What if there were a simple way to provide students with the books, technology, and supplies they need to learn? What if people from all walks of life could connect directly with public schools, learn about specific classroom needs, and choose how to help?
DonorsChoose makes this possible.
At DonorsChoose.org, teachers submit requests for desperately needed resources such as "Magical Math Centers" ($200) or "Big Book Bonanza" ($320). Individuals can search student projects by areas of interest, learn about classroom needs, and choose to fund the project they find most compelling. Donors receive a feedback package, including an expenditure report showing that their tax-deductible gift was spent as directed.
DonorsChoose aims to improve public education by engaging citizens in an online marketplace where teachers describe, and individuals can fund, specific student projects. We envision a nation where students in every community have the resources they need to learn.
DonorsChoose attracts contributors from all walks of life through an approach called Citizen Philanthropy. No matter their contribution size, all donors are treated to a level of service normally reserved for established philanthropists. This includes:
- Meaningful Choice: Whether interested in pre-K literacy or science field trips, donors can select the specific project they feel will have the biggest impact.
- Full Accountability: We screen each project proposal before posting it online, purchase the materials for the teacher, and compile vivid feedback for the donor(s).
- Portfolio Services: DonorsChoose contributors can track and manage their giving in "My Account," which shows citizen philanthropists everything from the subject areas they have funded to the number of students they have helped. Tools such as gift certificates and gift registries allow donors to engage their children, friends, and family members in citizen philanthropy.
Rather than prescribe another education "solution," DonorsChoose outsources the key decisions to students' own teachers. In our philanthropic marketplace, entrepreneurial educators describe classroom needs, and contributors decide where to put their money.
To ensure accountability in its marketplace, DonorsChoose has developed an operation that has more in common with a profit-driven company than a charity. An online workflow streamlines the screening of teacher proposals and the compilation of photos, thank-you letters, and expenditure reports for each donor. Classroom materials are verified and purchased using an e-procurement system -- technology that has never before been deployed by a non-profit organization.
Last year, a gathering of CIOs from Fortune 30 companies focused on the online workflow developed by DonorsChoose. Jon Beyman, the CIO of Lehman Brothers and the sponsor of 60 student projects, went on record saying, "As a technologist looking at their system, I'm astounded at what a scalable platform they've created to deliver resources to classrooms and feedback to donors."
Our results -- helping students now
As of Nov. 11, 2005:
- 6,241 teachers from 2,535 public schools have submitted 14,768 proposals for resources that their students need to learn.
- Residents of all 50 states have funded 9,138 of these proposals, channeling $4,400,212 worth of materials and experiences to 256,347 students. Over 80% of those students live near or below the poverty line. More than 80% of these resources are reusable for future classes.
- When teachers submit a proposal, they list the number of students that will benefit, the number of instructional hours that would be enriched, and the percentage of resources that will be reused by future students.
- Right now, we're embarking on our biggest challenge yet: opening our resources to all public schools in the Gulf Coast. DonorsChoose is expanding to Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama so that Gulf Coast teachers can directly request materials and experiences needed to create functioning classrooms in the wake of Katrina. In turn, our website will provide Americans with a tangible, transparent, and self-directed way to participate in the ongoing hurricane relief effort.