Membership FAQs

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Kepler’s Membership Program

  1. Why does Kepler’s have memberships? 
  2. What will the membership support be used for?
  3. Is Kepler’s a non-profit?
  4. How important is membership support to Kepler’s financial stability?
  5. How’s Kepler’s faring with the pandemic? 
  6. What's Kepler's thinking about its future?

 

  1. Why does Kepler’s have memberships? 

Kepler’s has relied on annual support from its members since 2005. Member support has been critical in Kepler’s ongoing efforts to pay fair wages to its hardworking staff. Support from members has enabled Kepler's to innovate and become the world-renowned community institution it is today. In this regard, Kepler’s operates very much like a public radio station or a museum that rely on annual donations from their supporters. Success of Kepler's membership program has inspired many bookstores to start similar membership programs.

 

  1. What will the membership support be used for?

2020 has been a challenging year for small businesses like Kepler’s. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Kepler’s has kept its team employed and engaged in serving our community through new programs, new partnerships, and new sales channels. Since its reopening in September 2020, Kepler’s sales have been running between 60-80% of its normal historical sales for this time of the year. Many operating costs have actually increased due to safety requirements and increased handling required by web orders. As a result, Kepler’s is continuing to incur losses. In addition, we are looking at an uncertain retail shopping environment for many more months.

Your membership will support Kepler’s efforts to stay afloat through the pandemic, keep its team employed at fair wages, and continue its mission-oriented work of deepening literacy, broadening horizons, and finding common ground in our community.

 

  1. Is Kepler’s a non-profit?

With expert assistance from the law firm Morrison & Foerster and a number of community champions, Kepler’s has developed an innovative hybrid business model that includes Kepler's Books, a social-purpose bookstore, and Kepler's Literary Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the community through literary and cultural programs. This innovative model has received worldwide attention and has been written up in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Many bookstores have started setting up similar non-profit organizations to increase their social impact and improve sustainability.

We would love to see the entire Kepler’s become a non-profit since it’s already operated like one for a long time. Our attorneys aren’t (yet) convinced that the Internal Revenue Service is ready to grant tax-exempt status to large multi-purpose bookstores like Kepler’s. We intend to keep exploring this.

 

  1. How important is membership support to Kepler’s financial stability?

Kepler's membership program brought in $362,181 in cumulative revenue over the last 7 years (2012-2019), i.e., $51,740 per year on average. Kepler’s Cumulative Net Income after Taxes during the same period was $172,755, i.e., $24,679 per year on average. Without membership support Kepler’s would not have been profitable during these years.

 

  1. How’s Kepler’s faring with the pandemic? 

Kepler’s bookstore had to be closed for 5.5 months from mid-March to the end of August. During this period, Kepler’s kept its team employed and engaged to serve our community through a number of creative initiatives including building a successful partnership with the Menlo Park Library, organizing our first Community Reads program, revamping our website, helping our customers with significantly higher sales through Kepler’s website. Kepler’s nonprofit events organization switched to producing online programs that have reached national audiences. Kepler’s received a PPP loan and has been smartly using the loan along with its small cash reserves to keep Kepler’s going. 

 

  1. What’s Kepler's thinking about its future?

Kepler’s leadership team’s goal is to transform Kepler’s into a sustainable literary institution with an Amazon-proof business model, living wages and benefits for its staff, and deep impact on our community. We refer to this as building the next-generation community bookstore. To accomplish this, we spun off Kepler’s award-winning events program into a nonprofit organization called Kepler's Literary Foundation, and transitioned to managing the bookstore like a nonprofit with deep community engagement and transparency. We have developed successful new partnerships with companies like SAP and Facebook. Kepler's is a shining example of what's possible when a community comes together and works together.

According to Kepler’s CEO Praveen Madan – “The work we do to build a more literary community is essential in a time when nearly 50% of American adults don’t read a single book after high school. Our team would like to stay focused on our long-term transformational work while continuing to help our customers find great reads on a daily basis. We would like to double down on developing new readers, ensuring a free flow of ideas in our community, and helping people of all beliefs in having a shared reality.” 

To learn more about Kepler's transformation please read this blog post by Praveen about his reflections on the Kepler's 2020 program.


Please email Kepler’s membership program manager Pam Grange at Pam@keplers.com if your question is not answered here.