Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Mostly Positive Experience With Donors Choose

This was previously posted on the MSTA blog

A few years ago on a lark I asked my wife to buy me a ukulele for Christmas. After almost two years of noodling with it at home and at school (modeling learning to my students) I decided that I wanted to start a ukulele club at school. I talked to my building principal about it and she was very supportive. With money always an issue I told her that I would like to try Donors Choose, a site where teachers can ask for money to be used to fund projects.

I went to the Donors Choose site,, and set up an account. I had to look carefully and read a couple help files to figure out how to set up the project. I wish it had been easier, but I did eventually figure it out. As I was setting up the project I discovered a few things that almost made me stop.

The first problem I had was that there was an 'optional donation' figured into the price. After reading the information I saw that it was to help defray any changes in the amount that was quoted because many projects don't get funded in the usual 30 days the quotes are good for. Any monies not used that way are then used by the organization to help fund other projects. This seems reasonable to me.

The second problem is that I was restricted to specific sites to order from. The ukuleles I wanted were $20 cheaper on Amazon than on the site I was required to use. That being said, choosing the products for the project was as simple as adding them to the cart. That worked seamlessly and I was very impressed.

After finishing up putting all the information required for the project I submitted it to be checked over. Donors Choose uses volunteers to make sure the information meets the site's expectations. It only took a few days until I received the email that it was approved and live.

After getting the email I wrote a blog post for my class blog. There I explained how to use the match code I received from the organization. This code allowed donations made through the first seven days of the project to be doubled up to $100 a piece! This effectively made each donation using the code double. Because of this, I tweeted the link on Twitter to my post that gave the match code. I wanted all the matching funds I could get!

While waiting for the project to be approved I spent some time talking about it on Twitter with my friends. I had several that asked t be notified when it went live so I tweeted to them first. Many of the donations I received came from people that I talk to on Twitter. Don't underestimate the power of social media to help fund your project! If you don't use Twitter, Facebook can also be a great place to ask for help.

I anxiously kept a watch on my project site to see how the donations were going, I was completely shocked that in less than twelve hours it was fully funded. I received notice the next day that the items have been ordered (much faster than going through my school district's bureaucracy :) I was very surprised by the speed of the whole process.

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