Update on my Donors Choose Project

In my Setting Up post I talked about fundraising through DonorsChoose.org for STEM materials. I am excited to say that within one week my project was fully funded! This was my first project ever through Donors Choose and I am so grateful to the individuals who contributed, many of whom have never met me or my students. The generosity and kindness of people, both friends and strangers, amazes me. My students really deserve to have high-quality STEM materials, even though I could never have personally afforded to buy these materials for my classroom.

If you're a little nervous to start a project (like I was!) I have a few quick tips to get you started. These are especially for funding technology or materials to support technology education in your classroom:
  1. Find a match offer. Technology projects can get expensive very quickly. I am so thankful that Lakeshore Learning matched any and all contributions to my project. It really made the difference for donors to have their contributions doubled without even having to type in a code or meet any minimums, and donors can search the site for only those projects that have match offers. If you can find a match offer that fits your project needs, then it will make reaching your funding goal so much easier. Donors Choose provides a list of partner funding opportunities that is updated often.
  2. Find a good-fit fundraising site. My next project will be to sign up for Reddit Gift for the Teachers when it opens (usually in early August). I have signed up for the past two years and have received great technology for my classroom (my headphone splitter and iPad adapter both came from this gift drive). The donors who sign up for this match process seem to be really unbiased to giving teachers what they need and are not looking to only give to a certain "type" of project. This makes it great for primary school teachers with small tech needs - sometimes it can be hard to explain why you need a robot for a four year old but these are open-minded givers! If you don't make it into Reddit match process, I would recommend finding a similar program that either gives you a lot of room to explain your need or has donors in your niche (something like ConnectED is just one example).
  3. Clarify your pitch. This can be especially difficult if you're an early childhood teacher. Make it clear that your students are not just using the technology as a "toy." DonorsChoose.org did a study of why teachers are asking for tech in their fundraising projects, and some great talking points for your own project can be found in their results. Unfortunately, technology is "less likely to get funded than other project types" (65% of projects are funded), at least on Donors Choose. Music and arts projects do very well, as well as projects that mention science, so if you can pitch your technology needs as relating to these areas it may help your chances of receiving needed funding. I referred to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) frequently in my project description, rather than talking solely about robots or coding.
  4. Break it up into smaller projects. Yes I know we need the tablets and the robots and the games and the projectors. However, big ticket projects are not as popular with donors. Click here for additional tips from DonorsChoose.org on keeping the costs of technology projects low. However, keep in mind that you may be able to set your fundraising goal a bit higher if you have a match offer.
  5. Find partners at your school. If you don't have the technology you need, it's likely that other teachers in your school have the same problem. Partnering with teachers and administrators in your school to write grant proposals can help to get more done than what you could accomplish as one teacher. As just one example, Apple has given 2,930 devices, including iPads and Apple TVs, to their underserved partner schools in the United States. Making school-wide technology needs a priority can give you access to fundraising opportunities that may not be open to individual classrooms. Partnering with older grades can also help to clarify your instructional goals for donors if you're an early childhood teacher.
Best of luck with your fundraising teacher friends! I am by no means an expert, but I hope these tips will help if you have technology needs in your classroom. Still working on getting a tablet for your students? You don't need to wait to start teaching coding to your students - check out my post about unplugged coding here.

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