I have a deep appreciation for the teachers that I interacted with during my time in Virginia Public Schools. They did as much as they could to ensure that all students had equal opportunities, though sometimes a lack of funding meant that some students would slip through the cracks because they didn’t have access to the technology or tools that they needed.
Luckily, there is a way to help educators get funding for their classrooms and buy the products that they need to run a successful classroom- a website called DonorsChoose. Today, I will be sharing resources all about DonorsChoose and how to write a successful project that will get funded. I will also be updating this post with links to my other DonorsChoose blog posts which will be published in October and November 2021 in preparation for a special partnership with Veronica With Four Eyes.
Who is eligible for DonorsChoose?
To be eligible for an account on DonorsChoose, the user must be a full-time employee of a school district or Office of Head Start. They must also be a “front line educator” who works directly with students at least 75% of the time at a United States public school, charter school, or Head Start Center. In some school districts, educators may need additional permission from their building administrator.
People that are eligible:
- Classroom teachers
- Guidance counselors
- School nurses
- Teachers who also act as coaches at the school where they teach
- Educators who work primarily in a single school (but no more than three schools)
People that are NOT eligible:
- Administrators, principals, or assistant principals
- Instructional coaches/teacher developers
- Parents/PTA Members
- Teacher’s assistants/paraprofessionals
- Student teachers
- Substitute teachers
- After school teachers
- Early Head Start classroom staff
- Ten Lessons My TVI Taught Me
- Dear Elementary School Teacher
- Why My Guidance Counselors Are The Reasons I Excel In College
What is DonorsChoose?
DonorsChoose is a nonprofit platform that allows users to donate directly to public school classroom projects and requests from all over the United States. Users can search for projects to fund based on geographic location, subject area, specific items to be funded, or keywords. My family and I have met many teachers and students over the years that have benefited from DonorsChoose and are proud to support such a great organization.
What can I request?
When each project is funded, educators earn points (usually 3 total) that they can use to submit future projects. It’s recommended that educators start with smaller, more inexpensive projects and work their way up to requesting larger items. Here are some examples of common requests, along with links to posts on my website that list example products that I use as a student with low vision
- Musical instruments
- Craft supplies
- Classroom supplies
These aren’t the only types of products that can be requested, but projects that involve special or unique things such as class speakers, field trips, or items that are not available through authorized vendors will cost more points. I have an upcoming post on requesting assistive technology products through DonorsChoose that will be added in October 2021.
- Elementary School Classrooms And Low Vision: Designing Accessible Classrooms Series
- Middle School Classrooms and Low Vision: Designing Accessible Classrooms Series
- How To Make iPad Accessible for Low Vision
When will I get funding?
Typically, it takes a couple of months for a project to get funded. Sometimes, DonorsChoose will also run promotions that allow donations to be matched by sponsors, which means that several products can be funded in a short amount of time.
Fall is a great time to post projects because people are often thinking about back to school and will want to use DonorsChoose gift cards they receive during the holidays. Once a project is fully funded, educators must confirm within six days that they still want the items and ensure that project photos, impact letters, and thank-you notes are all sent out before their due date.
Where can I get points?
New accounts start with 3 points so they can begin posting projects. Here are the point values for projects in ascending order:
- Materials in the vendor directory will cost 1 point, regardless of the price of materials
- Virtual class trips or class visitor projects cost 1 point
- Materials that are not in the vendor directory are considered a special request and costs 6 points
3 points can be earned after the completion of a successful project, which includes confirming materials once the project is fully funded, uploading an impact letter that talks about the project, and including student thank-you notes. Each task is worth one point.
Where can I request items?
For best results, it’s recommended that products be purchased through DonorsChoose authorized vendors to ensure timely delivery and high-quality items. Many common stores like Best Buy, Amazon Business, and Staples are on the list as well as specialty online retailers.
Why is DonorsChoose important?
Teachers will never have enough funding to get everything they need for their students. They often work with ridiculously small budgets- a music teacher may only get $75 to spend on 500 students, a classroom teacher may only get $100 for supplies, and a special education teacher may not get any funding for assistive technology. They often turn to additional funding sources, and DonorsChoose provides a safe and secure way to get this funding. By donating to projects on DonorsChoose, you can help students in a tremendous way and ensuring that they are able to receive a quality education, no matter where they live or what school they go to. I highly recommend learning how to use DonorsChoose to help fill in funding gaps, and to ensure that students have access to the tools they need to succeed for years to come.
- How To Embrace Assistive Technology With Limited Funding
- What I Want Congress Members To Know About Assistive Technology
How can I learn more?
I’m glad you asked! To learn more about how to use DonorsChoose in the classroom, head over to Part 2 of this post on how I helped to write a DonorsChoose project that got funded quickly, and check back for more DonorsChoose content that I will link below.