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Where Are They Now: Children’s Book Bank

Posted by Social Venture Partners Portland

SVP Portland is built on the relationships between our Investment Partners and Community Partners. These relationships enable Community Partners to strengthen their operating  capacity building so that they are on a trajectory to flourish well after SVP’s investment. In honor of our 20th anniversary, we are taking a look back at our past investments to see where they are now.


When we first partnered with The Children’s Book Bank (CBB) in 2014, they were a five-year-old organization dedicated to closing the “book gap” that exists between low-income neighborhoods and middle- and upper-income communities. CBB envisioned a society in which all children, regardless of means, are surrounded by and experience books in their early years of development. Over the years, the model has remained the same: gather new and gently used books from the community and—with volunteer help—clean, sort, and distribute books to kids in need.

“Our partnership with SVP helped fundamentally shift the way in which we think about and evaluate our impact—we moved from reporting on numbers of children and books, to evaluating the change these books make in the lives of families and children. As a result, we are now providing far more inclusive books for EVERY child and have developed tools for parents to go along with our book collections to spark family engagement,” said Executive Director Dani Swope. “We enjoyed thinking big together and expanding our model. The capacity building projects paved way for serving more children and families!”

The impact of our investment is significant for the community. When we first engaged with CBB in 2014, they reached 6,194 kids with 78,642 books. 

From 2014 to 2017, over ten SVP Partners and four Encore Fellows engaged with CBB to build their organizational capacity. Specifically, we worked closely with them on strategic planning, board development, impact evaluation, and real estate. Together, we created a two-phased, five-year strategic plan to first deepen and then grow impact, and we helped relocate the organization to a 5,000 square foot warehouse.

My involvement with CBB was very fortuitous,” said Ron Eiseman, SVP’s co-Lead Partner for the investment and current CBB Board Director. “The engagement challenged me in many ways, and also was (and continues to be) rewarding. I receive much satisfaction knowing that the work we do enables many children to begin to develop skills for literacy. In the most recent year, we distributed twice the number of books than we did six years ago when I first became engaged. The ability to read opens up minds to the world and what is possible. I continue to be inspired by the good we do in the community.”

During the 2018–2019 school year, CBB distributed more than 122,000 books to children who otherwise would not have access. These include:

  • 4,364 newborn-to-five-year old children received personal collections of 14 books each – for a total of 51,264 books! After receiving books, families reported reading more often and for longer lengths of time, and that the books helped them spend quality time together.
  • 5,735 elementary students received books to support their summer reading adventures through free book fairs at local Title I schools—for a total of 29,090 books! 84% of students believed they became stronger readers over the summer with CBB books.
  • 2,637 children received racially- and culturally-inclusive books in their collections, helping young readers see themselves and their limitless possibilities in the stories they read.
  • An additional 41,687 children’s books went to children and families, supporting literacy throughout the community.

Regarding CBB’s new  relocation, Dani shared, “The significance of that move cannot be understated. On a strictly operational level, our new space allowed us to host larger volunteer groups and to receive and store more donated books, meaning we could serve more children. On an aspirational level, with room to breathe, we quickly found ourselves thinking bigger about who we could become as an organization and the impact we could make if we could double our productivity. In addition, with space of our own in which to gather and meet and seek feedback, we are now much more accessible to the community we serve.”

We are thrilled to see how much Children’s Book Bank has accomplished to serve our community! You can find out how to support this fantastic Community Partner by visiting their website at https://www.childrensbookbank.org/ or joining them at their upcoming Tell Me A Story event

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