Guest blogger Genein Letford is an elementary music teacher from Canoga Park, California and a member of the DonorsChoose.org Board of Directors.
The time is upon us: Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday… and then #GivingTuesday, the global celebration of giving back.
We all know the special process. We visit DonorsChoose.org and choose a project that speaks to us. We donate and feel cheerful that we gave to a cause we believe in. We close the browser, satisfied that we did our part to help a teacher bring life into their classroom.
But here’s what you might not know: Your donation doesn’t stop there. Let me pull back the curtain on how your gift keeps on giving.
Beyond the Thank-You Letter
Recently, heading to Harlem via the A train, I ventured up to the Frederick Douglass Academy to sit with Jane Viau, a powerhouse DonorsChoose.org teacher who has had over 100 projects funded. The way she explained how she connects her students to the DonorsChoose.org process opened my eyes to this cycle of generosity.
“One of the most heartwarming experiences,” she told me, “was from a couple in Maryland. They had a big celebration and told their guests, ‘In lieu of gifts, please donate to this class’—my class!” She continued, seemingly still shocked from the event, “I shared the online donor comments with my students and a few students became teary-eyed. They valued those donated study books so much more than they would have if they didn’t know where they came from.”
Jane capitalized on this teachable moment and made her students aware of their emotional state of gratitude. “This shows you there are good people out there,” she told them. “Someday you’re going to be in a situation where you can pay it forward. And when that time comes,” she looked at them, “think about this moment right here. Think about how you’re feeling right now and that you’ll have the power to create this same feeling for someone else.”
When we give to a DonorsChoose.org classroom, we’re not just supplying materials and resources for one-time use. Our giving creates a ripple effect that extends into the future. With our donations we are saying to these teachers and students, “We see you now and you matter to us; but we also see what you can become.”
Donors give to teachers. Teachers use those resources to give to students. Those students will then be put into a position to contribute as donors in their communities.
It’s the new circle of life.
I was inspired by Jane’s story but my heart leapt when it became evident in my own life. With multiple shrieks on the clarinet, Brenda started her music journey as a 4th grader in my band class. The instruments she performed on came to her through DonorsChoose.org and she fondly remembers writing thank-you notes to the people who took the time to give. Now a senior in high school, she recently texted me a picture of the DonorsChoose.org project she funded. She was so excited, I thought she won the lottery.
Brenda chose a 2nd grade classroom in her community. Ms. Hans needed comprehension board games and Brenda remembered how learning through game play helped her grasp content even better, so she gave. Brenda re-entered this circle of generous giving, no longer as a recipient but now as an educated donor in a position to pay it forward.
This #GivingTuesday we must remember that generosity has no end point: It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.