vote by the Library's board.  This is to ensure that the time and resources used to apply for the grant are not wasted.

If the Friends apply for grants from government and private entities for the benefit of the Friends (for instance, to purchase donor management software, or to buy equipment the Friends will use for events), the Library does not need to be consulted.  However, the Friends and the Library will, through the Collaboration Committee, maintain awareness of grant applications, to ensure there are no redundant requests.

Annual Accounting

In MONTH of each year, the Treasurer of the Library, and the Treasurer of the Friends, shall meet to exchange financial reports, and to independently and/or jointly develop any observations or advice they as Treasurers may have for the Committee or their respective boards.

No Library Resources for Fund-Raising

It is understood between the Library and the Friends that no library employees shall staff a Friends' fund-raising event, and no Library resources whatsoever shall be used in furtherance of such event.[3]

Appropriate Boundaries

To avoid any concerns regarding authority and responsibility, no members of the Friends Board shall volunteer at the Library.

Dispute Resolution

To avoid any concerns to the detriment of the Friends or the Library, in the event either party believes the other has violated its mission, formation documents, charitable purpose, applicable laws and regulations, or this Agreement, the concerned party shall notify the other in writing.

If the dispute is not resolved within ten days, the parties shall agree to retain a New York Bar Association-listed mediator to resolve the dispute.  To select the mediator, the Library shall supply a list of 5 qualified candidates, and the Friends shall select the mediator from the list.  As part of their service as a neutral party, the Mediator shall certify that they may serve without a conflict of interest.

If one full-day session of mediation does not resolve the dispute, the concerned party may seek such other relief as appropriate.

Bi-annual Agreement Review and Amendment

This agreement shall continue for so long as the Friends continue activities for the benefit of the ______________ Library.

Every two years, the officers of the Friends and the Library, shall meet to review this Agreement, or refine their practices that are governed by it, as needed.

This Agreement may be amended through a two-thirds vote by both boards within the same two-month period.

Effective Date and Term

The Agreement is effective upon the date of incorporation of the Friends, and shall continue for so long as both parties are in existence.

With this understanding, on ________, the Board of the ___________________ Library passed a resolution to enter this Agreement effective as of _________________, and the Board of the Friends of the  _____________ Library, Inc. passed a resolution to enter this Agreement effective as of ____________, as signified by the signatures below.

[insert signatures, etc.]



[1] Found at: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/trustees/handbook/handbook.pdf

[2] Specifically, here: https://www.wnylrc.org/ask-the-lawyer/raqs/113

[3] This is to avoid any risk of library resources being used in furtherance of a private organization.

Tags: Friends of the Library, Public Libraries, Template

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The WNYLRC's "Ask the Lawyer" service is available to members of the Western New York Library Resources Council. It is not legal representation of individual members.