Tips for Getting Funded Through Donors Choose

Have you heard of Donors Choose? Maybe you've had a few projects funded already or maybe you're just getting started. Either way, here are some tips to help you experience success in getting your classroom project funded.

Who am I?

In case you're just tuning in, I'm Kristin. I'm the teacher behind Teaching In A Nutshell. I've been a Donors Choose teacher since 2011. My mom mentioned it to me my first year of teaching when I was complaining that I didn't have resources for my classroom. I jumped on board and got my first project funded quickly. That year, I had three projects fund total. During my time on Donors Choose, I've had 19 projects fund in all. 

Due to my love of Donors Choose, I founded the Send A Smile Giving Page in the summer of 2013. My lovely co-admin joined on shortly after and has been amazing this past year as I've stepped back a bit while pregnant. As admins of a giving page, we are able to support tons of teachers with projects on Donors Choose and hear tips from those same teachers about what has worked for them. Now, I'm sharing those tips with you.

What is Donors Choose?

Donors Choose is a website that allows you to post projects where you request resources, visitors, or trips for your classroom. These projects are then crowdfunded by donors. Your project may receive donations from friends and family, student families, people from your community, or even random donors throughout the world. This website has helped countless students receive materials and experiences that they would may not have had otherwise. It allows teachers to get materials for their classroom without breaking the bank - or maybe it just frees up your money to purchase other things for the classroom ... like jewelry and shoes.

Below is additional information that I have learned from my own experience as well as the experiences of others during my time on Donors Choose. I hope these tips are helpful to you!

Tips Before Submitting Your Project

Choose a great class picture and keep it the same.

You want it to stand out and you want it to be consistent so that repeat donors recognize you.

Add your own picture.

Again, this allows repeat donors to recognize who you are. It also makes you more appealing to new donors. If given a choice to donate to a teacher with or without a picture, many donors would donate to the teacher who they can see!

Check out funding opportunities.

A great way to find ideas for projects is by checking out the partner funding opportunities in your state. These funding opportunities cut down the amount of money you need to raise to get your project funded. Some companies will pay for half of your project and some will even bring your funding requirements down to just $100!

Tips When Submitting a Project

Consider your project cost.

Projects under $400 have the most funding success. Does that mean you can't post a project that costs more? No. You can. But if possible, break it up into chunks. If you're trying to get $800 worth of books, try to make 2 separate $400 projects instead.

Create a catchy title.

This can help catch donors attention. Which sounds better - Classroom Listening Center or Do You Hear What I Hear? Donors always see a quick description of what you're requesting, so your title does not necessarily need to spell it out for them. Here are some examples of titles I've used:
  • Yeehaw for Learning!
  • One Size Does Not Fit All
  • A Journey Through Books
  • Wiggle While We Work
  • Putting Our Learning Center Stage
  • Do You Hear What I Hear?
  • Jumping Across the Number Line
  • Great Tower of Spelling Materials

Use Amazon!

Seriously - there have been times that I've considered spending the 6 points necessary to buy from a vendor not contracted from Donors Choose - especially Oriental Trading. Then I remember that Amazon sells everything!

  • Donors Choose will have you set up a new and special Amazon account for their site.
  • Remember - you can only request items form Amazon that are fulfilled by Amazon. All items that qualify for Amazon Prime are fulfilled by Amazon.
  • You do not need to have Amazon Prime to order through Amazon on Donors Choose.

Make the most of your essay!

I could do an entire blog post just on this. Maybe I will. Feel free to visit my Donors Choose page for examples of past essays that I've written for projects. Here are a few quick pointers.
  • Consider the larger purpose behind your project request (i.e. build background knowledge, increase motivation, allow for movement, etc.).
  • Share the grade and subject you teach as well as the number of students in your classroom.
  • Tell about your community's demographics. High-income, low-income - it doesn't matter, but make sure you share the details!
  • Share something about your students that connects to this project. If you're requesting Hokki stools, explain that your kiddos like to move. If you're requesting dictionaries, tell that your students are always looking to learn new words.
  • Paint a picture with your project description. Tell the donors a story of what a day in your classroom would be like if you had these resources.
  • Thank donors for even just reading through your proposal!

Read, read, and read again on the review page before you submit!

I always catch errors no matter how many times I proofread my essay originally. I also catch sentences that sound a little funky when I go back and read the whole thing together.

Wait patiently.

It can take anywhere from 2 days to a week for your project to be approved. Hang tight while the DC mods review your project to make sure it's ready to go live!

Tips For Getting Your Project Funded

Thank every single donor immediately. 

This obviously isn't always possible, but try to post a quick thanks to them on your project page within a day of them donating. This is not only respectful, it helps entice new donors to donate to you.

Donate to your own project.

It could be $1, $10, $25 or more! I've done it all! New donors are more likely to support your project once they see that your project has received at least one donation. Why wait for one person to donate when you could be that person! Give your project a jump start by donating as soon as you get approved.

Promote your project.

There are tons of ways to promote your project. Turn on the automatic Facebook post feature or share on Facebook on your own. Email friends and family. Share on your classroom website. Tweet your project out to the Twitterverse. Put a link to your DC teacher page on your teacher business cards. Include the link in your email signatures. Share flyers with local businesses with a link to your active projects. The options are endless - although that's all I've got for now! Don't forget that projects also get donations from random supporters as well.

Use match codes!

When your project is posted, you'll receive a code that you can share with family and friends that will double their donation. For instance, if they donate $100, another company will donate an additional $100 to your project. These codes generally expire after your project has been up for a week, but throughout the year, additional codes become available. Looking for a code? Check out Teachers' Treasure Chest on Facebook or any one of the many giving pages. All of them usually have the latest info!

All About Giving Pages

Have you heard about the giving pages yet? They're a huge thing, but a lot of teachers don't know about them. I'm a huge giving page advocate, but I'm definitely bias because I founded one. Really I'm an advocate because of how helpful they are to teachers, though. As I mentioned, I founded the Send A Smile Giving Page, but there are tons of pages out there! You can find them by visiting the Communities page on Donors Choose. Again, I could write a whole blog post just about the giving pages. Here are the basics.

Giving pages help you reach a wider network.

The communities page (link above) gives you details on how may supporters have donated to projects listed on that giving page. Just think about instantly reaching 500, 900, 1500 supporters! Amazing!

Giving pages can be reached via Facebook.

Some giving pages have links to their Facebook page in their community description on Donors Choose. For others, you need to use the Facebook search feature to find. Reach out to the pages via Facebook to find out how each page works and how to get involved. Here are the Facebook links to some of the popular giving pages, although by no means are these the only ones you should check out!

Giving pages have different guidelines for getting your project listed.

Some giving pages hold contests for spots, some ask for Donors Choose gift cards to fund contests that support your project, some randomly announce openings. It really just depends. Some limit the number of projects on their page to 10, while others allow 25. Some pages target art or music. Others may be specific to elementary school or high school. Some giving pages are open to all. More details are generally on their Facebook pages. You'll need to decide which pages you are interested in and what you're willing to do to get your project on a page.

Often, you spend a little bit of money when participating in giving pages.

Whether you need to donate a few DC bucks to get listed or not, many times you'll end up donating to other teachers when participating in a community. Here's part of the reason why - the number of donors you have is a factor in how high your project is listed for those donors browsing random projects. By supporting each other with $1-2 donations, you help each other to get your project higher in the listings. Also, many giving pages run contests. Donating $1-2 may get you an entry into a contest that could earn a $20 donation to their project. The key is: You decide how much spend. You can spend tons of money or you can spend none at all. You're in charge.

Check out the replay of the Periscope that I did recently all about Donors Choose and follow me @teachingnuts for future scopes about DC.

Be sure to pin this post for easy reference later, and feel free to connect with me with any questions you may have!

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