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Class Crowdfunding: What You Need to Know

crowfunding classrooms
(Image credit: AdoptAClassroom.org)

In recent years, teachers have raised millions of dollars for class supplies and other student needs through nonprofit crowdfunding sites aimed at teachers, such as DonorsChoose and AdoptAClassroom.org. Thanks to this, teachers have received funding for more than a million projects, bringing much-needed supplies to their schools. 

Teacher crowdfunding sites work in a similar fashion to other crowdfunding platforms, however, there are strategies for getting the most benefit out of the sites as an educator. 

What Educators Looking for Donations Should Know  

Specificity matters when you’re asking others to donate to your class, says Devon Karbowski, marketing manager AdoptAClassroom.org. He suggests language such as, “The reason why I'm fundraising for these supplies is that my students this back-to-school season will be entering the classroom without the supplies they need. I go through this every year and I end up having to spend $500 out of my own pocket just during the back-to-school season alone.” 

“It also helps to set a timeline, like, ‘I'm fundraising over the next three days so that I can have the supplies I need by X day,’” he says. 

While lack of adequate funding is a serious issue for many schools and classrooms, your project description should not focus exclusively on the negative. 

“When someone creates a classroom project on DonorsChoose, we encourage them to share the story of their students by highlighting their interests, strengths, and aspirations --  not just their struggles,” says Abby Feuer, Executive Vice President of Marketing & Growth, DonorsChoose. “We tell teachers, ‘Ask yourself if your students and their parents would feel proud of themselves after reading your project essay.’ We always recommend that teachers be specific regarding why and how a project will help their class, to look to other submitted projects for inspiration, and to keep up-to-date about available match offers from companies and foundations. To top it all off, a fun, eye-catching title for a project doesn’t hurt.” 

Promoting a Project Via Social Media, Images, and Geography  

Most donors on AdoptAClassroom.org and DonorsChoose choose requests based on geography. “When donors type in their neighborhood or city in our search bar, they’ll see a roster of classroom requests,” Feuer says. “Donors often search for the school they attended as a child or a school around the corner from them today.” 

Teachers should, of course, also share their projects on social media, and consider apps and platforms beyond Twitter and Facebook. “Something like Nextdoor is becoming something that we're hearing that teachers are fundraising on where you can make an ask right in your own community,”  Karbowski says. 

Images from your class can also help draw attention from donors. 

“A picture helps so much,” Karbowski says. “Seeing the person who you're supporting, seeing the classroom itself, seeing busy learners working with their hands . . . .” 

Remember to respect student privacy and frame any photos you include in a way that does not include students’ faces or identities, he says. 

What Donors Need to Know 

DonorsChoose and AdoptAClassroom.org both have four-star ratings from Charity Navigator, the highest score possible.

As previously mentioned, many donors use geography as a guide in choosing what request to support, but they can also find worthy projects in other ways. 

“To make the act of giving even more personal, donors can search for local projects that align with their passions. Maybe they love reading and want to fund book projects listed by teachers, or they’re musicians and want to fund sheet music for a school band,” Feuer says. 

“We also advise supporters to consider where their gift can make the greatest impact. Our Equity Focus as an organization centers on schools where at least 50 percent of students are Black, Latinx, Native American, Pacific Islander, or multiracial, and at least 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, the standard measure for school economic need.” 

While AdoptAClassroom.org works primarily on helping to fund Title I schools, these platforms also work with charter schools and private schools.

“There are teachers out there who are at a school where you would think the students are receiving everything they need, but the teachers are still having to spend their own money,”  Karbowski says. “We just want to make sure that we can help teachers across the country who are wanting to make sure that their students have everything they need to learn and succeed.” 

Erik Ofgang

Erik Ofgang is a journalist, author and educator. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, The Atlantic and Associated Press. He currently teaches at Western Connecticut State University’s MFA program. While a staff writer at Connecticut Magazine he won a Society of Professional Journalism Award for his education reporting. He is interested in how humans learn and how technology can make that more effective.