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Meet the Man Who Galvanized His Friends With Gift Cards and a Video


Even Erik Mygrant's rascally dog Nola knew to behave for this video he created encouraging his friends to DonorsChoose.org."Secret is she had quite a bit of ice cream and peanut butter that day," he confided in us by email recently. The clip caught our eye because it offered a unique take on our model—and helped plenty of teachers along the way. It started last holiday Thanksgiving, when Mygrant posted a note on Facebook about teachers, informing his friends that anyone liking or commenting on it would get a "special gift" from him.It turns out that gift was a $30 DonorsChoose.org gift card, that his friends were all free to use however they liked, on any classroom project they wished. Mygrant and his wife have been giving to charity for years, but for him the option to choose specific classrooms, subjects, and locations—and to see your specific contribution in play in the form of thank you notes—was important. "The impact becomes even more real when you see the pictures of the kids using the things you helped purchase," he said. "It makes you want to help more. The fulfillment is remarkable."

"We also knew we wanted to do something big." Mygrant knew that he couldn't fund all the classrooms in his state or a city, but he wanted to make a larger impact than just funding one classroom. It took some thinking to arrive at a solution, but he and his wife quickly realized that spreading the word needed to be part of their goal to "make our donation greater than just the dollar amount."Thanks to social media, they found one way to do that. This is what he and his wife came up with:

On the morning of Thanksgiving, I wrote a note on Facebook about my teachers and how important they were in my life. I talked about how these amazing people with arguably the hardest job in the world do it thanklessly and most end up funding their classrooms out of their own pocketbook. At the end I mentioned that anyone liking or commenting on my status would get a gift. It was posted and the likes were coming in. Unfortunately at the time I didn’t know whether or not DonorChoose actually sold gift certificates… thankfully they do. We split our set donation total among the total of likers and commenters and the idea was set. We’d hand over the responsibility of our donation to our friends and let them decide which classrooms to choose and feel the same inspiration obtained from such a direct impact as we had.

It all paid off. Mygrant tells us that so far, most of his friends have donated more than just the amount on the gift card. "Some of our friends have left us speechless with their generosity," he says. "It’s been really wonderful seeing the classrooms and projects people are choosing."And, as we've witnessed before, the donations he spurred turned online spaces into meadows of kindness. "My inbox has recently become an almost constant source of inspiration," he says. "And overnight my Facebook feed went from a wall of complaints and blame to a wall full of charity and gratitude." He got comments from friends and strangers alike."Far and away the most exciting thing to come from the experiment is the dialogue that has opened about education between myself and my friends."Thank you so much for bringing joy to classrooms in need, Erik!

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