Saturday, November 7, 2015

Six things I wish I had known about DonorsChoose

Several of my colleagues have had DonorsChoose projects funded. I had a bit of trouble getting started because of a glitch in my account. It took me about a year before I finally set up a different account and uploaded my first project: Generation Imagination: Movers and Makers.

I must say, I hate asking for anything.  I always have.  So asking for donations is hard for me. I am sure it will all be worth it.

My friend Sheila McHone has had two projects funded.  She has given me several pointers and has helped me get several donations.


Here are six things I wish I had known about DonorsChoose:

1. Do your research.

DonorsChoose is not just for technology.  It's not just for trendy items.  Do you have a creative idea that you believe in?  Others will believe in it, too! Understand the rules for your photos. Generally the materials you receive should remain at the school where you are teaching when you get your grant funded.

Ask your funded friends for tips.  Check out the matching partner opportunities and the promotions page before writing a proposal.  For example, the Lily Sarah Grace Fund helps fund projects that emphasize creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.


2. Start small.  


There is a $100 minimum amount to start a project.  With all the extras included, the project will end up being $170 or so.  Smaller projects are more likely to be funded. You are given three points to get started.  Choosing a project that totals less than $400 only takes one point. Learn more about points here.

(I understand the expenses of running a website, processing the transactions and donations, and advertising.  I have seen some of my school's teachers get needed technology that they probably would not have gotten without DonorsChoose.  It is not a Black Friday type site.  Charity Navigation gives DonorsChoose a very favorable rating.)


3. It takes time.

It takes time to get the project started and approved.  It takes time to ask for donations and write thank yous.  It takes time to get the project fully funded and shipped. This is not a one night project. Seeing our school's students use new iPad minis and Chromebooks makes it worthwhile though!


4. Get some help.


Tweet, facebook, instagram, blog, email - communicate across platforms to ask others to donate to your projects.  Even if they don't donate, ask them to retweet or share your project. A project with 20 $1 donations looks more appealing than one project with a $20 donation. Lots of family members and students' parent would donate a dollar or two. There are buttons you can click to tweet and share directly from your project page.


There are lots of great communities out there that will help with your project donations. Kindergarten Rocks and Caring Classrooms are just two of them.

Be sure to include a tag when you share your project link so that donations go through the community page. For example, my project link is donorschoose.org/project/generation-imagination-movers-and-make/1665554.  When I share it, I need to add ?challengeid=208861 in there so it becomes donorschoose.org/project/generation-imagination-movers-and-make/1665554/?challengeid=208861. I was running out of characters for my tweet, so I could have used a tinyurl.com to make it shorter.


5. There are great tips specifically for donations.

Donate to your own project, even if it is just $1.  Ask a friend to donate $1 to yours and you donate $1 to hers. Donate $1 to lots of individual projects.  Your history of donations shows up, but I don't think the amount does.  Tweet when someone gives you a donation and tweet when you make a donation.

Get your matching donations! There are special codes that you and your donors can use to get matching funds. Use SPARK in the first seven days. Be ready for upcoming matching donation opportunities so you can have your donors lined up.  Matching money runs out quickly.


6.  Thank everyone!

Thank people as soon as they donate on your project page.  Thank people who tweet about your project. When thanking someone directly on Twitter, use the . symbol in front of their Twitter name so more people will see the tweet (ex .@tonya_nc). Send the thank yous and post the six photos quickly once you have gotten your materials.  This keeps your rating high.


Good luck as you seek materials for all of those awesome kids!! It's hard work, but it's worth it! I appreciate resources like DonorsChoose and especially the donors so much! It is all about that village!

Update:
After learning from the experts, I posted a smaller project.  It took a week to get approved, but I was ready! It took about an hour to get funded! Yay!

More Help

7 DonorsChoose Tips for Success

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