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Website That Helps Teachers Raise Money for Classroom Supplies

In an ideal world, school teachers would receive appropriate budgets to provide money for classroom supplies, including books, paper, writing tools, and items for special projects. However, many educators have found that their official supply budgets fall short and have turned to a website for support. With growing budget shortfalls for public schools, many school districts have been forced to slash classroom budgets. Educators often make up the difference by dipping into their own pockets. Fortunately, a new website helps teachers raise much-needed money for classroom supplies, easing their personal financial burden.

When high school social studies teacher Charles Best took a position at a public school in the Bronx, NY, he knew that teaching in an economically depressed neighborhood would be a challenge. He soon realized that what the kids needed most were basic classroom supplies — many teachers shelled out personal money to cover pencils, pens, paper and folders. Best also recognized a need for enrichment activities for his students — from new textbooks to a great, local field trip that just didn’t fit the budget, he felt that students would benefit from opportunities that teachers just couldn’t afford to buy themselves.

 Although Best knew that people could donate money to education charities, he felt that adding a personal touch to the donation process would make it more appealing. With that in mind, he created the website DonorsChoose.org. As the name implies, would-be donors can choose the types of projects they would like to support in a particular school.

How Does DonorsChoose Work?

The concept behind DonorsChoose.org is simple. A classroom teacher thinks about the supplies that would best benefit his or her classroom. The teacher then posts a list of needed supplies — from a great new biology software program to mundane supplies like pencils or calculators. Donors sift through these listings using filters that select projects based on geographic region, subject area, student age, school type, or keywords. Potential donors can choose the amount they would like to contribute. From a $1 donation to $5,000, donors can make an impact on a local classroom. In fact, individuals who donate over $50 receive a thank you letter from students for supporting their classrooms.

DonorsChoose.org has gained tremendous momentum since its inception in 2000. Celebrities such as Stephen Colbert, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Oprah Winfrey have supported the organization. For educators, the website can be a lifesaver. DonorsChoose.org is completely free for teachers to use, and each project is posted for up to four months. Although many instructors collect donations from total strangers, classrooms can use social networking tools or parent newsletters to increase donations from community members.

 By crowdsourcing donations, DonorsChoose.org is poised to change the way that classroom supplies are funded. Donors appreciate that their contributions are tax-deductible, while educators benefit from the ease of setting up projects on the site. But the real winners in this organization are the children who benefit from the generous donations made by strangers who want to support education. From  new art supplies to a camcorder for documentary projects, DonorsChoose.org allows teachers to provide enrichment activities for their classrooms without dipping into their personal bank accounts.

 Pervasiveness of Using Personal Funds for School Supplies

 A 2010 study conducted by the National School Supply and Equipment Association found that U.S. public school teachers spent $1.33 billion of their own money on school supplies for the 2009-2010 school year. Each teacher spent an average of $356 of personal money to cover basic supplies, software, games, or other instructional materials. This practice appears to be widespread as 92% of public school teachers reported spending some money on classroom supplies. 

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