Spread the Word – Be a Binc Ambassador

When traveling the country and visiting bookstores, the words we still hear too often are “I have never heard of Binc.” After we explain about the Foundation and the services we offer, the look of amazement is a joy to behold. We want all booksellers to know that they have a safety net in times of personal crisis. Our goal is to have Binc Foundation information in every bookstore in the country, have their staff become familiar with the Foundation services and know how to take advantage of them.

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The Key to Surviving a Disaster – Be Prepared

This year has proven that no matter where you reside in the United States, you are not immune to disasters. Whether your community is prone to hurricanes, floods, fires, or winter storms some planning will go a long way to being prepared. The time to think about a potential natural disaster is not when they are imminent, but beforehand, when there is still time to work out a plan.

The Red Cross has put together a great Emergency Preparedness Playbook to get your business ready for anything Mother Nature may throw at you. Your home plan is also covered by the Red Cross. The Institute for Business & Home Safety also puts out a thorough planning booklet. These are valuable tools to use when getting your disaster plan in place.

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The Most Important Tools for your Business Post-Disaster

At a recent NEIBA round table discussion we reviewed the most critical preparation items, including:

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Binc Assists with Utility Shut-off Prevention

“Binc’s help literally stopped a disconnect in progress. No cooking gas, no hot water, no heat on cold nights – it would have been a huge problem. I’m still blown away at how quickly my request for gas bill disconnect was paid.” That is what a Chicago bookseller had to say about the Foundation’s help with keeping her utilities connected. Binc understands that to prevent a utility shut-off quick action is needed, and for that reason, we strive to review bookseller requests expediently.

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How Binc is supporting uninsured booksellers with the help of NeedyMeds

In early April a bookstore employee reached out to Binc after a knee injury. The first priority after the injury was to obtain an MRI. That might have been an obstacle since an MRI without insurance can cost up to $3,000. But, Alison Foreman Binc’s program manager suggested the NeedyMeds MRI/CAT scan discount program with Next Image.

Working with Next Image the entire referral process took just two days! As a result of the discount program, the cost for the procedure was $600, a discount of over 75%!

The process consists of three quick and easy steps:

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Why We Do What We Do

We recently received a note from a bookstore employee who we assisted back in 1999. It is obvious from the note that the Foundation’s help was life altering.

“I give to Binc because I truly believe in the Foundation’s mission. Retail is not typically a high paying industry and when people work in books stores, it’s because of the passion they have for it.

In 1999, I was in a bad relationship of 8 years. I packed my truck up and headed home to my parents. It took support and encouragement to go to Domestic Abuse counseling, when I thought I would be fine on my own. It was there when I realized how much emotional and mental abuse I was enduring over the years. That counseling helped me to see I was a person of worth and God’s child. It also gave me the strength to turn towards the Foundation to explain my situation and start over. I am proud to say I was a survivor as not all cases like this have this ending.

I was so overwhelmed by the Foundation’s generosity. They helped me to establish a new life in a new apartment. They even paid for the deposit and 1st month’s rent, which was all I expected really. When I found out that they would also hook up my utilities and phone, I was humbled. They further supplied me with starter items for a new apartment, such things as cleaning supplies, dishes, etc. Outside of the financial support, they gave me the understanding and caring I needed at that time. They also kept everything very confidential.”

If you, or a book store employee you know are in need of assistance for domestic abuse, medical expenses, loss of household income or natural disaster, please encourage them to contact the Foundation – info@bincfoundation.org or 866-733-9064.

If you believe, as this person does, that providing emergency assistance is important to continue, please consider a donation to Binc.

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Getting Results: Dealing with Bureaucracies

For years we have been helping our applicants deal with the red tape that goes hand-in-hand with most financial problems. Whether you are a bookseller facing a financial emergency, you are dealing with a bureaucratic mess, or merely wanting to get a company or organization to answer questions, it can be a challenge. We have compiled the following list of helpful hints to help you get the results you want.

1. Get and stay organized. Never rely on others to keep track of your papers, phone calls and correspondence. Keep copies of every paper you sign or send. If mailing important papers, send them by certified mail, return receipt requested, and staple the return card to your copy. Keep everything in a chronological file.

2. Name and number. Whenever you speak with someone by phone, do not hang up before getting his or her name, address, direct phone number and fax number.

3. Get it in writing. When given an answer that you think is incorrect, politely ask for a copy of the written authority, which will explain or justify their answer.

4. “Official policy” If this is the explanation you are given, express your doubt and ask for a copy of the written policy.

5. Go over their head. For almost every person you speak to, there is a boss or supervisor who may have a different answer to your request. Keep climbing the ladder until you get a favorable answer. If you hit a “dead end” consider contacting your congressional representative. This can often “shake things loose”.

6. Document everything. Assume that if it isn’t confirmed in writing, and it isn’t in your hands, then it doesn’t exist. This applies to things that people say have happened, will happen, and to things you have done. You never know when you will have to “prove” something that was promised.

7. Make sure you understand. If the person is not explaining things in terms you understand, make them rephrase it. No question is too basic to ask. Do not hang up or leave an office without clearly understanding what just took place.

8. Set deadlines. Don’t settle for “I’ll get back to you”. Set a definite date for a response or action. When that date arrives, write one follow-up request, stating the lack of action, setting another date. If nothing happens, then move on to another strategy. There is not point in chasing someone who has no intention of assisting you.

9. Be persistent. The bureaucrats have time on their side and hope to “wait you out”. Keep contacting them and demonstrate that you have no intention of giving up.

10. Know the pros. Keep a list of the names and phone numbers of people who are knowledgeable and have been helpful. Be nice to these people and return to them if you need help.

11. Know when to quit. There are times when you must drop your cause. Know when your determination has turned to obsession.

12. Be professional. Always be courteous, professional and honest. Your credibility is a key element in your dispute.

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Medical Recovery Services: Helping Binc Reduce Medical Bills

In just over two years of working with Medical Recovery Services (MRS), Binc has been able to help make a substantial difference in the lives of 20 bookstore employees and their families. The MRS staff provides professional and detailed support to advocate for the best care at the lowest prices before, during or after a medical illness.

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Many of the bookstore employees requesting assistance with medical bills have come to Binc after serious medical procedures, such as a knee replacement, heart surgery and even chemotherapy. These bookstore employees who were experiencing extreme financial hardship came to us with a total of $78,000 in medical debt and MRS successfully negotiated these bills down to $34,500. with the 56% total savings negotiated by MRS, Binc was able to eliminate all of the outstanding bills.

MRS services and support has helped Binc be good stewards of the dollars generously donated by bookstore employees, bookstore owners, publishers and friends of the Foundation. If you or someone you know is dealing with a medical illness that has caused a financial hardship MRS is a great resource. If you are a bookstore employee experiencing a medical illness please contact Binc to see how we can help.

Needymeds – Great resource for affordable medical care information

NeedyMeds is a great non-profit resource website; it is one of my go-to websites for grant recipients needing help with medical bills. Their mission is to help “people in need find assistance programs to help them afford their medications and costs related to health care.”

Their website is packed with great information – really packed! When navigating NeedyMeds, go slowly and give yourself time to take it all in. I highly recommend starting your journey on Needymeds website homepage and giving yourself at least 30 minutes to explore that page completely. Once you are familiar with the homepage sidebar and have signed up to receive the NeedyMeds drug discount card, it is time to delve deeper into the site. I recommend visiting the diagnosis-based assistance page if you need help with a specific diagnosis or the free/Low-cost/sliding-scale clinics to find an affordable care center near you.

Over the course of the year, I will periodically share my helpful hints about the programs & services of NeedyMeds and other national organizations that you might find useful in your daily life.

Stay tuned and learn about more great websites, charitable organizations and state-run programs.

Making Room for Giving Tuesday

We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals….Wouldn’t it be great to have a day for giving back?

On Tuesday November 27, 2012 charities, families, businesses and individuals are coming together to transform the way people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season.

It’s a simple idea. Find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to join in acts of giving. Tell everyone you can about what you are doing and why it matters. Join a national celebration of our great tradition of generosity.

And together we’ll create ways to give more, give better and give smarter.

New York’s 92nd Street Y was the catalyst and incubator for #GivingTuesday, joined by the United Nations Foundation and an amazing team of influencers all offering their ideas, contacts and wisdom to help shape and improve the concept.

But what really matters is YOU. #GivingTuesday relies on people everywhere playing their part to make it a real success.

Find out more about Giving Tuesday here.

Click here to find out how you can give to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation to help support booksellers in need.

Relief for booksellers in need

Reposted from Melville House. Written by Dustin Kurtz.

In the aftermath of disasters like Hurricane Sandy, it’s easy and common for the parts of the internet which we and our readers frequent to make much of the loss of books. We’re raised from a very young age to think of books as sacred, their preservation a desperate cause. When books are destroyed, the reaction is akin to mourning. Witness the outcry over books destroyed at Printed Matter or powerHouse Arena here in New York City this past week, or Bartleby’s Books in Vermont (a store dear to our heart for obvious reasons) during Tropical Storm Irene last year. See also the enormous popularity of our recent post about how to salvage water-damaged books.

I wouldn’t call that reaction misplaced, but I think it does tend to steal attention from other dire effects of natural disasters, and that is on the booksellers themselves. For stores along the entire Eastern seaboard, this has been a week of diminished or no sales. Stores in downtown Manhattan like Three Lives, McNally Jackson or the Mysterious Bookshop only regained power on Saturday. The fantastic Wachtung Booksellers in New Jersey is still without. In almost every case, this will mean a period without pay for the booksellers that make those stores what they are. Bookselling in this country is an underpaid profession, one with no opportunity to build personal or institutional safety nets. For booksellers, like much of the modern service industry, the loss of a week’s pay can trigger a disastrous spiral.

I thought it appropriate then, in the wake of Sandy, to take a moment to highlight one foundation that is working to help booksellers when disasters, wet and windy or otherwise, make lives difficult. The Book Industry Charitable Foundation offers small grants specifically for booksellers, meant chiefly to “stabilize the household finances so that an emergency situation does not overwhelm the household and spiral into a more extreme financial need” according to executive director Pamela French. Since early October, BINC has begun partnering with the American Booksellers Association to offer aid to their member stores. I spoke with Alison Foreman of the Foundation last week about her organization and it’s role in cases like the wake of Sandy.

DK: The foundation was started by Borders employees and founders back in 1995. Was it meant from the start to be open to booksellers everywhere, or was it envisioned as a Borders-specific endeavor?

Alison Foreman: The Borders Foundation was started in 1996 by a group of Borders employees at the corporate office when a store manager on the West coast reach out to them on behalf of their employee who was experiencing an extreme financial hardship as a result of a loss of household income due to divorce/separation. That very first grant was $323 and made a big difference for the bookstore employee and their family.

Following the first grant a group of dedicated volunteers formed a committee to facilitate the processing of filing the paperwork to have the Borders Group Foundation recognized by the state of Michigan and nationally as a 501(c)3 charitable organization. The idea or notion was that the Foundation would operate as a way for employees to reach out and help each other and be the heart of Borders. Over the fifteen years that BGF operated many employees gave to the organization and received support from the Foundation either via the financial assistance program, scholarship, financial education or bereavement outreach.

The Borders Group Foundation was created to be an organization dedicated to Borders employee helping Borders employee. The original mission did not focus outside of the Borders organization. However, when Borders went into liquidation the board of the Foundation began the process to review the long term strategic options of what might be next for the charity. What came out of the research and strategic planning with the help of another industry charity named the Two Ten Foundation (shoe industry charity) was that the board and many of our supporters wanted the Foundation to continue, but with an expanded mission. The vision was to expand and offer our programs to help all booksellers in the industry as the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.

DK: Do the majority of your donations come from booksellers, whether individual or companies, or are publishers involved as well?

AF: Originally, as BGF, the majority of donations came from Borders employees with a company match of 50 cents to the dollar (up until 2009). Additionally, over the years we have received donations from publishers and other vendors connected to the industry.

Now, as the Binc Foundation we receive donations from many Borders alumni, support from vendors and from partners like the ABA. We are just beginning to received donations from book industry employees.

Our goal in the coming year is to gain further support from the industry through awareness and having booksellers get involved with us through volunteerism. We would love to have booksellers and publishers volunteer as an ambassador for Binc, serve on a committee and possibly even add a few new board members to our organization. And through expanding our volunteers and improving awareness we hope to increase donations as booksellers see us in action.

DK: Perhaps the most pertinent question—do you tend to see an upswing in requests for assistance after events like Sandy this year or Irene last? Or is it most often a result of everyday individual disasters?

AF: You are correct we generally see an upswing in requests and inquiries when events like Sandy occur. Not only do we receive requests for emergency hardship support but we also receive requests from booksellers after the event has occurred. Some booksellers may find their household needs help in the aftermath with repairs or with essential household expenses (like rent or mortgage) if a family member was unable to work for an extended period due to the disaster and that results in extreme financial hardship or burden.

Booksellers under financial hardship, whether because of lost wages in the aftermath of the hurricane or for disasters of a more personal scale, are urged to contact the foundation here.

Dustin Kurtz is a marketing manager at Melville House, a former bookseller for McNally Jackson and, too often, a wiseacre.