It’s that time of year again when teachers begin to spend thousands of dollars on their classrooms- Back to School! But let’s be honest, there is only so much you can do with your budgeted ‘donation’ to your classroom each year. Plus, sometimes things come up during the school year so we can’t spend all of the allocated funds right up top in September. What do we do?
The answer- Donors Choose! According to their website, Donors Choose is a website where “We make it easy for anyone to help a classroom in need, moving us closer to a nation where students in every community have the tools and experiences they need for a great education.” According to me, Donors Choose is a life saver where family, friends and strangers have helped me get the materials my students need.
Three years ago I moved classrooms and was given an empty room (no, seriously) two weeks before school started, and I had to get it prepped for 27 kindergarteners with no budget. After crying a little bit and spending $1,500 of my own money, I logged onto Donors Choose and submitted 5 projects that year. To me Donors Choose is not just a website where I get projects funded, it is a place and a group of people, who have helped me through when I had no where else to turn to for class supplies and resources. Without this community my students would not have been able to experience amazing lessons, games, and field trips.
So if you work for a public school that lacks resources for your students you too can submit a project to be funded by Donors Choose.
If you have a need for supplies or student resources, furniture, a class trip, a special speaker, a professional development opportunity, or even a special request Donors Choose will be your MVP.
First you fill out a form that asks you what you need. This is where you get to tell potential donors what resources your students need.
I love this part of the project request because you get to go shopping! The great thing about Donors Choose is that they partner with a lot of great companies that will have exactly what you need for your students (amazon, Lakeshore Learning, Kaplan, School Specialty, Scholastic, and Blick Art Supplies to name a few). Once you have found the resources you need you submit your shopping list and then tell the world why you need the items.
The ‘why’ section is the place to tell potential donors what makes your classroom so special and why you need the materials. After submission, in my experience, it takes up to a week to get your project posted and then you can begin to get your project funded.
Teachers submit requests, wonderful strangers help fulfill your request, and Donors Choose purchases your materials and sends them to your school. The internet is amazing!
Once your project is posted you have to hustle. Yes, people will fund your project but no one is going to make it rain if you don’t work hard for it.
Your family and friends are your biggest supporters and probably already help you out. They give you printer paper, notebooks, crayons etc. and they probably also save things they think you can use in your classroom. Donors Choose gives them the opportunity to help you out more strategically on things that you have requested. After the submission of your project you get a template email that you can send out to your network. This email gives them all the details about your project and a direct link for them to support you.
Reaching out to your social network can be a little weird at first. But think of it this way:
A) Your project will not get funded by strangers alone. You need your family and friends.
B) You already help so many people fund their projects (girl scout cookies anyone?)
The whole point of social media is to keep us connected and though your mini feed is full of your teacher friends, your friends and family might only have you so don’t hesitate to share your project on your social media profiles.
If possible donate to your own project. I always try to make the first donation because it shows other potential donors that you are invested- you’re willing to put some of your money towards the project as well. However, if you are unable to donate yourself don’t worry about it. There will be lovely people (friends and strangers) in your corner to help get you funded.
I have been very lucky to have had all of my projects funded, and luckily, I have had all of them funded within the first week of posting. Do I have secret millionaire friends that always fund my projects-NO! But if you are dedicated and are willing to blow up mini feeds and the twittersphere, you will get projects funded.
- Share your project with your students and their families. There will be no one more excited to be getting new supplies or resources than your kiddos, and their families. It brings everyone together for a common cause. You can even find flyers and print outs for families here.
- Post your project to your facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn profiles. I even post a picture of the project page to my Instagram. The more you share the project, the more people see it, and eventually the more people who might donate. Plus, in my posts I always ask my friends to share the link. All it takes is one new person who is willing to share the project or donate to it for your project to be funded.
- Remind everyone their donation is tax deductible!
- Post projects that have double funding. Sometimes companies will double each donation or donate the first specific amount, or just about anything. Check here for more funding opportunities.
- Remember above when I said it takes your project up to a week to post? Well if you submit your project during what I like to call their ‘off time’ it takes less time and you can begin funding your project even sooner. ‘Off time’ would be during the summer and in between new quarters. At the beginning of each school year, new quarters, and during the holidays there could be more submissions and it will take the Donors Choose staff a little bit longer to approve your request.
- If you give yourself enough planning time you should post projects right before the holidays. Sometimes people give back to their communities during the holidays and they choose Donors Choose as their charity. Be ready!
- Be quick and keep up with the thank you notes and donor interactions. Remember that someone just gave you their hard earned money and they deserve some thanks.
- Help a teacher out, next time a friend posts a project share it with your network or, if possible, donate. She’ll love you and you’ll know you’re helping out deserving students. Plus, we all need a little bit of good karma.
Now that you know what Donors Choose is and how to get your project funded begin your own project! Donors Choose, you’re the real MVP.
Have any questions about the application process? Want to share your stellar project ideas with us? Let us know below!