Sunday, January 31, 2016

Crowdfunding Your Classroom

We see stories about crowdfunding in the news all the time, but have you ever thought about crowdfunding a project for your classroom or library?

Sites like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and IndieGoGo have become big players in the crowdfunding game. With each of these sites, a user submits a project, from medical expenses, to rent, to crazy inventions, and asks strangers online to donate money for their cause. Crowdfunding becomes big news when stories go viral about good causes or ridiculous requests. At ISTE 2013, Steve Dembo from Discovery was toting around an awesome backpack that had hidden charging ports that he had contributed to the creation of via crowdfunding. I have even helped fund the second album of Wild Child, an indie folk/rock band rom Austin, TX.

Although these popular crowdfunding sites have categories for education, most projects submitted are more personal in nature. However, there is a crowdfunding site geared specifically towards education, Donor's Choose. Their slogan, "Support a classroom. Build a future." clearly communicates their focus of helping educators prepare students for tomorrow.

This year I had my first project funded through Donor's Choose. Here are some things I learned:

1. Know exactly Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? - Answers to these basics questions will help you in writing the narrative that donors read to learn about your project. That narrative is all you have to tell a stranger why they should give to your project and not someone else's. 

2. Donor Matches - My project sat unfunded for a few months before it was quickly funded because of donor matches. Companies looking to support specific projects will use Donor's Choose to match funds already donated. I have even gotten an email from Donor's Choose letting me know about a company who was offering a match on projects like mine and was told what phrases to include in the narrative to qualify for a match.

3. Advertise your Project - The site suggests you use social media and other online tools to send your project out to everyone you know. I did not do this with my first project and it took months to fund. 

4. Have replacement parts in mind - After my project was funded I received an email that some of the items were no longer available. This would only happen with certain projects that are purchasing a number of different parts.

5. Be ready to document - Each project requires pictures and testimony from teachers and students to document the impact the project had on the learning environment. These artifacts must be submitted by a deadline to close the file on that project.

My experience with Donor's Choose was so positive that I have just submitted another project. It is three times the cost of the first project, so I am curious to see how that changes the funding time.

If you are looking for a source to fund a project in your classroom, try crowdfunding. It may be the boost you need for that innovative learning endeavor. 

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