With the cost of textbooks rising, Forty-Niner Shops’ at California State University – Long Beach decided that they wanted to do even more to help ease the burden on students. Beginning in 2009, the store created a new event, Bowling for Books, to generate additional textbook scholarships for their students. The fundraiser was the idea of the store’s general manager Don Penrod, who had been a part of a similar event at St. Louis Community College four years prior.
“As a bookstore, we hear first-hand about the cost of textbooks,” said Penrod. “We decided rather than complain about the cost of books, we could do something and start bowling to raise money for scholarships.”
The annual event closes down an entire bowling alley, with students, faculty, vendors and business partners participating across fifty lanes in teams of four. The minimum donation for each team is $100 and team members pledge to raise those funds, all of which is then donated to the campus’ Center for Scholarship Information.
“We’ve raised $180,000 over the past three years, and have been able to give out more and more textbook scholarships because of it,” explained Rosa Hernandez, communications director. “Our goal for this year is to raise at least $50,000 and we’re definitely on track to do it! We’re excited to welcome back all that have attended in the past as well as to meet new participants; we want to fill the whole place!”
During the annual event, the bowling alley is always abuzz with excitement. The store rewards each participant with a free t-shirt and the chance to bowl three games.
“We also have a hospitality suite set up with lots of food and drinks and it’s a very social atmosphere,” explained Hernandez. “Awards are presented to the top fundraising individual and team as well as the top scoring individual and team, so there’s a lot of friendly competition! It’s really fun; everyone always has a good time!”
There are additional opportunities for attendees to win through a variety of raffles. The store works with both vendors and local business partners to provide prizes including everything from bicycles to iPads! Raffle tickets are sold for $1 each and participants can choose which prizes they’d like to submit them for.
“All of the tickets that don’t win are then put back into a drawing for bigger prizes,” she added. “We want everyone to feel appreciated!”
Vendors and business partners, including MBS, also commit to various levels of sponsorship and donations to help fund the event. Many attend and participate in the fun, too!
“This event wouldn’t be what it is without the help of our sponsors,” Hernandez described. “They have a chance to interact with our students and show them what our partnership is all about. It’s really neat because several of them will even decorate their lanes and get into the spirit of it all. They come out in full force to support us, and we appreciate it tremendously!”
Bowling for Books also demonstrates to students and faculty alike that the store is working to better their experience at CSULB.
“This event truly tells our story; it proves that we’re dedicated to our mission of giving back, which is much more effective than just saying it,” she said. “Through our efforts, the CSULB community has taken notice of the school pride that we have and all that we do as a store. It’s enhanced our relationship with them even further.”
Based on the success of the event, the store plans to only grow their fundraising initiatives in the future.
“To quote my boss, Don, we’re committed to student success and to making a difference,” explained Hernandez. “The textbook industry is a market that’s drastically changing, so we’re willing to change direction in order to ensure that we offer our students the best options available to us.”
Both Hernandez and Penrod encourage other stores to adopt a similar outlook.
“Don’t be afraid of innovation!” she advised. “It’s instrumental for all of us, as an industry, to position ourselves as a resource to students. As things continue to evolve, we may not have all the answers; but, we should commit to doing as much as we possibly can to uphold our mission.”