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Full Funding: How to Stack the Deck in Your Favor


“Think like a donor – would you like to help a project that needs $50 more to fully fund or $2,000 more? Donors like to feel they are making an impact, and it is difficult to feel that way when your project is expensive,“ shares Francie Kugelman in her tips for success on DonorsChoose.org. “Projects that are not very expensive have a much higher chance of getting fully funded.”When we read Francie’s article, we loved this straightforward tip. We welcome projects of any size on DonorsChoose.org and want you, our teachers, to dream big and post any request imaginable to bring your classroom to life. That being said, if your top priority is giving your projects the best possible chance of receiving full funding, or if you’re debating between materials or how many items to request in one project, total cost is a stellar thing to keep in mind.

The Facts

The smarties on our data science team have figured out that the chances of project success decrease with project cost. While $200 projects have 85% chance of funding, $2,000 projects have a 47% chance of funding.

Probability of Success

We know that singular high-priced items tend to be the culprit. And browsing for that perfect supply at the best price can draw on time that you, our teachers, just don’t have. With that in mind, we’ve mined our vendors and taken cues from the items most requested by teachers to develop these suggestions for keeping your project cost low while still bringing your idea to life.

Technology projects: keeping costs low

Technology is empowering for students, and once you have a well-functioning device, the possibilities are endless. However, computers and tablets - not to mention document cameras - can really take a bite out of your budget. In fact, last back-to-school season, the average cost for technology projects was $1,241, while the average cost for non-technology materials projects was just $664.Back-to-school 2014 data:

B2S 2014 Technology

The above graph displays the average price for technology projects for the 2014 back-to-school season, broken out by projects that reached full funding as compared with those that weren’t successful. Fully funded technology projects averaged a cost of $1,047. In comparison, projects that didn’t reach full funding averaged $1,568. That’s a difference of $521 - that could be a whole other project!If you’re considering a technology project this fall, try the following to lower the cost:

  • Consider lower cost alternatives. For instance, can a Chromebook fulfill all your needs instead of a laptop? Chromebooks requested last back-to-school season cost around $250 while laptops with the same memory and harddrive average $650. The same question could be asked about tablets. iPad projects are very popular. Perhaps you may want to consider Kindles or Android tablets. Can they do what you need? At a slightly lower cost, you may end up with multiple alternative tablets for the price of one name brand tablet or laptop. Mrs. Crooms requested two Google Nexus tablets at the price of one iPad Air.
  • Decrease the number of materials requested. Would 2 tablets be useful in your classroom even if you’d prefer to have 10? Can you put those headphones and tablets in two separate projects? Some teachers have created new projects for just tech accessories, like cases and wireless mouses. Mr. Schultz made a separate project for his Chromebook accessories and split up his Chromebook request into multiple requests. This allowed him to keep the cost of some of his Chromebook projects below $300! That’s awesome!

Here are five super low cost technology alternatives to consider:

  1. Amazon Fire HD 7 (There’s also a Kids Edition!)
  2. Google Nexus 7 Tablet
  3. ACER C720 Chromebook
  4. Samsung Series 3 Chromebook
  5. Microsoft Surface 2

For easy shopping: Quill.com, Best Buy Education, Staples Advantage, and CDW carry the most technology products. See more recommendations.

Essential items like paper, pencils and folders: keeping costs low

With the constant need for paper, pencils and other materials, essential supplies are often used up in the blink of an eye. Many teachers post requests for these items every year. Looking at last year’s back-to-school data, requesting a ton of basic materials in one project can quickly add up. In the graph below, you can see that successfully funded supply projects averaged $597 in cost, while those that do not reach funding averaged $991. Those requests average high which, as previously mentioned, may be a deterrent to donors.Back-to-school 2014 data:

B2S 2014 Supplies

If you’re considering a classroom essentials project this fall, try out the following to lower the cost:

  • Keep basic materials in their own project. We’ve seen teachers combine requests for essentials with other materials. Unbundling your requests can ensure you to get what you need most for the start of the year. Mrs. Mammel geared up for back-to-school and separated her pencils and dry erase boards in two separate projects.
  • Love bargain hunting? Sometimes, it takes some digging to find the right deal. We’ve compiled a list of our vendors to make it easier for you. For example, you can find basic classroom supplies from Blick Art Materials, Lakeshore Learning, Nasco, Quill.com, School Speciality, Staples, Advantage, and Teachers’ School Supply.

Classroom furniture: keeping costs low

Cozy, functional furniture is what makes a classroom feel like home but large items, like shelving and seating, can come at a hefty price. Many teachers request privacy partitions, book bins and floor seating on DonorsChoose.org. If you’re considering a classroom furniture project this fall, follow the tips below to lower the cost:

  • Don’t feel pressure to balloon your project. We often see teachers add miscellaneous items to their big ticket request to make the project seem “fuller”. With these big ticket items, it’s okay if your project only asks for two or three pieces. Mr. Crouch hit a double-whammy and got Hokki stools for his entire class by not only ordering in small quantities but also requesting the same stools in several individual projects.
  • Choose classroom furniture that is versatile and inexpensive to ship. Amy, Business Relations Manager at DonorsChoose.org, shared, “A lot of teachers request those large bean bag chairs for reading corners. They can be hard to transport, as they are large and would need to be shipped by freight, so shipping alone would cost a lot.” Amy recommends teachers look into floor pillows. Not only are they an inexpensive alternative and easy to ship, but they’re also easier to store in the classroom.

Here’s three low cost alternatives to consider:

  1. Lakeshore Soft Seat
  2. Yoga Balls
  3. Carpet Squares

Kaplan Early Learning, Lakeshore Learning, Quill.com, Staples Advantage, School Specialty, and Teachers’ School Supply tend to carry the most furniture. See more recommendations.

Shop smarter

We know that you, DonorsChoose.org teachers, are already savvy and resourceful. Use the tips above to shop smarter and strategize your projects.Join the conversation: What are your tricks for project success? Tell us in the comment section down below.

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