They have been helping my classroom and students for years and they are ah-ma-zing!
For those of you who may not know about Donors Choose, view some of my posts about them HERE or watch this great intro video with some very famous faces :)
If you are intimidated or not sure where to begin, I wanted to share some very helpful resources to give you some know-how and hopefully get you started on your project sooner rather than later.
Top 10 Tips for Getting Started on DonorsChoose.org:1. Sign-up: Get started by signing up for FREE on their Teacher Site. It's simple and you can customize your profile to link to Twitter, Facebook, and more. Plus, you can personalize your own website address to make it easy for others to find.
2. Build Your Points: It's easy to want ev-er-y-thing in the world, but start small with your first project. For my first project, I asked for 15 sets of fraction cubes. It wasn't iPads or another big-ticket item-- those come later after you have built up your points. You are given a small amount of points at the beginning that equate to a certain dollar amount for your project. As you complete steps after a project is funded, you can build these points up and then begin asking for larger, more expensive items.
3. Keep it Kid-Focused & Positive: You will need to write a title (make it catchy!) and a few paragraphs about your needs. There are examples along the way to help you, so don't worry if nothing comes to mind right away. The majority of donors are people just like you and me, but not teachers. The power behind Donors Choose is that non-teachers can have immediate impact on kids in a classroom, so be sure to tell them how much your students need the item and how they will benefit from it. I also like to include that the resources will last for many years to come (if applicable), so they know their donation will have an effect even past this year's class. Keeping it always framed in the positive (while being honest about the needs level of your class and school) will help donors feel they are part of a positive change and that's the coolest part of the Donors Choose process :)
4. Write Well: It goes without saying, but be sure you have written your paragraphs with correct spelling, grammar, and that you include everything in the short amount of space that is given. You want your donors to know the big picture as well as the specific needs of your class, and that's not always an easy task. Remember, they are probably not teachers, but they do care a lot about teachers, classrooms, and kids, so using your best writing skills is a must. Although they do provide spell check, I would also recommend having someone else read your proposal before you submit, just for an extra set of eyes :)
5. Get Permission: Before you add any pictures of kids, be sure you have their parents sign the Donors Choose permission slip. These photos will be a part of your profile and your projects, so be sure you are following all of the rules Donors Choose sets forth. The majority of my parents have NO problems signing and returning the form, and I am able to use the photos for my profile picture and projects, which helps make my profile personal and relatable :)
6. Be Aware of Due Dates: Your project will have a due date and after it is (hopefully!) funded, there will be a due date that you will need to closely abide by. It's easy to let these dates pass you by, especially in the thick of the school year, but your points will grow if you follow them. There are typically three steps to complete a "Thank You Package": photos of students using/doing the project, a thank you note from you, and student-made thank you notes. Very doable, but mark your calendars ;)
7. Use Social Media: I mentioned social media in Tip #1, but it's worth repeating on its own tip :) You can link up your projects to Facebook, Twitter, and email. I have found they are very active on Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram, so it's awesome to get "liked" or re-tweeted to build interest in your project. You can also post when your project gets funding along the way-- this is a great way to remind others about your project without it sounding like you're begging :) You can also blog about it, add their icon to the sidebar (I have it on mine with a direct link to my project page) and mention it in a post or newsletter if you write one. Getting the word out about a project is key, so be sure to tap into social media whenever you can.
8. Find Match Codes: These are a lifesaver and help your project get funded in no time!! They aren't around all of the time, but it's always worth a little bit of work on your part to search the web for some before you email potential donors. I know my donations go way up when there's a 1:1 match-- plus, it's funded in half the time! Donor Choose will typically host their own a few times a year and recently, many companies are offering them as well. You can also ask friends and family if their company does matching-- there's a helpful how-to about this HERE. Laura Candler also hosts a Sunday Fun-Day on her Facebook page where she will donate to one project each week!
9. Be PATIENT! This is by far my worst trait, so I won't ever judge, but patience is KEY with any Donors Choose project. They stay live on the site for many months, and that's for a reason. Sometimes you'll get a wave of funding, then go weeks with nothing. Other times a company will come in and fund nearly all of it, or even complete it for you. There's no rhyme or reason, other than getting the word out and hoping it works, so don't fret if it has been a while and you haven't heard much. Keep you eyes peeled for a Match Code (see Tip #8) and promote on social media (Tip #7) and let it run its course :)
10. Repeat and Encourage Others: Once your project is funded and you've hit your due dates, it's time to celebrate! Donors Choose is addicting and it's also a great resource to pass along to other teacher friends who may be looking for special items for their class they could never afford otherwise. Once you go through your first project, you will realize how easy and positive it is, so don't hold off any longer! Head over to their Teacher Site and get started!!
What are your tips and suggestions for using DonorsChoose.org in your classroom? Leave them below along with any questions you may have :) Good luck to those of you who are just starting, as well!!