Heather Lister

6 Tips for Successful DonorsChoose Campaigns

What is DonorsChoose?

DonorsChoose is a website dedicated to matching donors to classrooms (and libraries!). As the teacher, you will browse through one of DonorsChoose’s many vendor partners and select the items you wish. Once a total is calculated, you will then launch a DonorsChoose campaign in attempt to raise that amount. Each DonorsChoose project has a time frame and if the total is not met before the end of the time period, the money goes back to the individual donors. Note: By default, all donations include an optional 15% donation to DonorsChoose. Therefore, if a family member donates $50 to your campaign, your campaign will only see 85% of the donation, unless the donor opts out of the 15% donation to DonorsChoose.

  1. PLAN EVERYTHING IN ADVANCE OF YOUR CAMPAIGN GOING “LIVE”. Since each DonorsChoose campaign has a time limit, you’ll want to make the most of your live campaign. This means you’ll want to get your marketing materials ready in advance. If your school does a newsletter, be sure to think ahead of time about including the donation information. Or, if you’re planning on doing a newsletter yourself, make sure that gets to the print shop in time.
  2. TIMING IS IMPORTANT January is never a good time to do a fundraiser because holiday spending hits everyone hard. The end of the year isn’t the best either because you won’t have that much time to finish the required thank you package and actually use the product prior to the end of the school year. I would recommend October or November. Students are settled into the new school year and some students will connect with extended families over fall holidays. And don’t forget – donations are tax deductible. If you do your campaign before the winter holiday, donors will be able to claim their donation on their taxes.
  3. GET THE STUDENTS INVOLVED Getting the students involved from the very beginning can be incredibly helpful. When the students are invested in the process, they take ownership of it. It is no longer a “library fundraiser” but “their” fundraiser. Have them create some of the marketing materials. Have them help choose the products for the fundraiser. Planning the fundraiser with students can also be a tremendous learning opportunity. The planning, the research, the budgeting, the marketing. All of the things that go into a successful DonorsChoose projects are immensely beneficial to the students.
  4. BE REASONABLE Keep in mind that DonorsChoose operates on an “all or nothing” system. If your project doesn’t get completely funded, all of the donations go back to the individual donors. So while it can be tempting to add a lot of things to your cart, keep in mind that with each addition, your chances of having a project fully funded decreases. Therefore, only request what you really need for your project. If you happen to meet your goal, simply do another campaign for the remaining materials. It may take a little more planning and organization, but at least you won’t be left without your materials.
  5. MARKET LIKE CRAZY I can’t stress this enough. Although I had a lot of family members and parents donate to our project, we also had a lot of “strangers”. I attribute that to my large PLN. Don’t be ashamed to share your campaign on social media. Even better – make it personal by reaching out to community groups and organizations and letting them know about the campaign. If your PTO or PTA has a Facebook group, consider posting it on there. Even if someone can’t contribute, ask them to share. And when it comes to asking others to share your project, the easier you can make it for them, the better. Send an email to the teachers in your building with a pre-made email, Facebook post, and 140 character Tweet. Ask them to copy and paste this on their social sites. This way, they can share the project in just a few clicks.
  6. HAVE A BACKUP PLAN There is a chance your project won’t get funded. So what do you do? My very first DonorsChoose project didn’t get funded. Partly because I didn’t share the project outside of my immediate school community and partly because I requested way too many things. Our first project was to build our LEGO wall. Instead of just budgeting for the materials to build the wall, I got mouse happy and added a bunch of LEGO sets to my wishlist. That was a bad idea.

In addition to DonorsChoose, there are lots of other ways to fundraise for your classroom or library. PledgeCents, GoFundMe, and Adopt a Classroom are similar tools to DonorsChoose. Be sure to check Mackin’s Grant Channel for lots of grant opportunities or start a Funds4Books campaign – you get 100% of the funds!

Author Info

Heather Lister

Teacher-Librarian and Educational Consultant, Hershey, PA


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