Creative problem solving, brainstorming – it all begins there with a need and a group of people creatively thinking about ways to solve it. This story began in a school lunchroom at Wings Academy deep in the Bronx – where a bunch of teachers were talking about the needs of their public high school. They knew first-hand what scarcity meant not only in the classroom but to the students who had no materials. A universal problem most teachers know well….unfortunately.
"From the beginning, my colleagues and I experienced a problem that drained creativity from teachers and learning from students-a lack of funding for essential materials and for projects that bring subject matter to life. As you well know, most teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies," said Charles Best, a social studies teacher and one of those thoughtful teachers sitting in the school cafeteria that day.
The challenge was to deal with the scarcity of resources such as learning materials, and issues with uneven distribution. Studies show that teachers spend their own money – up to $1 billion annually – to buy supplies for their students.
The teachers decided the impact of scarcity could be addressed by asking – ok – asking with a twist. But how? After some thought, Best came up with www.donorschoose.org - a place where teachers can submit project proposals for their students online and then receive fulfillment through a most cutting edge e-procurement technology by a nonprofit organization. Anyone, anywhere, anytime can log into DonorsChoose.org and do their part to support students. The concept of blending technology, economic market principles, and donors to fulfill the needs of classrooms in every state (coming this fall) is revolutionary.
It’s a “what-can-you-do-for-me and my students?" option for the teachers, and yet it’s also a "what-can-I-do-for-you?" opportunity for donors and those who have a desire to help as well. Many donors wish to support schools with certain demographics but had no idea how until now. They can scroll though all the proposals to find just the right one for them. Perhaps they love a proposal for its creativity….or maybe they fall in love with one that serves a high percentage of low income students. It’s their choice to choose the proposal that fits their mission.
Founded in 2000, and thanks to contributions from donors in 45 states, $526,891 has been donated to 26,400 Texas students in need, as of May 20, 2007! Nationally DC has funded more than 25,000 projects totaling $12.2 million and reaching 548,000 students in Texas and nine other states.
Teacher proposals range from $100 to $10,000, ($400 is the average) and are most creative ways to get needed supplies into classrooms across the land, but also to encourage citizen philanthropy. No matter what size the contribution, all donors receive the privilege of choosing their own specific project, and receive proof that their dollars were spent as designated. Their business like actions provide accountability through photos, thank you notes, and expenditure reports double checked and delivered to the donor.
The teacher’s pitches are clever
Look at a few of the 756 proposals in Texas you can see online at www.donorschoose.org.
On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!!!!!!!!!!!
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Hide a Butterfly
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Draw, Flash, What is that?
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Inspire High School English-Learners With Paolo Coelho's "Alchemist"
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Rescue Struggling Readers
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The Texas Leadership Partner is JPMorganChase Bank. Now, honored by Fast Company.com as one of the 43 Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World, Charles Best is determined to serve every public school in the USA. And of course, "after Oprah Winfrey hailed DonorsChoose (DC) as 'a revolutionary charity,' people in 48 states funded 500 projects within 36 hours," Best said. DC was also recognized by Amazon.com as one of the 10 most innovative charities in the country.
Educators: isn’t it time to forward this story to funders you might know – funders who care about the future and potential of our most precious assets – our kids and you, the teachers who serve them. Donors can give a gift certificate, an honorarium, a gift registry for a wedding, for a marathon runner, a 50th anniversary, a birthday…even Christmas.
To see how you can help contact Robert Boyd, Executive Director for Texas at DonorsChoose in Dallas at 469.441.2851. You may email him at Robert@donorschoose.org
Read some first hand stories from Texas teachers.
In our 10th grade law classes the students spend considerable time learning about the rule of law in our country and how citizens make a difference by becoming active with their government. To better achieve that goal I take students to Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg, Virginia the first week in December each year on a program operated by the Close Up Foundation, a non partisan citizenship education organization (closeup.org). Our school is dedicated to the belief that if we want young people to become active citizens who participate in our democracy, if we truly want to preserve our democratic ideals "to ourselves and our posterity", then we must teach our youth the skills of democratic citizenship.
The trip is quite expensive and you can imagine that many of my kids can't even come close to affording it. I learned about Donors Choose from an article in the Dallas Morning News last spring an realized that DonorsChoose provided an opportunity to solicit funding to help some of the underadvantaed students.
Because teachers are allowed to have as many as three proposals active at any given time, I was able to maximize the fundraising opportunity by writing each proposal in the amount of $1000.
All three were funded within just a couple of months.
Through Donors Choose, I was able to fund an additional three students; kids who would likely not otherwise have been able to take the trip.
For many students, this experience has been life changing. One now works in the Commerce Dpt., one in the Justice Dpt., one has run for Congress. More importantly, most are now voting members of society taking an interest in their country, how it is being run and trying to make a difference.
This year I submitted three more proposals for the Close Up trip and already two have been funded. I fully anticipate that the third proposal will soon be funded, too.
Our goal is that each student at the school have the opportunity to experience this program. Because of Donors Choose, we are closer to that goal.
David Lewis received honorable mention for the Dallas ISD Teacher of the Year award. Townview Gov-Law Magnet High School, DISD, Dallas, Texas
The first thing DonorsChoose (DC) purchased for our classroom was materials for our classroom garden. We raised butterflies and ladybugs that we released into our garden to learn about lifecycles and living things. The next big purchase from DC was city bus passes. Our class rode the city bus down to the main office and each student was able to have their picture made and get a semester bus pass which allowed our class to ride the city bus to local theatres, plays, restaurants, shows and other community events. This allowed our students how to ride the bus, get on and off at stops, and behave in the community.
DC also paid for our class to visit the Rainforest Cafe, and see the movie Charlotte's Web after we studied it. DC also purchased shirts which we had monogrammed for our Special Olympics T Shirts. We were the best dressed athletes at the event this year. DC paid for our class to attend the Zoo where we got to see all the animals and their habitats. DC paid for an HEB gift card to our local grocery store so that our class can ride the city bus to purchase groceries which our class uses to prepare daily snacks and a Thanksgiving luncheon for the staff on campus.
DC has been a Godsend to our classroom, and applying for these materials could not have been any easier. I just discovered their website while surfing the internet one day last summer. All I had to do was write a short proposal about what my class was in need of, and submit it. Once someone donated, DC sent the materials to my class and it was that easy! Once the materials arrived, our class wrote thank you letters and took pictures to send to the donor!
Each completed proposal has allowed room to add more. I am going into the summer with 8 proposals to write and many needs for next year! This has been so wonderful for our students and I highly encourage other teachers to apply at www.donorschoose.org.
I have been teaching students with special needs since 1996. I taught middle school for six years, then went into administration for two years and then returned to the classroom three years ago. I love working with middle school students especially those with very special needs. They are the joy of my life and I am so blessed to get paid for what I do.
Jennifer Fitzhugh, Jackson Middle School, NEISD, San Antonio, Texas