Raising Money on DonorsChoose.org: 11 Tips for TeachersMay 10, 2017
Text and photos by Eric Crouch (GA '16)
Fundraising: It's one of the necessary evils of teaching today. Budgets are tight, families are stretched, and classrooms need technology and supplies.
Enter DonorsChoose.org, a crowdfunding website where teachers make "wish list" requests for everything from technology to art supplies to field trip funds, and generous donors (both individuals and corporations) contribute to worthy projects. I've been using DonorsChoose.org since 2011 and have funded more than 60 projects for my classes at Double Churches Elementary in Columbus, Georgia. I've also taught teachers in my district how to create their own DonorsChoose.org projects. Altogether, Double Churches has raised more than $150,000 on the site, from both community members and companies like Publix, Tom's of Maine, ESPN, Target, Kia, Chevron and Google.
Here are 11 things I've learned about raising money on DonorsChoose.org. If you've got a question I haven't answered here, feel free to ask it in the comments at the end of this article.
1. Do it today.
I always hear from teachers who are very interested in my projects or see the boxes in the office. Yet for some reason they keep waiting for "a better time." Tomorrow will always be a day away and so will your projects. Today is the day to start. If you haven't already set up an account on DonorsChoose.org, just do it today.
2. Study successful projects.
There are so many projects on the site already! Existing projects can give you ideas and provide a template on how to approach your project. Looking at projects that have already been chosen for funding opportunities will help you know exactly what components contributors are looking for and will yield better results when you apply.
3. Look for funding opportunities.
Each state has a resource page that is dedicated to partners who want to help bring your projects to life. Select your state and follow the guidelines. These partnerships go a long way toward getting projects funded.
4. Aim low (yes, really).
Try to keep the total amount you're asking for below $500. Many donations from individuals are small. If your project is $2,500 then supporters may not feel their $25 donation is making an impact, which reduces the likelihood they will donate. Keeping your project small increases your success rate.
5. Share, share, share.
Make up business cards with the URL for your DonorsChoose.org page to hand out to friends, family and local businesses. If you're active on social media (and you should be), share your project with your networks on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. When you receive donations, give supporters a shout-out: It makes them feel good and helps you build a relationship with people who may be able to partner with your class long-term.
6. Email everyone.
Send messages to all your friends and family to create partnerships with your class. Monthly donations of $5 or $10 go a long way. Add a link to your DonorsChoose.org page to your email signature; it's an easy way to let people know that you care about your kids and are always trying to do your best for them.
7. Teach students to sell.
Think about how hard it is to say no to a Girl Scout during cookie season—it's even harder to turn away a student asking for materials for her school. Give kids those business cards (see number five above) and have them ask their doctors, dentists and church members. These projects benefit the whole class, so it's good for students to have some skin in the game. This level of ownership brings the project to life. Who could resist this sales team?
8. Let students choose the projects.
My students have been begging for a photography club since the beginning of the year. In February I told them to write a project for DonorsChoose.org. Their project was funded in less than 24 hours. Within a week we had our materials and our first meeting, and we've been meeting weekly ever since. My students are using their new photography skills and equipment to document our class and school events.
9. Always have a project up.
Opportunities for "flash funding" from corporate partners come up regularly, and you want to be there to take advantage of them. Even if your project isn't moving as quickly as you had hoped, don't give up. You can't get funded if you don't have a project going.
10. Build your community.
Inviting people from the community into your class is another great way to build bridges. Although the speaker may not donate, he or she may tell others how awesome your class was, which can lead to donations from unexpected sources. Share the great work you and your students are doing with supporters so they can see how you are using the hard-earned money they donated.
11. Say thank you.
Writing thank-you notes shows people how grateful you are for their donations. We also make thank-you videos to share on social media or email to donors. The more you express your appreciation, the more likely donors will be to come back and support your class again.
What else do you want to know about using DonorsChoose.org? Share your questions in the comments below. We want to help you be successful!
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