The DonorsChoose.org community is full of generous souls who have helped bring over 1.3 million teacher dreams to life. Throughout the year, our team gets the chance to sit down with some of these classroom supporters to get to know them and pick their brains. The donor we’re spotlighting today prefers to give anonymously, but he let us make this interview public in the hope that his words can give some insight into what makes our classroom supporters tick.
Since 2011, lucky teachers across the country have been receiving anonymous donations to their classroom projects from one generous donor; he’s helped thousands of teachers bring much-needed supplies to their students. (You might have seen his giving page – ”37 people can’t be wrong”). We got the chance to talk with him about why he supports DonorsChoose.org, his favorite projects, and his advice for teachers.
Let’s start with the big question: Why do you support teachers?
I just admire what they do for a living so much. They’re underpaid and they’re pulling money out of their own pockets to help their students. It’s sort of cliché, but clearly what they’re doing matters because these are the children who are going to grow up and the ones who will be eventually running our country and, you know, doing everything. So it’s important that our children are supported and nurtured and educated the right way.
How did you first start giving through DonorsChoose.org?
I was living in North Jersey. In one of my local newspapers I saw an article about these students at a school who were doing a fundraiser, selling t-shirts and cupcakes. They were going from one full-time and one part-time music teacher to just a single part-time music teacher. So students and parents were rallying behind: “Let’s try to raise money to preserve the music program.”
I read that article, and it struck a chord. I thought, what could I do to support teachers? Typically when schools are tight on budgets and funds, some of the things that get targeted first are arts and music. So I searched on Google for how to support schools, and DonorsChoose came up on the list. I started looking into it, and I thought, “Hey, this is pretty neat. You know, I can donate to projects from across the country for what teachers are requesting.”
What kinds of projects do you find most compelling?
When the project is giving back to the local community. You know, it could be knitting hats for homeless kids or babies in the hospital, or asking for supplies to give to veterans or put on a musical performance for a veterans. So things where the students and the teachers are giving back to the local community are my first choice.
Do you remember any projects that especially stood out?
This is an example of a student who came up with an idea that everyone rallied around, but the idea couldn’t become a reality without the requested materials. The student said, “I’d love to do this video editing type of class or learn those types of skills in school.” And the teacher said, “All right, I’ll start this up for you and I’ll teach you about video editing.”
And other students found out about this class, and they wanted to join. So their attendance rate bloomed in the following years, and more and more students are signing up for this class based on a single student’s wish to learn about video editing. So the teacher was like, “Alright, I need a more powerful computer” because the classroom was growing, and the computer he had was really outdated and slow.
It took forever to process an edit videos on this computer. I liked that the project was telling you the story: One student had this idea, and then other students got really into it and involved and wanted to join this class. It was a class that didn’t exist and it only became bigger and bigger over the years and more and more students were interested in learning that skillset. With my childhood experiences on my own building computers, that project really spoke to me.
What advice do you have for teachers creating their own projects?
First, making sure they tell that good story or call out what value those materials are going to have for their classroom.
Social Media is a great way to get out there and find people that might not otherwise know about you or your projects. But don’t just say, “Hey, check out my project please.” Tell me why! Tell that story. Use Facebook, use Twitter, Instagram, and help your donors help you. Call out why your project is important and why it matters so much — even in the limited space that you have online, you can get creative. You’d be surprised what people have come up with and done. And those are the ones that attract me and I’m, you know, I’m always supporting those types of things, whether it’s through a share or retweet or a donation.
Want to channel this generous donor this holiday season? Support a teacher who’s teaching her students how to give back.