Teachers’ Guide to DonorsChoose

Teacher's Guide to Donors Choose
Times are tough and resources are scarce for many teachers and school districts. With the economy affecting so many school districts, it has become even more difficult for the high-poverty districts that never had ample resources to begin with. With fewer materials and outdated textbooks, teachers often have to be creative to plan engaging and enriching lessons for their students. Some schools are able to secure grants, but the process is often tedious with heavy paperwork.

Donors Choose has made it easier for teachers in high-need districts to secure the supplies needed to do great projects with their students. The following is some background on this program, information on how teachers can utilize it and descriptions of some of the projects that have been funded through the online charity.

What is Donors Choose?

Donors Choose was founded by Charles Best, a former social studies teacher in the Bronx, New York. Lamenting the lack of resources available to impoverished public schools, he started the site in 2000 with the help of his students and other teachers at his school. He believed that the community was interested in helping their schools but wanted more say in where their money went. The group’s mission statement reads, “DonorsChoose.org engages the public in public schools by giving people a simple, accountable and personal way to address educational inequity.”

Basically, public school teachers from anywhere can post their specific needs and donors can choose who and what to give their money to. Donors can browse by location, level of need or topic. Once a project is funded, the teacher shares photographs, thank-you letters and a cost breakdown for the donors.

How Teachers Can Benefit

Teachers can set up accounts to submit their project needs. It is free and easy to register, and you can use the site to match the specific materials needed with your project. You then write your project description in hopes of attracting potential donors. Donors Choose does advise that projects listed under $400 are more likely to be funded. Once a project is funded, the supplies are shipped directly to your school and you share your gratitude with your donors. A nice aspect of the site is that projects can be shared on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, giving you more visibility.

Some Worthy Causes

Ms. Chu, a kindergarten teacher with a number of ELL students, wanted to create a reading center for her students to access during their independent work time. Since she had the added burden of teaching two separate curriculum, she felt that Kindle Fires would be both motivating and interactive for her young, energetic students. With donor support, she was able to purchase two Kindle Fires for her classroom.

Mrs. Lamont, a teacher in a classroom for young children with autism, found that her sensory tools were getting worn out in the high-poverty district. She believed that manipulatives and sensory-stimulating items were great reinforcers for her students, assisting them in communicating and calming down when over-stimulated. With donor support, she was able to get the items requested for her students, which included sensory balls, colorful rice and sight-and-sound tubes.

Thanks to Donors Choose, classrooms have been given art supplies, books, iPads and musical instruments. The site also lists Partner Funding Opportunities, where teachers can apply for project funding from organizations like Disney and Kia Motors. Hundreds of thousands of projects have been funded since the site’s inception, enriching the lives of students across the United States.

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