Sunday, September 13, 2015

DonorsChoose...Tips and Tricks!

All of my teaching career has been spent in Title 1 schools. Unfortunately, most of the schools that need the most, have the least. I found out about DonorsChoose in 2011 and have had 25 projects funded, totaling over $14,500! It is insane to think about everything my class has received and the difference it has made in their learning. As teachers, we spend so much of our own money on things from pencils and paper to iPads. It is nice to have something like DonorsChoose to help offset what we spend as teachers and still get amazing supplies for our students.

About Donors Choose is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. Public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom projects requests on the site, and anyone can give any amount to help fund the project. You can create a project for things you and your students need. Anyone (including businesses) can donate to your project. Once your project is funded, your materials are sent to your school. Remember, it is completely free for teachers! Click HERE to learn more and see how to sign up!

My Experience with DonorsChoose
As I stated before, I have had 25 projects funded and they totaled over $14,500. I have received items for classroom supplies, Leap Frog items, tons of books, a globe, math and reading center games, 4 iPads, and even a Chromebook. My highest funded project was $1,430 and it included pretty much everything I would need to teach Science that year.

Tips and Tricks
Since I have completed over 25 projects, I have found out the basics of Donors Choose and have accumulated some pretty good tips.

1. Title- When you create your project it is important to put a catchy title. I like little phrases to draw readers in to my project. It is just like what we teach our students for their writing! Some of my favorite titles have been, Leap into Reading, Show Me the Money - Learning About Finances, Creating STEM Scholars, and What is Financial Literacy? Titles are important, it is the first thing a reader will see when looking at your project so draw them in!

2. Opening Sentence- Another important part is the starting sentence for your project. DonorsChoose suggests quotes or questions... I agree. I will normally asks a question or use an educational quote. It gives the reader an idea of what your project will be about and once again, it draw them in.

3. Cost ($500)- It can be so exciting shopping for your project but it is important to remember the statistics. The average cost of a funded project is $673 and the average donor gives $58. I recommend keeping your project around $500. I have had larger projects funded but it is difficult and doesn't happen often.

4. Take Your Time- When you are writing your project, take your time. People donate to projects that they feel are from the heart. They want to help projects that they truly see that students need. It is important to write from the heart and check your spelling errors!

5. Realistic- This kind of goes along with cost, but remember to be realistic. A project over $2000 probably won't be funded. A project asking for a bunch of iPads will probably be overlooked. However, you can ask for an iPad along with other things like books or supplies. People are more likely to donate to things over than technology. Projects relating to books, music, art, math, and science are funded most often.

6. "PIMP" Your Project- I linked my DonorsChoose account to my Facebook. Anytime I post a project, get a donation, or get a project funded, it automatically posts to my Facebook. This has helped me get countless donations. Family members and friends see the need in my class and want to help out. Sometimes it is $5 or $50 but it doesn't matter, any amount helps! If you are in a school with high parental involvement, share the page with your parents. They can send it out to their friends and family as well!

7. Quality Thank Yous- After your project is funded, you are required to write a little thank you (online) and post pictures. When I first started, I was so heartfelt with my letters and wrote way more than required. Due to this, I had the same people fund more and more of my projects because they saw how much it meant to the students and me! Unfortunately, I got busy and my letters weren't as good as they good have been and I saw the change with my projects getting funded.

8. *MY BIGGEST TIP* Match Offers- When I first started, I tried to get projects funded without Match Offers. It isn't impossible, but it is really difficult! Match Offers are companies or foundations partner with DonorsChoose to give 50% off of your project! So if your project is $500, the Match Offer will take it to $250. There are rules you have to follow to get this, but they are simple. You can see the current offers by looking at the Partner Funding Opportunities page and looking for your state. I live in Florida and right now there are 6 Match Offer opportunities currently available! Out of my 25 projects, 24 have been funded with Match Offers!
There used to be Almost Home Offers where your project would drop from whatever cost to $90 if it met the qualifications. However, I haven't seen any of those since 2012.
Also check out for match codes, these codes are what people can put it in when funding your project. The codes normally double the donation up to $100.

I hope this helps you get started with DonorsChoose or get more projects funded for your classrooms. If you have any other questions, just ask!


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