When I was a senior in high school, I had the opportunity to work alongside my favorite teacher from elementary school and help to mentor students in the school news program. One of the things that I had noticed was that students desperately needed new video equipment to film videos outside of the traditional live news program, and I asked my mentor if they had considered posting a DonorsChoose project to help get funding for these items. They weren’t sure how to get started with writing a project for DonorsChoose, so I enlisted the help of a retired teacher, Mrs. J, who had worked a lot with the platform, and we all got to work researching and creating our project. I’m proud to say that the project was fully funded within a month, and the students were thrilled to get their new video equipment. Here are my tips for how to create a DonorsChoose project that will get funded, based on our own experiences.
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. I have an entire post that contains more background information about DonorsChoose that is linked below.
First, decide what product(s) you want and choose the vendor
It can be hard to decide what product(s) to request. One of the most important considerations when researching products is to ensure the products are high quality and will be able to withstand student wear and tear- for my project, it was important that a camera be able to withstand drops from approximately the same height as a fifth grader. If a teacher wants to request several items, it helps to break them down into smaller projects- a classroom request for thirty CD players might seem overwhelming, but having six listings for five CD players will get funded more quickly. Think about what products would get the most use in the classroom, or what products would provide the largest impact on individual students.
Taking photos for DonorsChoose
I strongly recommend that teachers not use faces of students or otherwise identifying information when taking photos for a project listing. While some projects feature class photos and student faces, more and more school districts are requiring that teachers use non-identifying photos. Many projects feature photos with multiple students focusing on a task or blur out children’s faces or names- I chose to use a photo where students had their heads turned away from the camera and made sure to cover identifying information such as names written on paper or the teleprompter that displayed sensitive student information. I will have an entire post about DonorsChoose and student privacy in October 2021.
Tell readers about your students
For the first part of the project listing, it helps to tell readers about your students and classroom, as well as the school in general. Here is an example:
“I run a video club for fourth and fifth graders so that they can learn basic videography skills and learn how to edit their own short videos. Several of my students have vision impairments and have trouble seeing the videos they produce because the cameras we have are producing low resolution videos. Because of this, I would like to purchase five video cameras that can produce high-resolution videos so that students can see what they are filming.”
Don’t be afraid of “negatives”
When writing for projects, don’t be afraid to mention “negative” things about your school. Use these “negatives” for the benefit of students. Here is an example of a description that Mrs. J wrote that shows why funding this project is important:
“Our school is a Title 1 school, so there is a substantial percentage of children who are eligible for free or reduced lunch. The school district does not disclose the exact percentage. Our school also has a significant number of students that are homeless or that live in transient housing. Approximately 15% of our students speak a language other than English, as their primary language. In addition, the number of students with vision impairment had quadrupled over the last two years and the number is expected to continue to grow.”
Describe specifically how the product will be used
How will these specific products help students in the classroom? Share the short term and long term benefits of funding this project, and why these products are necessary. Here is an example for how the video cameras will be used:
“These cameras will help our students to create high quality videos for the video club so that the students can clearly see what they are filming. The cameras will allow students to film in various lighting conditions and produce clear, crisp videos. This helps to raise student confidence and allow them to be included in an activity that is traditionally high in visuals. Learning to shoot and edit video is an invaluable skill that will help them in middle school, high school, and beyond with various school projects and can help students not only in their academics, but with social skills- they learn to work together, act professional on camera, and get to spend time with their peers doing an activity they love.”
How to promote your DonorsChoose project
Once you post a project, share it as much as you can. Social media is a great way to do this, as Facebook shares and Twitter retweets can easily reach a lot of donors. Other great methods include email, speaking at PTA meetings, talking to volunteers, and more. Users can subscribe to updates on when requests are made for a particular school or teacher so they can receive new project alerts.
What happens when the project is funded
Hooray, the project has been fully funded! A volunteer from DonorsChoose will order the product(s) requested and mail it to the school. Educators must confirm that they want the products within six days, confirm that the product(s) has been delivered within six days, and post a thank-you note to donors. After doing this, additional points are added to the account so that more projects can be posted.
Summary of how to create a DonorsChoose project that will get funded
- DonorsChoose is a nonprofit platform that allows users to donate directly to public school classroom projects
- When deciding what products to request on DonorsChoose, choose items that can withstand student wear and tear and that will be used frequently in the classroom
- Avoid including student faces or identifying information in photos or project listings
- Tell readers about why you are creating this project and describe specifically how the items will be used
- Don’t be afraid of “negatives” about your school, feel free to disclose data such as the free/reduced lunch rate, percentage of students that are homeless, or if the school is a Title 1 School
- Once the project is fully funded, educators must confirm they still want the products within six days.