Who are the five people who have most influenced your life? A college professor of mine asked our class to write down our answers to this question on the first day of the semester a few years back. When we were done, he asked those whose lists included at least one teacher to raise their hands. Everyone in the class put a hand up.In about a month, the corporate and foundation partners who contribute many millions of dollars to classrooms on DonorsChoose.org will be gathering in San Francisco for our annual Partner Summit. I’ve been nagging Charles, our CEO and a former teacher, to ask all the CEOs and business leaders gathered to raise their hands if they’re in that room because of a teacher. You heard my prediction here first: Everyone in that room will raise a hand too. I know from my team’s work with partners that there’s only one real reason partners choose to work with DonorsChoose.org: you. Here’s what I mean.
Your classrooms are like giant billboards for why support for public education matters.
For years, our team (the Partnerships and Business Development or “PBD” group) had been hoping for, wishing for, and pursuing an introduction to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We tried telling every tangential contact we had how the Gates Foundation’s mission made them a perfect fit for donating to classrooms on DonorsChoose.org. No dice. One fateful day in 2008, Melinda Gates was visiting a school in a low-income community in Texas and noticed one classroom with especially shiny new resources. Melinda asked the teacher where these resources had come from. The teacher’s answer—“DonorsChoose.org!”—sparked a nearly ten-year relationship between our site and the Gates Foundation, resulting in over $15 million in resources making their way into now-magical looking classrooms like the one Melinda wandered into long ago.We hear stories like this from our corporate and foundation partners all the time. So please, keep requesting the materials you need to make your learning environment sparkle—and keep telling the people who come to see you teach about the platform you used to secure those resources.
You fundraise (which means we can fundraise).
Many of our most prominent partnerships are match offers. That’s when our team drives donations by securing a grant from a corporation or foundation to match the contributions you get from the people in your life. Partners are blown away when we tell them that it’s teachers—not full-time professional fundraisers—who are unlocking these matched donations. We could never secure this type of support from interested companies if you and your fellow teachers weren’t such staunch advocates for your classrooms. Think of it this way: if a company we love donates $500,000 toward a match offer, we’re thrilled—and then immediately humbled when in a few months (or weeks! or days!) our teacher community somehow manages to use all of the funds available by securing individual $50 donations from 10,000 of their neighbors, college buddies, dentists, moms, and everyone else they’ve ever sent a project link to. 400,000 teachers like you, and 16 of us: Together we’re a powerhouse project-funding team. We should get t-shirts!
Your projects are totally transparent.
I know it’s a lot of work to shop for every material your students need. (Really, I do. I used DonorsChoose.org in my own classroom.) But your hard work allows us to send you exactly what you require. It also enables our PBD team to show partners how every single item their grant funded—down to each individual hot pink highlighter—is something teachers and students need. Transparency and responsiveness to the needs of our marketplace impress even our savviest for-profit partners and is something we can only offer because you put in the hard work to tell the world about your students’ unique needs and dreams.
You and your students express your gratitude in amazing ways.
Thank-yous are kind of our secret sauce when it comes to partners. For one of their all-staff meetings, Jamba Juice put together an exhibit (see photo above) of the hundreds of thank-yous they've received. Our friends at Chevron have framed, poster-sized versions of your students’ handwritten heartfelt awesomeness on their office walls. One of our Google buddies keeps a running tab of all the teachers who Tweet their thanks to his company. Your thanks are so, so appreciated; our PBD team fields “Thanks for the thanks!” messages on the regular.These are just a few of the reasons that it’s an honor for our team to be on your team. Keep up the amazing work, and my colleagues and I will just try to keep up with you.
Before becoming a Partnerships Director for our PBD team, Ali was a Pre-K teacher in California, where she used DonorsChoose.org to secure resources like The Giving Tree (as seen in the photo above).