I am a 6th grade math and science teacher in Oakland, CA. I've been using DonorsChoose.org for three years to get resources for my students. So far, I've had 37 proposals funded. It's been relatively easy to make this happen, and I wanted to share this success with other teachers. Here are my top four tips to making DonorsChoose.org work for you as a teacher:
1. Keep it cheap! I've found that proposals that are relatively inexpensive (under $400) are very likely to get funded quickly. I've also had larger proposals funded, but they sometimes take longer to get more donors intrigued.
2. Get the donation ball rolling. I often let my friends and family know that I've posted a new proposal. Especially when I started teaching, those close to me really did want to help me get resources for my classroom. Even if someone can just give $20, it makes your proposal partially funded and likely to attract donors who are trying to "finish off" a proposal that has already received donations. In the past, I've gotten the word out by including links to proposals in my email signature and on my Facebook profile.
3. Get ideas from others. Where have I gotten all the ideas for these 37 proposals? From other teachers, of course! I've often searched the site for my content area (middle school math or science) to see what other teachers are asking for - it gives me ideas about what my own students could use! Whenever I visit another classroom and see something that would benefit my students, I'll make sure to post a proposal for that item or idea when I get the chance.
4. Use classroom "down" time to get thank-you notes written. In a high-stakes world, it is sometimes tough to find time in class to write thank you notes to donors when proposals are funded. However, we all know how important it is to thank the donors; it's also such an important lesson for our students to learn how to be thankful for what they receive. I find the time to do this during quizzes and tests - students are instructed before they begin that they should write a thank you note after they have finished their test. It eliminates the problem of quick students having nothing to do while they wait for their classmates to complete a test. I ask them to be detailed and include pictures in their letters. On the white board, I have written the name of the donor, any words or phrases they might need (such as "reusable batteries and charger", "appreciate", and "Sincerely") in the letter so that they can be self-driven in writing their letter.
Good luck with your proposals!--Jessica Eastman