Monday, March 18, 2013
8 Tips for Getting a Donors Choose Project Funded
Over the past few years, I've been fortunate enough to have eight projects on DonorsChoose.org fully funded. I can't tell you how much these resources have transformed my classroom and teaching. If you aren't aware of DonorsChoose.org, it is a non-profit organization that allows classroom teachers to request materials for their students. After a project is posted, donors from all over the world can donate from $1 to any amount of their choosing. Some of the materials that my classroom has received include: a new listening center station, books on CD, reading pillows, a classroom carpet, math games, classroom laminator and laminating sheets, math manipulatives, magnetic letters and magnetic boards, and chapter books. It is absolutely amazing how willing people are to help and how generous they are.
Through my experiences posting and promoting classroom projects, I've learned different ways to help a project become fully funded. Now, there are many other teachers who have had a lot more projects funded (some have even had over 100 projects funded- wow!) so this is just my two-cents! =) Okay, here are my 8 tips for getting a Donors Choose project funded for your classroom:
1. Post classroom projects that are $400 and under
You will have the best chance at getting your project funded if it is under $400. If you need, for example, a new listening center, books on CD, and pillows for your students to sit on, you may want to consider posting the materials in separate projects. You could put the listening center and pillows together in one project and then request classroom pillows in another project. Now, there will be times when you would like to request a larger item for your classroom. Just know that teachers have the best success with smaller projects under $400.
2. Create a catchy title for your project
When donors are scrolling through classroom projects on the website, the first thing they will most likely see is your project request's title. Make it an interesting one that will grab their attention! Instead of a title like "We Need Magnetic Letters" consider a catchier title such as "Letters Here, Letters There, Magnetic Letters Everywhere!" Use alliteration, humor, or sing-songy titles to attract attention to your project.
3. Write a great opening paragraph
Along with your title, you will also want to make your opening paragraph interesting. Donors will see the first 2-3 sentences of your project request when browsing through projects. Just as we teach our students, you want to "hook" the reader and make them want to read on! Some ways to do this include asking a question or using an interesting quote that goes along with your project. For one of my projects, I requested math manipulatives and began with "When was the last time you used math? Chances are, you've used math sometime within the last hour. I want my students to be math problem solvers both in second grade and as they grow into adults."
4. Use an interesting picture on your homepage
Another thing that donors will see while searching through projects is your classroom photo. You want to use a picture that represents your classroom and students. Be careful not to post a close-up picture of your students' faces though. I like to take a picture of my students holding up the letters that spell "Thank You Donors!" This helps donors see that the materials go to a real classroom, with real students, and that we are thankful for their consideration.
5. Be the first donation to your classroom project
I've seen great success when I begin the donations by giving a small amount. This shows donors that you believe the materials are needed enough to donate yourself. Your donation doesn't have to be anything major- even a $5 donation will do! When leaving a comment on the donation page, I always write something like "I donated to this project because I believe my students are worth it! Plus, I know how much these materials will benefit my classroom."
6. Use automatic updates with Facebook
A great way to get your project out there is to connect your Donors Choose teacher account with Facebook. Each time you post a new project, get a donation, or complete a project, it will be automatically posted to your Facebook account. You can do this by going to your account, and turning on the automatic updates with Facebook (at the top of your account page).
7. Promote, promote, promote!
Don't be afraid to promote your project request. At first, I was very hesitant to share my project with my family, friends, and students' families. I still try to be cognisant of how often I promote my project- I don't want to drive anyone away by posting too much. But no one will know about your project if you don't get the word out there! I always send an email to my students' families when a project is first posted and include the link if they would like to make a donation. This makes it very easy for them. After the initial email, I don't send any more but I randomly include updates in my weekly classroom newsletter. I will let them know when we receive a new donation, how far away we are from reaching our goal, and tell them my excitement when a project is fully funded.
Some other ways that you can promote your project are: on your classroom blog (if you have one), through email to friends and family, and by encouraging others to share your project request with their own friends and family.
8. Don't give up!
If your first project doesn't get completely funded, don't give up! It takes a lot of hard work to get it funded but sometimes, it just doesn't happen. I have had a couple of projects that didn't get completed. It was definitely a bummer but I didn't give up. I waited a little bit and then posted another project. If a project has partial funding when it expires, donors who contributed have two choices. They can give the amount they donated to your classroom in the form of a gift card for your next project or can donate the money towards a different teacher's project.
I hope these tips have helped give you some ideas on how to get a project funded. Be sure to visit DonorsChoose.org and get a project posted. You won't regret it!