As school districts across the country have to tighten their belts just to make payroll, teachers are finding that, more and more, they must provide many of the necessary supplies for the classroom themselves. Whether it’s furniture, technology, books, manipulatives, or art resources, educators are scrambling to ensure that their students have what they need.
Donors Choose to the Rescue
One of the ways that teachers are achieving this is to create “fund me” projects on websites such as Donors Choose. Begun by a teacher at a Bronx public high school, the premise is simple. A teacher writes up a description of a classroom project that directly impacts students and posts it. Donors Choose helps to advertise the need and asks the teacher to reach out to her circle of friends and parents as well. Interested “backers” donate tax-deductible money to the website and, once funded, Donors Choose orders the requested resources and ships them to the teacher. The teacher thanks the donors and posts photos of the students using the new materials, along with thank you’s and stories from them. 76% of public schools in the United States have posted a project on the site, and more than $546,754,072 has been given by citizen donors thus far.
Getting Your Project Funded
70% of the projects on Donors Choose are eventually funded. To ensure that yours is one of them, here are four tips to make your project irresistible to donors:
Tip #1: Start Small
While your classroom may really need $5,000 worth of Chromebooks, don’t make that your first request. Instead, start with a project that requires $100 to $300 in funding. Your project expires after four months, so you want something that will be funded quickly. After your first success, you can do additional requests (ready: copy and paste!) to add more of what you need.
Tips #2: Paperwork Counts
Just as everywhere else in life, getting the paperwork right for your Donors Choose project is critical. Answer all of the questions carefully. Spend time creating your title. It should be specific and include the grade level/age group and subject. For example, “3rd Graders Today, Biologists Tomorrow!” is better than “Need Microscopes for My Class.”
Take at look at other projects that are already posted that are similar to yours. Where did they get their pricing from? How did they explain their students’ needs? How did they describe the impact that receiving the requested materials would ultimately have on learning? Then have another teacher read over your proposal to see if it’s clear and also tugs at her heartstrings.
People get involved and donate if you are able to tell a story that inspires them and touches them emotionally. Giving money like this is not a decision made by our brains, but instead by our hearts. So be sure you create a clear picture in their minds of your students and what this project will mean for them.
Tips #3: Be Patient
Once you’ve submitted your project, it normally takes three days for the Donors Choose staffers to vet it. Then, if it’s your first project, keep waiting even after being approved. You will receive another email from them that gives you a promotional match code offer, which almost ensures that your project will be funded. Don’t start publicizing your need until after you receive it.
Tips #4: Spread the Word!
While strangers do have the ability to donate to your cause, you are more likely to be funded by people who know you, your students, or your school. So get the word out! Link the project on your Facebook account, send it out through Twitter. Add the link to your email signature. Post it in the teacher workroom and on the bulletin board at your church.
Create a nice PDF (try using Smore or Canva or the templates that Donors Choose will send you) and share it with parents about what you are trying to do for their children. Include a photo of the item(s) that you have requested to help parents know what you are asking for. And explain how the promo code works and be sure to include it. The first seven days your project is posted are critical, so be quick about sharing it.
Here are a few last tidbits to help you get the funding you need:
- Once you’ve had a project funded, get in the habit of always having one posted. (You never know who might want to donate!)
- Regularly check the Donors Choose Partner Funding page for special promotions and match codes that might apply, as well as on the Match Offers page. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook for more information.
- If no one has donated to your project in the first few days, go ahead and anonymously donate a small amount yourself. With the match code, this will show up as two donations. And people are more likely to donate to a project that already has some funding.
Creating your first project only takes about 30 minutes. So grab a cup of coffee and get started now!
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