You’ve decided to give this DonorsChoose.org thing a whirl and you want to make sure your classroom project will be funded. Here’s everything you need to know about funding your projects and getting your students the resources they need!
Since 2001, public school teachers have been posting projects on DonorsChoose.org and telling folks about those projects. They’ve collectively developed and refined the ways they go about this, helping to fund more than one million classroom projects. Now, we’ve distilled all of this success into four essential steps you can take for your project.
1. Post a project for $600 in resources (or less)
When you create a classroom project, you’re online shopping through our site (at places like Amazon, Lakeshore Learning, and more than 15 other vendors) and then writing a couple of paragraphs about your students (so donors get a sense of your classroom). As you create your project, here’s how to set it up for success: Keep your shopping cart total to $600 or less.
Teacher Dave Stuart Jr. explains: “Smaller projects are easier to get funded than larger projects.”
Keeping your shopping cart below $600 allows you to get those resources to your students on the double. (If you need a lot of materials, don’t worry. You can simply post multiple $600 projects.)
2. Send 4 emails
Once you submit your project, it’s time to make sure people know about it. Email is the most effective way to spread the word. However, there’s an email secret that our most successful teachers use: The best email plans have two parts.
Part one: Send an individual email to three people who care about you and your students. Let each person know why you thought they might be excited to check out your project. (For example, maybe your mom always supported your dream to be a teacher or your best friend is always asking what you’re up to with your students.) These three emails will jumpstart your project in a huge way.
Now for part two: Send a fourth email to 5-10 additional people who care about you and your students. Ask them to spread the word about your project.
“I believe most people want to help students and teachers but either don’t know how or have a limited budget,” explains teacher Michelle Ramos. “I always tell them that it’s fine if they can’t contribute. Instead, I ask them to post the link to our project on their social media and many are happy to do so.” (And if they donate, even better.)
Just a few ideas for your email list: Your extended family, your running group or book club, that one friend who is amazing with social media, your principal, your students’ parents, your old college buddies, the head of your neighborhood association… the list goes on.
3. Create at least one post for your Facebook page
Let your wider group of acquaintances know about your project. Tell them about your students and give a little preview of the amazing things you’re up to. They may be inspired to donate or help spread the word.
One terrific moment to post is when you first submit your project. For example, you could start you post with, “I just submitted a request for my students on DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit that helps support public school teachers. Check it out: <<insert project link here>>”.
4. Thank every single donor (right away)
When a donor gives to your project, respond with a quick, thoughtful thank-you. This doesn’t just get your gratitude endorphins flowing (though it’ll do that too). It also helps you fund this project — and maybe even the next one.
Your message lets a donor know how much you appreciate their donation. It also implicitly encourages help with any projects you might post in the future. Bonus: Prospective supporters can see that you’re super engaged with your project and are more likely to donate. A solid thank-you note is the crucial final step in any project’s success.
These techniques have helped over 400,000 teachers bring materials to their students. Follow all four and your project will be next.
“Being a DonorsChoose.org teacher means being part of a whole network of generous people: teachers who share ideas and donors who support projects,” says Dona Helmer. “I am always amazed by the folks who reach out and and are willing to help me and my kids by donating to my projects.”