Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sometimes It Takes a Virtual Village

How DonorsChoose Communities Work
Guest blog post by Francie Kugelman

Laura asked me to tell you about a new and wonderful way to get your projects funded on DonorsChoose.org. Many of you know me as the DonorsChoose teacher because I was Laura’s guest for her webinar, How to Fund Your Classroom Projects, where I shared tips and strategies for writing great DonorsChoose proposals and getting your projects funded.

Now, two years later, I am still funding projects with DonorsChoose and I'm back to share about a new way of getting help with funding. I have had 95 projects successfully funded, providing a total of $54,300 in resources for my classroom and school, so I know it really works!

DonorsChoose Communities
Who has been funding my projects? You might be surprised. It is not usually my family, parents of my students, or anyone who lives near me. Instead, I have discovered a wonderful network of teachers who support each other’s projects, called the DonorsChoose Communities. In these communities, supporters have created giving pages where they promote different DonorsChoose projects and help each other get their projects funded.

Some projects are funded quickly, but often it takes a virtual village to get a project funded! No longer am I waiting for the kindness of a corporation or wealthy donor to select my project and fund it entirely. Instead, teachers give $1 to this project, or that project, and the project eventually becomes funded! It is an amazing tax-deductible experience.

Take my latest project for a field trip to the Ocean Institute. 57 different people donated to my project, with many of the donations at $1 each. Bit by bit, dollar by dollar, my entire project was completely funded! Of course many people gave far more than $1, but each dollar helped move us closer towards our goal.

How can you join this network/community of teachers and donors? First, you need to learn a little about how they work. Most active DonorsChoose Communities have two important parts:
  • The giving page on DonorsChoose where supporters actually make their donations 
  • A Facebook page where donors and teachers interact to support each other
Donors Choose Giving Pages
Start by visiting the DonorsChoose Communities section of the site where you'll see dozens of active giving pages. There are too many giving page groups for me to list, but some of my favorite groups are: FaerieFive, Music Makes Our Students Smarter, Western Roundup, Southern Hospitality, #Team37, Kindergarten Rocks, Memories and Milestones, and a brand-new giving page - Send a Smile.

Click on a Community giving page to see how it's set up. Under the basic profile information, you'll see the number of supporters, the number of project requests, the total amount donated, and the number of students impacted. For example, the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund has almost 2,000 members that have donated more than a half million dollars impacting over 160,000 students. Click the Supporters link to see the individuals who support the page with their donations; supporters are sometimes referred to as community "members." Anyone can become a "member" of a community by donating as little as $1 to one of the projects shown under the Projects tab! Click the Projects Requested link to see all the projects that still need funding, the $ Raised link to see the projects that have been completed through funding on the page, and the Students tab to see photos of students who were impacted by the projects.

Community Facebook Pages
After someone makes a donation, they officially become a part of the community, but there's no way of interacting with the other members in the community. So the next step is to find the Facebook page that goes with that Community. Many of the active Communities have Facebook pages, and it just takes a little searching to find them. Just type the name of the community in the search engine on Facebook. If you can’t find the community, post a comment here and I will help provide you with the link.


Be sure to "like" the Facebook pages for the Communities you want to join, and then read through the posts to see if there are any funding contests going on. Contests are a way to motivate others to give a dollar to various projects because you might win a great prize, get a tax deduction, and help other teachers get their projects funded too!

How to Have Your Projects Added to a Community Page 
Only the Community page owner can add projects to a giving page, but you can request to have yours added. However, it's best to become involved with the community first by becoming a donor. It doesn't take much - just support a few projects here and there with a small donation to help the cause. When you make your donation, you'll feel great because you helped a teacher and supported a giving page community too. It is a wonderful feeling to be part of an Internet community of caring teachers and donors. By the way, at the end of the year you can print out a summary of all of your tax deductible contributions, so you don’t need to keep track of each of your small donations.

After you have supported a few projects, return to the Facebook page and ask to have your DonorsChoose project added to that community's giving page. Be sure you provide a link to your posted DonorsChoose project. If you are lucky and the giving page is not too full, your project might be added to the community's giving page where it will be seen by anyone who visits that page. Once the project has a small amount of funding left ($70 and less for example), some other donor who might not know about the giving pages often fully completes the project.

Inspired by DonorsChoose Communities
Are you inspired by all of this? Try it out. Many teachers post that they are paying it forward because kind teachers helped them out with a small donation, and now they are helping other teachers out.

My DonorsChoose experience has grown tremendously through the giving pages. I love donating small amounts to help other teachers get their projects funded! What is my favorite tax-deductible charity this year? DonorsChoose, through the giving pages.

This new community of online friends has expanded what once was just supporters of teachers. Now the donors are often teachers helping each other out. It is the idea of it takes a village; we all donate, and help the project become funded. Join our giving community; we welcome you with open hearts, and projects waiting to be funded! Tell them Francie Kugelman sent you!

Note from Laura: Francie's article inspired me to start my own giving page on DonorsChoose! You can learn about the new Caring Classrooms giving page by reading about it here on Corkboard Connections!

Francie Kugelman is a 5th grade teacher in Los Angeles California. She's an active and enthusiastic educator who loves connecting with teachers and sharing ideas. Francie has served as a moderator for Laura's webinars for the past several years, and she was featured in a webinar called How to Fund Your Classroom Projects where she shared strategies for writing an effective proposal and getting it funded. You can view that webinar and download supplementary resources on the Teaching Resources DonorsChoose page

6 comments:

  1. Thanks Laura for being a great supporter of DonorsChoose projects. I am so glad to share about our wonderful giving page community. I hope many new teachers and supporters of teachers join us. - Francie

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  2. I literally blogged about this today, not about the communities because I didn't know about them, but now I do! Thanks for showing me even more how Donors Choose can help!

    Melissa
    Ms. Chae Charges In

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing that and for linking back to this blog post! You might want to edit the link so that it goes to this exact blog post because when I put something else up on the blog, followers from your blog might not be able to find this post.

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  3. I teach at a non-profit private school so I don't qualify for donorschoose.org. I find it rather disheartening that they only help public schools. I guess I will have to find another way to help meet the needs of my classroom. Best wishes to each of you seeking assistance.

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    Replies
    1. I totally understand and I agree. Try Adopt a Classroom and Digital Wish. I think they serve all schools.

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