~ By Colette
The holiday season is upon us and for many of us that brings to mind gift giving. As you are thinking about what to give this holiday season, I’d like to introduce you to an innovative program, now in its eighth year: Donors Choose.
Donors Choose connects classrooms in need with individuals who want to help. It is a way for individual citizens to support teachers and students. Teachers from all over the U.S. ask for classroom project materials and resources. They submit projects to Donors Choose, which screens each project before it is placed on the Donors Choose web site. The web site is completely searchable – by such factors as state/county, grade level, amount of poverty in the school, and type of project. When a project is funded, Donors Choose actually purchases the materials and sends them to the teacher. Then, a thank you packet from the teacher and classroom is sent back to the donor. If a project is not funded, the donor can opt to either have Donors Choose roll their money over into a similar project or receive a credit that the donor can then apply to the project of their choice.
I first became aware of Donors Choose last winter when The Prevention Researcher was given a gift certificate as a holiday gift from one of the businesses we work with. As a team, we decided which project to support with our gift certificate. Inspired, I went to Donors Choose myself and placed a personal donation.
Unfortunately, the project I chose to support last December (a video history project with high school youth in Washington DC) was not fully funded. In July, I applied the credits I received to another project. Again my chosen project was not funded (this time, another video history project with an alternative high school in Minnesota). This was a part of the process that I did not enjoy – finding an exciting project and donating, only to see it languish without getting enough money to be fully funded.
Finally, in mid-September with my credits again in hand I went looking for another project. Without the time to look for another video history project and with the goal of seeing my money used, I first looked through the available projects in my local community. I found a perfect fit…. a local elementary school needed money for Korean books for their English Language Learner Program. And, best of all, by adding a mere 88¢ to my contribution, I was able to complete the fundraising for this project. With my donation they became fully funded!
In October I received thank you cards from the young students along with pictures of them using the books. I also received a gracious note from the teacher who wrote in part, “My Korean students have become teachers and have taught the other students many new facts. I am already seeing their confidence grow….”
With the holiday season upon us and with the growing economic crisis, I encourage everyone to give this holiday season, to Donors Choose or any other charitable organization. Give your money. Give your time. Give Donors Choose gift certificates as gifts. Maybe you’ll add Donors Choose to your list of favorite charities. And if you are interested, I challenge you to donate to the project I chose this morning, helping youth in North Carolina learn video and technology skills as they create a web site which showcases the unique history and location of their community . Together, we can provide a classroom with the materials they need.