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Asset Framing at DonorsChoose

By focussing on students' aspirations and goals, we can show the public what's possible with their support.

"Asset-framing is defining people by their aspirations and their contributions, then acknowledging the challenges that often extend beyond them, and investing in them for their continued benefit to society.” —Trabian Shorters | Founding CEO, BMe & DonorsChoose Board Member

Empowering Teachers and Students

At DonorsChoose, we aim to support teachers seeking additional classroom resources to help their students thrive. In doing so, we hope to uplift communities and give teachers the opportunity to show the public what makes their students special.

We encourage teachers to talk about their students in the most positive light, focusing on what makes them unique, what their passions and goals are, where their strengths lie — instead of focussing on what students lack. Not only does this ensure that students and their families would feel proud of how they’re being portrayed, but it also gives our community of donors insight into what’s possible with their support.

Describing Students' Strengths

Teachers have the opportunity to share what makes their students special in the essays describing their request. When we talk about project request essays that use asset-framing, we mean three things:

  • Students are defined by their strengths and aspirations, such as what they want to be when they grow up.
  • Students are framed as having agency; students are active participants in their learning and lives.
  • There may be some mention of the students’ difficult personal circumstances, but students are defined first and foremost by their goals, achievements, and character rather than their struggles.

Moving the Needle on Asset-Framing

To encourage teachers to use asset-framing in their project essays, we made some adjustments to the prompts that help teachers write their project requests. Teachers  see:

A screenshot of teacher project creation prompts. The text reads, "About your students. Tell prospective donors who your students are and why they're special."
A screenshot of teacher project creation. The text reads, "Describe your students. Tell us what you love about your students. What makes them special? Specific details and anecdotes about your students are helpfulx See some good examples"

Teachers are encouraged to read example essays as inspiration. We’ve recently updated these examples to ensure they all implement asset-framing.

The Impact

Since we’ve started encouraging teachers to take this positive approach, we’ve seen a 27% increase in the number of teachers using asset-framing in their project essays.

Questions? Contact us!

Kirk Smiley | Principal Director, Advocacy and Public Partnerships

ksmiley@donorschoose.org | 317-403-9233

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