If you scroll through social media, you’ll see a lot of teachers posting the amazing things they’re doing in their classrooms. This includes lessons, bulletin boards, materials, organization…if a teacher does, you’ll see it there! But what if you have bigger dreams for your classroom, but neither you nor your school has the money? Do you just give up on it or use your small paycheck to fund it? Luckily, there are SO MANY people out there who want to help teachers out so that they can provide the best for students. Alex Fagundez from DonorsChoose.org and I discuss how teachers can get this funding so that cost doesn’t have to hold teachers back from dreaming big.

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Kim  

I have someone from donorschoose.org, and we’re going to dive really deep in how to properly write a proposal so that you can get what you need to create not only the classroom of your dreams but to also help you grow professionally. 

 

Something that’s coming up is Angela Watson’s 40-hour teacher workweek. Now if you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you might remember that she was on episode 36, about how we need to stop doing so much and take back our time. Now I was also on Angela’s podcast, she has the Truth for Teachers podcast, and I was on episode 166, where I discussed how I joined her 40-hour teacher workweek and how I saved so much time. 

 

And I can’t really emphasize enough how amazing it was for me to go through this. And I had been working at least 60 hours a week. And I actually trimmed off 15 hours a week. And I rarely take any work home. And they really owe it to this 40-hour teacher work week club. And Angela only holds it twice a year. So you can either sign up in December, or you can sign up now. 

 

And I went through the club for the entire year. And while I didn’t do everything in the club, the first year, I kept adding more of the techniques and strategies my second year after doing the club. So it’s really been impactful in my teaching. And I highly recommend that you consider joining the club. 

 

And joining it as a new teacher is actually a really excellent time because it’ll help you establish your classroom routines and policies and procedures before you’ve kind of like tried them out and made mistakes, this is going to set you on the right path. 

 

I can personally tell you that this club was extremely impactful. And that it’s it really changed the way that I think about teaching, it’s changed the way that I actually teach. And I couldn’t recommend it more. 

 

So if you head over to 40-hour teacher workweek, it’s actually four zero, h t w.com k four, zero H t w.com. You can get more information there. And also what’s awesome is that she has a payment plan. So if you go there and you’re like I can’t afford this right now, she splits it up into payments for you. And that really eases the financial burden of the club. 

 

And honestly, it was definitely well worth the investment. I’ve paid for professional development that was two or three times the cost of this, and I didn’t actually implement any of it. But pretty much almost everything from the 40-hour teacher work week club I implemented so I highly recommend it that you head on over there and sign up today. 

 

As teachers, we have a lot of hopes and dreams going into teaching. So we might envision having these really beautiful classrooms, we might envision these really hands-on lessons and projects that we want to do with our kids. Flexible seating, field trips, shelves and shelves of books, maybe even class sets, or smaller sets for Literature circles, different types of technology for running a STEM program. If you have some kind of physical education program, maybe you want to get some types of weights and bands and just different things to engage students. 

 

The problem here is always Money, money, money, money. Schools just don’t have enough money. And when they do, they might not be able to spend it on you and your dreams. So how do we fund these dreams so that we can be the creative and inspired teachers that we were meant to be? 

 

Luckily, there is a foundation called donorschoose.org. And they are helping teachers fund and realize their dreams. So, unfortunately, I didn’t tap into this enough because I just felt like I wouldn’t get funded. I know that sounds weird. I felt like whatever project or dream that I had, it wouldn’t happen, and so why even bother taking the time to do it. But I spoke to a representative from donorschoose.org, her name is Alex Fagundez, and we had an awesome conversation today about how my misconceptions were actually pretty common. 

 

 But it is surprisingly easy to get funded on donorschoose.org and even things that I didn’t know that could be funded, can become a reality. So today’s a really important conversation because not only do I benefit from it because I have some projects and dreams that I would like to kind of realize and make happen. But I know that as new teachers, you’re coming in with barely any money. I mean, let’s be honest, you just got done spending all this money to get your credential. And you might walk into a school that doesn’t even have basic things like pencils and paper. So going through donorschoose.org can really, really help you as a new teacher just get over that initial hump so that you can just get your classroom going, you can get things started the way that you want to so that you have one less thing to worry about. 

 

So sit down, take some notes. And here’s my conversation with Alex. 

 

Well, thank you, Alex, for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate you taking the time. Could you please tell us about your educational background and how you came to work with donorschoose.org?

 

Alex  

Totally, I am a former second and third-grade teacher I taught in Newark, New Jersey, to some of the most incredible genius kids in the entire world. I specialized in literacy. And I also taught science and some STEM classes. And while I was in the classroom, I use donors choose.org to get the materials I needed for my students. So we got Legos for our classroom, we started a school garden, we got math manipulatives, the biggest win for my students were some really high interest but right at their ability books, so things like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Baby Mouse, Big Nate. All books like that were things that some of my struggling readers into where they needed to be and had really big outcomes for my students. 

 

So when I say started to look past the classroom and look for new opportunities, donorschoose.org was just the natural next step for me. And I’m lucky enough now to work on the teacher success team, where I get to work on the back end of donorschoose.org, but also work with some of our incredible teachers every day. So excited to be chatting with you and just to kind of connect with some of your teachers.

 

Kim  

And we have such a great opportunity here to talk to someone who’s both a teacher and involved with the organization. So that’s amazing. Because, you know, a lot of times with these types of organizations, it’s just people who work in finance, or they work in marketing. They don’t necessarily have the in the classroom experience. So that’s awesome.

 

Alex  

Definitely. And also, we were founded by a middle school history teacher, our founder, Charles Best was actually photocopying copies of the book, Little House on the Prairie. And as he was doing the teacher thing, where like the copier’s jamming, he’s getting frustrated, just thought to himself, if people knew that teachers were doing this stuff, they would want to help. And that was the catalyst for how donorschoose.org started. And he started the site literally from his classroom, he had his students helping out, and he was knocking the classroom doors next to him. And 19 years later, we’re at a point where we’ve helped bring millions of dollars worth of funding to classrooms and all because a teacher decided to take a risk and ask for what they needed.

 

Kim  

Right. That’s a that’s an amazing story. And it’s helping so many teachers, obviously. So I was just curious, what are some of the most common types of projects that are funded?

 

Alex  

Yeah, so teachers are always asking for the basic things like pencils, paper, printers, like hands-on materials they need for their students’ math manipulative. We always see teachers asking for books, and we know that something that’s expanding in classrooms, things like technology, so Autobots, Chromebooks, iPads, projectors, things that are bringing students into the 21st-century learning standards. And then also, we’ve seen a wave of flexible seating projects. So as teachers are exploring how to make their classroom even more welcoming, and more flexible for their students, they found that a lot of DonorsChoose projects are wobble tears and beanbag chairs. And so that’s been a fun trend on our site too.

 

Kim  

And then just out of curiosity, what are some of the unusual projects that you’ve seen, funded?

 

Alex  

Definitely have seen some out of the box things from science teachers, we’ve seen owl pellets to be dissected, we’ve seen a lot of live insects going to classrooms, but the practice that inspired me the most, they’re kind of unusual, are when teachers are thinking really outside of the box for what their students need. So what they’re seeing is a typical teacher in Connecticut, that realized that some students weren’t getting to school on time, were coming it all on rainy days. And she realized that they didn’t have the raincoats or umbrella they needed to get to school. And so they just wouldn’t come. And so to address that problem, she actually asked for raincoats and umbrellas. And she even ended up requesting bus tickets for her students to make sure that they got to school. So unusual in that some of those things like I can’t believe we’re shipping, shipping this to a classroom. But then you also hear the ways that teachers are thinking about the challenges their students are facing, and that’s also incredible, but also unusual.

 

Kim  

Wow, that is really outside the box, I wouldn’t even think about going to your organization for something like that. Now, are there some requests that cannot be funded?

 

Alex  

Yep. So teachers have, you know, we basically say teachers are the experts here at donorschoose.org. So if you have a big idea, our customer support team is always willing to lend a hand. Traditional teachers will choose from our vendor directory, people like Amazon, Lakeshore, backed by school specialty, will get most of your classroom needs. But if you ever have some that are outside of the box, our team can usually work with you. 

 

The one thing that we aren’t able to do as a rule is capital improvement projects. So if you want to do construction or something like that, but we’ve seen teachers work around that in really cool ways where they found different materials that could contribute to a project that needs the same goals. But generally, our customer support team is really happy to hear your idea and lend a hand, and you can always contact them at donorschoose.org/contact.

 

Kim  

Okay, so then that means then, if I want to go to like a teaching conference or something, have those been funded frequently?

 

Alex  

Totally. So you can actually request professional development in terms of traveling to the PD, getting your lodgings at the PD paid for, your conference registrations. So that’s just and then books and things you need to support your learning. We also do class trips and visitors. And so if there’s like an author, you want to come into your classroom, you can help to get that funded. Yeah, pretty much the sky is the limit. We know that teachers have these big ideas, and we want to make it happen.

 

Kim  

That is amazing. I had no idea because right now, my district is in a little bit of financial turmoil, and they stopped in terms of providing money for PD. And so I thought, well, I can’t afford to go to this conference or that conference. So I had no idea that it, we could ask for what we need. And I love that the teachers are being respected in terms of, you know, they are the professionals and know what’s going to help them grow as teachers and help their students grow.

 

Alex  

Totally. And one of the coolest things about that is we often work with corporations and philanthropists to partner in helping teachers meet their fundraising goals. So that can be in the form of a match offer or a promo code, which I think we’ll hit later. But we actually had the Gates Foundation matching donations to professional development projects, because they felt that that was a way that teachers could meet their goals, and students can hit their learning outcomes. That was a little bit earlier this year. But it is something that we’ve invested in so much, because teachers are asking for it, and we want to help them get there. So always be on the lookout for match opportunities, and funding on our site is a good best practice.

 

Kim  

So I guess it’s a good idea to subscribe then to the newsletter.

 

Alex  

Totally. And if you subscribe to that newsletter, you’ll get to hear from me every month. 

 

Kim  

There are a lot of teachers that still haven’t even attempted to write a project. And what are some of the objections that you’ve heard about in terms of writing a proposal?

 

Alex  

Yeah, the number one is just time. Teachers are already maxed out in terms of what they’re, what’s being asked of them. Teachers are often writing projects during their prep sessions, or after school, just a time commitment is a big piece. 

 

And I’ve also heard, they are unsure of where the funding is going to be coming from or if it’s going to happen, that’s another worry that teachers often have. And then another most common as teachers sometimes feel uncomfortable asking for help. We are usually the drivers for everything in our classroom, and it can feel really weird to say, I have this big dream, will you help me. 

 

And so those are the top three that we hear from teachers that there are lots of ways around it, and you just gotta just got to push through, and I have some tips that I can share kind of later on, there’s definitely some get around them.

 

Kim  

Oh, good. And has now things have changed since I started or even looked at the site before has donorschoose.org change the process to make it easier and quicker for teachers?

 

Alex  

Totally. So if you’re registering for a donorschoose.org account, our team’s goal is to make that happen in five minutes or less. We know that you’re at a premium for time, the project creation process hasn’t changed a ton because that’s the place where you’re putting the most time in, you’re selecting what items do you want for your classroom, you’re writing your project essay, but there’s a lot of prompts the way that will help you tailor your essay to really catch the eye of a donor. 

 

And then on the delivery end, once your project’s materials are funded, that delivery window has shortened a ton. So some materials are getting to classrooms within two or three days of being funded. It’s pretty cool to see those materials come in right away and being able to open those boxes with your students. It’s like an incredible opportunity!

 

Kim  

So I went through the process before. And I’m trying to go through the process again now. So I mean, this is interviews a little bit self-serving you guys. So I’m just wondering what is the number one mistake that teachers make that maybe prevents their projects from being funded?

 

Alex  

Totally. So it’s super, super simple. Projects that are under are that are requesting under $600 in materials are the most likely to get funded. I personally tell my teacher friends, keep it below $400. It’s so easy when you’re looking through the vendor directory, and you see what’s new at Lakeshore and what cool new books are coming out to keep adding things and get really ambitious. 

 

But projects that are lower costs are more or less likely to be funded. So when you’re creating your project, keeping it under $600 is the best practice. And what you can do is if you have a big idea, and you say you know what, I want new seat jacks for the entire class, but they’re pricey, what you can do is break that into two smaller projects and that in itself, yep, that increases your chances of funding. So that’s like the number one thing that we see. And we want to tell teachers to keep it below $600.

 

Kim  

That’s a good idea because I may be as a donor, and it seems like oh, it’s too much my little, you know, donation of $100 isn’t gonna go very far. But if it’s only $300, I feel like I’m really making a dent. So it’s probably a little bit psychological there.

 

Alex  

Totally, there’s definitely a donor aspect to it. And then also, so just using match offers and funding opportunities. If you ever want to know like what types of companies are sending things on donors choose.org right now, you can go to donorschoose.org/matchoffers. And there’s always a list of corporate and philanthropic partners that are looking to help support classrooms, and they often will choose something like, okay, we want to support stem teachers or literacy projects, or teachers that are requesting these specific items. But there’s always a list, and they’re always coming out throughout the year from September all the way to the next September. And if you keep updated on that page, you’ll see the opportunities that are there. And that makes it really easy. If your overall project cost is $400, you have a map of your project; it makes it that much easier. So I would say those two things together are like a really, really good indicator of success.

 

Kim  

Right? Oh, that’s awesome. That’s so awesome that we can kind of cherry pick certain organizations that are looking for, like our subject area. So I like that. So I’m sure there are people who are just wanting to fund books. And that’s where I would be in that in that camp. So yeah, I love that. So now, what are your top five tips for writing a proposal that gets funded quickly?

 

Alex  

Totally. So the first I already mentioned, keep it under $600 or even less. The second is to use funding opportunities as they come up on our site. Stay clicked in. You want to always be checking which funding opportunities are coming up. 

 

So third thing I always think about is like think like a donor. So what you’re doing in your project essay is you’re trying to get donors to understand what your dream is and why it’s so important. I think as teachers, we fall into this trap of, okay, flexible seating is going to help my students with this standard. And we get really jargony. Donors might not connect with what you want them to see what your dream is be really aspirational. So always thinking like a donor as you’re writing that project essay. 

 

And then another thing, once that project is posted live, instead of asking your family and your friends and your network for donations, we find that the most powerful thing you can do is ask them to share your projects within their networks, the more eyes that your project has on it, the higher chance it has a funding. And so in addition to doing the like, Hey, I’m looking for donations for my project, please support me. Also that quick ask of like Hey, would you mind sharing this with your Saturday morning running group or the group of moms that you get donuts with on Sundays, it’s always good to ask for more shares and to get it out there. Yeah, so those are the top tips. And I think product cost is probably the biggest indicator.

 

Kim  

Okay. And then now you had mentioned having our friends share, and I like that better because I feel weird asking my friends to fund things in my classroom. But I feel okay about saying, Hey, can you just share this on your social network? So, aside from that web of people, what are some other best practices for getting the word out about the project?

 

Alex  

Yeah, I think just being active on social a lot of teachers that are using donorschoose.org are sharing their projects in their social networks on Facebook and Instagram. And another great group is to take to Twitter, participate in some education, chats, live tweet situations, connect with people who might be interested in your project. 

 

I know a teacher who was looking to find a trumpet for her music classroom. And so she joined a bunch of groups of people that are passionate about trumpets. And she started connecting and sharing her project. And she figured out, gotten to the mind of a donor. Until creating those opportunities, it’s really good. 

 

And in addition to the fundraising work that you’re doing, as a teacher, the donorschoose.org team is also doing some fundraising work on your project too. We try to send projects to donors on a monthly basis. And so your project could get sent out to a bunch of different donors. And donors can also filter our site by zip code. And so someone in your area is interested in supporting classroom at your school, it’s super easy for them to do it. And so you and donorschoose.org are kind of in a partnership in bringing your project to life.

 

Kim  

I had no idea about that. So you’re really you’re like advertising on our behalf? Almost.

 

Alex  

Yeah, definitely. And if a donor is given to your project, or funded a project at one school, if another teacher at that school posts a project, we’d like to just make sure that they know that just so that they’re spreading the word. And we’re doing the same where we’re asking donors to even once you donate, tell the people in your network, you did it, like, let’s make this happen. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes; we want to make sure that teachers are funded. 

 

Kim  

Now, if, if I wanted to kind of use other successful projects, as an example, to craft my own, do you have any off the top of your head that you would recommend so that, you know, it’s just nice to see what a completed successful project looks like? If that makes sense?

 

Alex  

Yeah, this is something that I did a ton as a teacher because they oftentimes hard to like speak to why I needed the resources, especially things like Legos or games for indoor recess. So if you go on our site, it’s actually super searchable. So on the left-hand side of the screen, you can filter by funded projects only. And so that’ll bring you a list of all the projects that have been funded, then you can narrow it down even further by subject area, by project type. And by grade level. So even if you don’t have a project idea, it’s a great place to go to start thinking about what you need or by searching by what type of projects you want, and seeing how other teachers have worded it that was something that I found extremely helpful as a first started writing project.

 

Kim  

Okay, yeah, that’s a good idea. Because, you know, I was thinking about getting a teacher cart because I’m going to be a traveling teacher. And in my mind, I’m thinking, is anybody else even asking for that?

 

So that would be good for me to search that then because I don’t even know how to ask for it. I feel like you said, I feel weird asking for it. Because, yeah, I don’t know. It’s like, Can you guys buy me a teacher cart?

 

I feel like it has to directly benefit the students. And I feel selfish asking for something for myself. But from what you’re saying, if it’s helping us, then it’s helping the students.

 

Alex  

Totally. And I think that project essay that you write, a lot of teachers get really hung up on how they’re saying what they need, and like the actual words they’re using, but in reality, it’s just important that you can make it clear to donors exactly how that’s going to help the students at your school and the ones that you’re going to be teaching. 

 

Another thing to think about is donorschoose.org is essentially a platform that connects teachers with big ideas and ambitious goals with donors that already excited to support public education. So chances are if you put a project out there, and you’re doing a ton of sharing, and you’re getting it out there, there’s going to be a donor out there that wants to hear and wants to help. That’s our entire goal is to connect teachers and get those projects funded. And so as long as you can explain why you have this big idea and how it’s going to help, I think that that puts you in a really great place.

 

Kim  

Okay. And then I was going through the process again recently. And there’s that section about the school and the demographics and the students, how detailed should I be?

 

Alex  

Yeah, this is a pretty common question. And some people kind of fall into this pitfall. On your donorschoose.org profile, it’s going to show what school you teach at, how many of your students get free and reduced-price lunch. So your need level is already listed there. 

 

A lot of teachers spends most of their projects essay kind of explaining what socio-economic status her students come from, but that information is already on profile. I would instead spend that time really like making sure that your asset framing, like who are your students, what are their dreams? What are they working on making it super aspirational, because these donors might have never come into your classroom before but like make them feel that love and that joy that you bring to teaching, one of the best things you can do rather than spending your time making sure that they understand there’s a need, yeah, you are posting a project, there is a need your students and what you’re working on in school.

 

Kim  

And I think that we probably do that. Not knowing number one, that it’s already there, because you’re right when I have to find my school on that list, and then it automatically populates. But also, I think, especially if someone teaches in the more affluent community, they might feel like, oh, should I really be asking when everyone around me has all this money, and so they might again, feel awkward. So I like how you’re saying it’s not about how much money the parents make, or how much money is in the community. It’s, what are you? How are you helping your students reach their dreams and their goals?

 

Alex  

Totally. And I think, for teachers on our side, they’re asking for the basics. They’re asking for pencils and paper and books. And they’re just trying to get the basics. But for other teachers, their schools are supplying those basics and donorschoose.org allows them to take that step above and beyond, maybe you have a big idea that your admin is like, we don’t have the budget this year that’s where donorschoose.org steps in to say like, nope, we’re going to help you, let’s make this happen. 

 

And so I think teachers use our site for a lot of different reasons. But at the end of the day, it’s for the benefit of students. And so I think teachers naturally are such giving empathetic people that it can be easy to say, Oh, do I need it. But if it’s going to help your student outcomes, and it’s going to make learning happen and bring it, you know, make it really exciting and bring it to life and you should ask for it.

 

Kim  

Now, I know that we can put images on there. What kind of images do you suggest that we put?

 

Alex  

Yeah, so in that same thinking of pretending you’re a donor, I like to think of super colorful things that really depict what your classrooms about, I’ve seen teachers take pictures of student work, potentially pictures of your students in action, not necessarily with their faces. But you know, reaching for a book or cheering or on the playground or whatever really expresses the vibe in your classroom. And what’s exciting to you, just as creative as you can be, and I think to keep it colorful and keep an eye-catching. 

 

Kim  

And then once my project is funded, what happens next?

 

Alex  

Yep, so what happens is, you get an email from us, and you confirm that you still need those materials. Once you confirm that our team actually purchases those materials, send them straight to your school. 

 

One of the best things about donorschoose.org it’s not a fundraiser, where you’re collecting money out of your folders or worried about where that money goes, we ship those materials straight to you, they arrive at your school. And once they do, we asked the teacher just write the little impact letter basically letting donors know how grateful they are and that the materials got there. 

 

And then within about three months, we ask that teachers and students work together to create a little student thank you package for their donors. And so those are often construction paper, glue, lots of funny little misspellings, you ship those back to our office, and we send those to your donors. 

 

And what that does is it creates the circle of gratitude, it makes it more likely for that donor to come back and support your classroom again, and I’m not sure about you, but for my students, it was a great moment to kind of stop and say like, Hey, there are people out there that are not my teacher or my family that care about me. Being able to feel that and say thank you is super, super powerful. I remember the look. We got Magic Tree House shark, nonfiction books, and a student in my class that just like, Whoa, like Ms. Fagundez, there’s someone out there who just wants me to learn like they don’t even know me, and they just want me to succeed. And what a powerful and inspiring thing for your students to grapple with. 

 

Kim  

And then now I was thinking, also, what if I asked for something like professional development? What kind of thank you package would you recommend?

 

Alex  

Yeah, teachers sometimes get stumped on this. But it’s actually way more simple than you think. Oftentimes, I would tell my students like, Hey, remember that thing that we did when we learned about multiplication? That was something that Ms. Fagundez learned at her training, let’s write a letter saying, Thank you for helping Ms. Fagundez grow her brain. 

 

Or I loved learning about coding, like, thank you so much for helping us learn about coding. I had 3rd graders, so you’re going to hear me do this. But thanks for letting my teacher grow her brain was like the biggest thing I did, especially in elementary school, but just keeping it simple. You know, donors just want to hear that it was impactful and that it happened. It’s a way that we keep our teachers and our site and our donors all in this transparency loop. They just want to know that it happened. 

 

Kim  

Now, I was thinking because you had mentioned how it’s going to be delivered to my school. Now, what happens if, later on in the year I switch to another school – do the items that I purchased belong to me or my school?

 

Alex  

Yeah, so donorschoose.org is purchasing those materials for your school. So in our materials ownership policy, it says that those materials belong to the classroom and the school that they were funded in. With that in mind, if you are switching schools, the person who has the ultimate say is going to be your school leader or your admin. And so if you ever moved, and you had something that you were like, you know, what, I really want to bring these level stools with me, Well, you’d have to do is check in with that administrator. The reason why we do that is because there are tax implications if we’re sending materials directly to an individual.

 

Kim  

And then just a school have to fill out any kind of tax forms because something was donated?

 

Alex  

Nope, if we handle all of that, we want to make it as easy as possible.

 

Kim  

Now, let’s say it’s been a couple of months, and my project still isn’t funded. What should I do now?

 

Alex  

Totally. So the average project on our site is funded within 23 days. So let’s hope you don’t get there. But if you ever do because it happens, I think that changing up your approach is always the best way to do it. The fundraising trick, because we like to create these experiments, where we see how much money comes in through Twitter for teachers how much comes in through Facebook, and then email. 

 

Every time we run that study, the most fundraising money comes in for teachers via email. So if you haven’t already sent an email to your network, I would definitely do that asking them to either support the project or share the project. So that’s like the number one thing I would do. 

 

I would also change your ask up, if you’re saying like, hey, support my students, let’s do this, maybe then switching it to Hey, will you share my project, as I mentioned before, that can be a great way to kind of change your tune, change your ask. The other thing you can think about is maybe you wrote a project, you got super, super excited about your materials, and you ended up with a $1200 project. 

 

If you’re struggling to get it funded, one thing you could do is take that project down, split it into two lower costs, and then repost it. That’s kind of a mistake that folks make a lot. But our expert teacher fundraisers will always say like, Hey, have you considered breaking up your project. So that’s kind of a more extreme one. If you’re like, you know what, this is not happening. For me, going a little lower cost is good. 

 

Another thing that a few teachers haven’t thought of, but I’ve heard from some of our top fundraisers is engaging your community. So thinking about small businesses and community who might be interested in. I know, my local pizza place, when I asked them gave a little bit towards my project. Oftentimes, your local organizations like the Kiwanis Club or things like that are typically a place where teachers don’t think to ask and could be a good place to start. If they’re excited about your community, chances are, they’re going to want to invest.

 

Kim  

I never even thought about that. I guess you just imagine it’s all online. You know, it’s just like these anonymous, faceless donors that are funding our projects but reach out to the community especially, I can imagine if you live in a small community with one school, and everyone wants to help that school succeed.

 

Alex  

Totally. I’ve also seen this is the one teacher who really went above and beyond she told her students, she created her project with her students, they were super bought in, they were super excited. And her students were helping her fundraise. They’re like mom, dad share my project, let’s do this. And she said it the project got funded at the end of the school year, they were allowed to pied her in the face. And the project got funded. And she sent us a video of her getting pied in the face. So any fundraising trick, you would use your typical fundraiser, you could do a bake sale, and put all the money towards the project, you can really think outside of the box. But there are some really cool ways to get your community involved.

 

Kim  

Now have teachers use it for like field trips or class parties?

 

Alex  

Totally. Yeah. So we’ve seen quite a few field trips. And what happens then is, it’s a special type of project. And you tell us where you want to go, how many students you’re going to have, and then once you fund it actually work with you to book the trip? I don’t know about you. I was a field trip planner. And so the idea is someone else booking the buses and making it happen. It’s kind of a dream. But our team, our team loves to do it. And so yeah, if you come on the site, and you have a big idea, definitely a good way. And some teachers will say can we do a grade-wide field trip, what I would do is break it up, you know, fund it for each class individually have a different teacher take it on. It’s definitely a good way to go.

 

Kim  

I was about to actually ask that. Like, what if we want everyone in our grade to go? Now, you had mentioned earlier matching opportunities and promo codes? Could you dive into that a little bit?

 

Alex  

Yeah, this is one of my favorite parts of the site, because I think it’s so exciting that teachers can get donations from corporate philanthropists and organizations. Essentially, donorschoose.org. part of our work is to partner with organizations that are excited to support teachers. And that could mean that that organization matches donations to your project with a match offer. It could be an organization that supports a promo code, which just like online retailers going to mass donations when donors enter it. And those are things that they can double your donations, we’ve seen five x’s, we’ve even seen 10 x’s. So imagine like your $5 is turning into $50. Like it’s crazy. 

 

And so you can find out about all of those funding opportunities at donorschoose.org/matchoffers. And to give you a sense of what types of organizations we’ve worked with in the past, we have a current opportunity with google.org. It’s called our I See Me initiative. And it’s the way we found, and teachers have said that it’s really impactful when students see themselves in their teachers and their educators. 

 

And so the project for this is a little bit of a mouthful of projects or materials that help students see themselves in their curriculum and in their learning are being matched right now from google.org. So that’s just one of the many funding opportunities happening right now. But we’ve worked with Google, we’ve worked with the Gates Foundation, Chevron, Verizon, at&t, Craig Newmark and the Born This Way Foundation is just a few of our partners that come in every single year.

 

Kim  

Now, how does that work? Exactly? So let’s say you have a project for $200. How does that match work?

 

Alex  

Yeah, so what happens is, before you post that project, you’re looking at match offers, and you say, Okay, these are the criteria that the Gates Foundation is supporting. You look at those criteria, and then you build the projects around that. And when your project was live, you’ll see a match on your project. 

 

And so at the bar at the top that says I have a $200 project actually goes down to $100. So those donations are matched. And that’s really exciting because it gives you as a teacher fundraiser, an even bigger boost, which is really exciting. And you can find all we have a huge array of these with tons of details and qualifications at donorschoose.org/matchoffers. 

 

One of the things that I get the most excited about because I work with a lot of our newer teachers is for the first week of a teacher’s first project. We have a special matching code called Lift Off, that actually doubles donations up to $50. For the whole first week. And that’s the way that we welcome new teachers to our site in that code is called liftoff. You’ll get an email about it when you post your first project. But for that first week, just welcoming you and your donors to our community, you’ll see donations matched.

 

Kim  

And so that’s also the incentive to get people in right away. If you know that we’re going to be getting that amount of money on top of it.

 

Alex  

Yeah, so the most crucial part or the most crucial timeline of a project is in that first two weeks. That’s when you’re going to see the most movement, and that’s kind of a really powerful time for a teacher to fundraise. And for a first-time teacher within that first week seen those donations double is really exciting. 

 

Kim  

So then, okay. I’m thinking, let’s say that I found a match offer for $100. And my project is $100. Do I still need to raise $100? So do I just get that offer?

 

Alex  

So if your product is $100, and you have a match offer? Then you only have one raise the $50. So every time a donor puts the dollar on your project, it’ll turn into two.

 

Kim  

Okay, so I still have to fundraise, but they’re going to give me up to 100. If that was the match offers like, okay, we have 100, then I have to just match half of that.

 

Alex  

Yeah, and a lot of our members actually don’t even have a cap, like we’ll match up to $100. Most of them are just until funds run out. And we’re working with incredibly generous funders. So that doesn’t happen too often. But these funding opportunities do move quickly. So that’s another plug to in those first two weeks of the project, especially if you have a match to fund an extra email post on social. It’s like a big opportunity. 

 

We also have, in addition into funding opportunities on donorschoose.org/matchoffers, we also sometimes do campaigns, with people like the Gates Foundation, where every project on the site has a match for one or two days only. We sometimes do that during back to school, we’ve done it a special campaign for books projects because we know they’re super important to teachers. And those things you’ll find out if you subscribe to our teacher newsletter. I always throw an update in and a little heads up for our teachers, you can be prepared, but those types of days on our site, we’re seeing tons of new donors coming.

 

Kim  

I’ve also seen or read about, like some celebrity will come and just fund everybodys or something like that.

 

Alex  

Totally it’s called a flash funding. And yes, sometimes that will happen. Last year, in 2018, we worked with Ripple, which is a cryptocurrency company. And they came to us and said, We want to do something big for teachers. And so for one day on me down the site, and we fully funded every single project. It was about $37 million in resources that went to teachers all in one shot. 

 

Now that’s basically a once in a lifetime thing and could be hugely generous gifts. But they’re all there are people out there that want to help and to take advantage of those opportunities, you just have to have a project. You have to be in it to win it. 

 

So when I was a teacher, I always had you know, even if it’s as little as $200 have a project up, have your next big idea building. I also, because projects can sometimes take quite a while to get funded, always thinking about what your next project is going to be. So I, for example, taught the Titanic in December every year with my third graders. So come August come September, I was thinking about. Okay, what do I need to bring this lesson to life? So as you’re doing your lesson planning and your content setting, thinking about like, what can I do to bring this to life for my students and then finding those resources through our vendors.

 

Kim  

That’s a great idea. Right? And, for me, I just think of it just like a one-off, because again, I don’t want to keep asking for money. But it sounds like they can just really help you build all of your dreams. And if you have things that are ongoing in your classroom, you know, like you said, some days someone might just fund it and you just never know. I was just gonna say you just really never know. And it doesn’t hurt to ask.

 

Alex  

Definitely. And we know as teachers, there are just things that are going to run out in your classroom. Like I don’t know about you, but Expo markers just didn’t last. They would last a month at the most. And if my students were touching them, like Game Over. Things like extra markers, pencils, hand sanitizer, I think my kids basically ate it. Like I don’t know where it went.  Tissue, paper towels, Lysol wipes, things like that. We have teachers that come back every single year and just do like a yearly delivery. And that’s something that we commit to. So basically anything that would make your classroom better, like we want to help.

 

Kim  

Well, thank you so much, Alex, for giving us all this amazing information. I’m excited now to finish my project. I started it as I want to wait until she tells me how to make this better. And I am really excited about those match offers. So I’m definitely going to be looking at those. Now, if people have questions along the way, is there a place where they can get ahold of you or your team?

 

Alex  

Yes, so my team is at donorschoose.org/contact. And that is a team of friendly faces that are trained to help teachers, and they are really excited to make things happen for you. So if you reach out, again, that’s donorschoose.org/contacts. If you’re a teacher who’s looking to start your first project, you are going to go to donorschoose.org/teachers. And you’re going to start the process from there. And I’m really, really excited to see some new teachers and some fresh faces. And Kim, I can’t wait to see your project.

 

Kim  

It’s simple. But now that you’re telling me that, you know, the sky’s the limit, I’m going to there’s like professional opportunity or professional development opportunities that I want. So now I’m going to start dreaming really big. So thank you for that.

 

Alex  

What’s your first project going to be?

 

Kim  

A teacher cart and I felt kind of silly. But I gave up my classroom to a new teacher because she was traveling. And I switched, and I’m going to be traveling next year. So I needed a good teacher cart. So that’s the first one. And then there are some conferences that I want to attend. So I’m going to get on it.

 

Alex  

That’s so exciting. I traveled on a cart for one day a week in my third year of teaching. And I actually found it to be really fun. I taught science to all the third-grade classrooms on our grade level once a day. And I found it to be really fun. So good luck.

 

Kim  

Thank you. And what was that website again, for its donorschoose.org/teachers to get started? Well, thank you so much, Alex, for being on here. And I know that everyone’s gonna get a lot of value out of this. Thank you.

 

Alex  

Yes. And all the teachers out there, the donorschoose.org team is cheering you on, and we can’t wait to see your project.

 

Kim  

Thanks. So that was awesome, wasn’t it? I don’t know about you guys. But I got a lot out of that. And I am ready and excited to just get going on this. So here are my key takeaways. 

 

First of all, something that surprised me was that you should keep your project under $600, maybe even under $400. Because it’s easier to get funded, if it’s a small amount, as opposed to having something that’s $1000 or $2,000. So I didn’t even think about that. So, you know, if you’re looking for like a set of iPads or keyboards, then group them up into smaller projects that can get funded along the way. So that was awesome. 

 

Another one because I have some hang-ups on asking people for money is to not ask your friends and family and colleagues for money, but to have them share your project. I think that’s awesome. Because if I send it out to 10 people, and they sent out 10 people, then obviously it’s going to, you know, connect with a lot more and it’s going to be more likely to be funded. 

 

I was also really excited about how they have the matching opportunities where, you know, I raise $1, and somebody else raises $1. And I can get to my goal even faster. That made me really excited because I used to think that having a project in terms of being funded was just. It was just too difficult to do. But from talking to Alex, now I know it’s definitely doable. A lot of teachers are doing this and having their projects funded every day. So why am I missing out on this? Why are you missing out on this? 

 

So we need to get some projects, you know, written out and get this going right away. Summer is a great time because you have all the time in the world to dream it up. And to do some online shopping and find what you need for your classroom, for professional development, whatever it is that you need as a teacher. 

 

So I really hope that you got a lot of value out of today’s episode. I know that I’m excited about this. And also don’t forget about Angela Watson’s 40-hour teacher workweek, I’m going to put the link to that in the show notes you want to get in so you can get the early bird bonuses. And thank you so much for coming here every single week. I really, really appreciate it. You guys have no idea how meaningful it is to get your emails, get reviews on Apple podcasts and just hear that the words that I’m putting out every single week. They’re helping you out, and that really drives me to keep on going even during my summer. So have a great week, and I’ll talk to you guys next week.

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