5 Ways to Fill The Gaps with DonorsChoose.org
Posted by Cosme Chavez on 11/26/2019
Alexis Melrose, AVID Elective Teacher & Coordinator, Mira Mesa High School
As AVID teachers, we are quite used to “filling in the gaps,” whether the gaps are in astudent’s math skills and study habits, or the gaps between meals whenthey need a snack. For most of us, there is no budget to reimburse the binders, dividers, planners, or snacks we buy other than the one connected to our own checkbooks. However, thanks to DonorsChoose.org, we aren’t on our own to get our students the things they need to be successful in our classrooms and as they prepare to enter the world of college or career.
DonorsChoose.org is a nonprofit organization that helps teachers get materials for their classrooms through crowdfunding. Teachers post projects on the DonorsChoose.org website, and donors of all kinds —individuals, businesses—contribute funds toward a teacher’s request. When setting up a project, teachers shop with certain vendors like Amazon and Best Buy for supplies they need. There are some important steps to take before your project can be submitted to this crowdfunding site, but the work is minimal—some pictures of yourself and your classroom, an essay about your class and the students you work with, and a description of your project.
With the help of the DonorsChoose.org community, as well as my own friends and family, I have been able to provide my students with over $6,000 in supplies ranging from diverse books and SAT /ACT test prep materials to flexible seating options and supplies for a schoolwide College Signing Day event.
Here are some tips and tricks that have helped me to succeed:
- Start small. DonorsChoose.org does a great job of tracking teachers and projects to see what works within their community. Their research shows that smaller projects (under $600) are more likely to be funded, especially for a new member.
- Watch for matches and other funding opportunities. DonorsChoose.org has developed partnerships with many different organizations and businesses. Often, these opportunities require you to include specific phrases or meet certain criteria, so read the requirements closely and take the time to make sure your project is a good fit.
- Keep a running list of project ideas and specific items you need. If a student recommends a book or a colleague shares an innovative idea, I add it to my list. Before I started keeping these ideas in one place, they were often on sticky notes that made their way to the floor or in tabs on my web browser that were accidentally closed. Create a system for yourself to keep track of the good ideas that come your way or the projects that inspire you. It might be as simple as a note in your phone or an Amazon wish-list for your classroom.
- Get started on your “Thank You” package right away. DonorsChoose.org requires each project to close out with a “Thank You” package. All packages require six pictures (read the guidelines carefully!) and a letter of impact that explains how the items are being used and how your students reacted to them. Talk to the students about where the materials came from and get some quotes for your letter. Some “Thank You” packages also require handwritten notes from the students themselves. Not only is it easier to remember if you do these right away, but the students are excited to help you while the materials are shiny and new.
- Share the project with your own family and friends on social media. You don’t have to share every time or update every day (no one wants to be that person), but your friends and family are usually glad to see a glimpse into your classroom. Who knows which of your friends from high school will be intrigued by your latest project and make a donation, or if your favorite aunt will donate to your DonorsChoose.org project in lieu of a gift.
As a Donors Choose ambassador, I’m happy to help you get your first project up and running or to give you feedback on your latest idea. Please feel free to reach out at [email protected].
As an AVID elective teacher, Alexis Melrose has been utilizing Donors Choose to support the learning and growth of her students since 2016. She has been an AVID Elective teacher and site coordinator for seven years in the San Diego Unified School District. Her mission is to help her students discover the power in becoming a lifelong learner while also preparing them for their post-secondary plans.