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When my budget was cut in half (literally) at the beginning of last year, I started looking at some alternative sources of funding to supply my classroom. I wrote (and received) a handful grants, but man, those are difficult and time-consuming. I found the easiest and the best way for me to receive funding was through the website Donors Choose. I’ve had 3 projects funded in the course of a year, and my colleague has had two projects funded in addition since that time. If you’re interested in creating a Donors Choose project, we have some advice for you. But first, the basics.
First, you dream up a project. You can then enter information about your school and create a write-up telling who your students are as well as what they will be doing with the project. It takes less than an hour, and there is a tutorial that guides you through the entire process. You then select a store from those vendors with Donors Choose (Blick, Nasco, School Specialty, or Amazon, for example) and place the items you need in a virtual shopping cart. You then “check out” and your project goes live.
Individuals, companies, or foundations can then donate towards your project. Often times, matching funds are available for the first week of the project, so in effect, the money donated is doubled when those matching funds are added. When the project is fully funded, the materials are shipped directly to your school in your name and they are ready to use.
My first project, a classroom set of glazes, was funded within a matter of hours by friends, family, current and former students and their families. My second, in which I asked for a huge variety of sculptural materials, was funded within about a week by a few people that I know and a few people I’ve never met. Finally, my third project–drawing materials–was completely funded by U.S. Cellular; there are times when corporations will match funds or even fund projects completely.
So, if you’re feeling like you want to try out Donors Choose, here’s some advice.
Some teachers ask for big items (a printing press), others ask for smaller consumable materials. Decide on what your students need and why they need it.
When other people view your project, they see a picture you upload of your kids, your classroom, or your art. Pick something cool that draws people’s attention, and you may have a better chance of receiving those strangers’ donations.
Your description of what you need and why you need it should be clear and concise. Write and re-write it. Have someone look it over. Make sure it’s excellent.
That description we just talked about? Don’t make it about you, and don’t make it about your classroom. Make it about the kids! They’re the ones who need it, and they’re the ones who will use it. Tell people how the kids will be using the supplies.
Not everyone feels comfortable asking family and friends, but that is one way to go. Just put it on your Facebook page, and people can donate if they want. Ask some parents from your school. Ask local businesses to donate. With matching funds during that first week, even small donations add up quickly!
Use these 5 tips, and you will be well on your way to getting a Donors Choose project funded!
Have you used Donors Choose before? Was it a good experience?
What advice would you give to someone proposing his or her first project on the site?