Solution 09:05 17 Feb 2024

Charity online bookstore turns reading into donations for the army

Before the war, Ukrainian Leadership Academy team members collected their own libraries and enjoyed filling their bookshelves. But in the war conditions, they decided to turn the books into help for the army. This is how the charitable online bookstore Book Forces of Ukraine was born, where the profit from the sale of books is transferred to the needs of the army. Rubryka found out how it works and how much money has already been raised.

What is the problem?

For almost two years of the full-scale invasion of Russia, Ukrainians have continued to help the army with all their might. Despite the sometimes difficult financial situation and donation fatigue, volunteers seek different fundraising methods. 

Due to military operations, people are forced to move to other cities and countries, leaving some of their belongings home. Often among them are home libraries people had been collecting for ages. Books gather dust on the shelves instead of becoming helpful to a new reader.

In addition, buying new books is not always affordable, but used ones have a lower price and are often in good condition. The book's value is not lost over the years and sometimes even increases. So, for the book to continue to fulfill its mission, it must reach different readers. Ukrainians have found a way to give new life to used books, simultaneously attracting donations for the Ukrainian army.

What is the solution?
Give books a second life and turn them into a donation

Oksana Lashenkova and Yurii Manilov are from Mariupol. They didn't have time to take their entire library when evacuating and still don't know if anything was left. However, this loss pushed them to new ideas — to extend the life of books and help the army.

Together with the Ukrainian Leadership Academy team,  Lashenkova and Manilov founded a charitable online bookstore, Book Forces of Ukraine. Some people donate books, and others — money for it. Sales funds are transferred to the Common Good charity fund account, which helps the Ukrainian military. From the collected funds, volunteers buy and repair drones, as well as direct money to the urgent needs of the military.

"Promoting reading and helping the military are our two main goals. Everyone from our team adores books with all their heart, and we want more and more such connoisseurs," says Talina Didchuk, copywriter of the Book Forces of Ukraine.

How does it work?

The charity online bookstore has its platform and pages on Instagram and Facebook. The project is voluntary, so neither the founders nor other employees earn money from it. In order for the Book Forces of Ukraine website to have convenient functionality, co-founder Manilov developed a Telegram bot that performs two priority tasks— it quickly registers potential sellers and receives and stores photos of books for sale.

Книжкові сили України

The Book forces of Ukraine team. Photo: Talina Didchuk

After registration and photo upload, the team uses a bot to process and upload the book to the site. An essential condition is that the owner must keep the book until it is purchased. When this happens, the bot will send the details — to whom and where to send it.

New and used books of various genres and languages can be brought to the bookstore. The only exception is that they should have nothing to do with Russia.

Books should not be in Russian or by Russian authors or publishers, even if the book is in Ukrainian but written by a writer from the Russian Federation. The team also works only with paper editions.

She adds that the owner sets the price of the donated book. The bookstore, for its part, recommends putting the price of the book 30% lower than the original one. Also, the condition of the cover and pages plays a role in assessing the value.

For more than a year of its work, the charity bookstore has received orders not only from Ukraine but also from abroad. Didchuk says that non-fiction, fiction, and romance are the most popular.

The bookstore also has an action plan for force majeurs. There have been cases when, for some reason, the owners do not send the purchased book. If such a situation occurs and nothing changes within ten days, the buyer can choose another book available on the website for the amount they have already donated.

Despite this, the bookstore team is open to communication and ready to help resolve misunderstandings. In addition to the fact that people donate to the Ukrainian military, book senders often include cute gifts or letters with kind words for their buyers.

The team also monitors the tendency for the same book to appear several times on the bookstore's website. The book's owner is constantly changing, but the book itself is not. This shows that readers trust the project and continue to share its values.

Soon, the site plans to make a rating of the month's best sellers. It will include people who have shipped all their books on time and whose new owners are pleased with their books.

The charity online bookstore helps the army and promotes the idea of bookcrossing — the constant exchange of books. The project also allows readers to find exclusive, vintage books or those no longer published.

Does it really work?

Book Forces of Ukraine has sold five thousand books. The total donations for the Ukrainian army amounted to one million hryvnias (around $26,260). 

"The more people learn about us, the more books and money will be donated. We never have a problem with not having enough books," Ditchuk shares.

Currently, the bookstore's website sells about 500 books every month, so every reader can donate a book and buy a new one.

In the future, they plan to scale up the project and continue popularizing books and reading. The project's team dreams of increasing sales and partnerships and opening offline branches to hold various events and regular customer meetings.


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