Pat Werner, my amazing Literacy Coach from my first year of teaching, told me about DonorsChoose, an organization that matches teachers in need of funding with citizen philanthropists, in the fall of 2004. I started writing grant proposals through DonorsChoose and obtained funding for experiences I wanted my students to have. Thanks to Pat informing me about DonorsChoose, 84 of my past students obtained access to an array of field trips and special programming (i.e., yoga classes and theater residencies) they wouldn’t have normally had access to if special funding hadn’t been obtained.
I’m happy to inform you that DonorsChoose, which used to only be available to teachers who lived in NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles, and a few other places, is now national. That means that ALL PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS IN THE 50 STATES CAN USE DONORSCHOOSE.
Here are some suggestions I’m providing for you if you want to get your proposals funded on Donorschoose (NO GUARANTEES… these are just things that have worked for me):
o Craft a catchy title: Use capital letters and a short, punchy headline that will make a donor want to open your proposal.
o Inform, but don’t over-inform: Most likely the patron who is going to fund your proposal is a busy person who doesn’t have time to read a long explanation of who your students are and all about how you got your idea to write this proposal. Get the to point right away. Keep your paragraphs short and avoid teacher-speak and academic jargon.
o Don’t restate the obvious: There’s a sidebar on each proposal that states your school’s city and state, the subject your proposal pertains to, the grade level and the percentage of low income students in your school. Therefore, refrain from restating those facts in your proposal. (You may wish to include the neighborhood your school is in or something about your class. However, do NOT list your name, your school’s name or your class number in the text of the proposal.)
o Write and edit your proposal in Microsoft Word, then copy and paste it into the DonorsChoose system. This way you’ll have a copy of it on your computer just in case you need to return back to it again.
o When selecting materials try to use the preferred online vendors. If you’re requesting school supplies, try to use Quill since they ship products quickly. If Quill doesn’t have what you need, then use Office Depot (just let your school know something’s coming from Office Depot). For books, use Barnes & Noble. If you need art supplies, Blick Art Supply and Lakeshore Learning are good bets. (All of the companies I listed above have contracts with DonorsChoose and usually ship products upon receipt of funding for your order.)
o E-mail, don’t call! The staff at DonorsChoose is really busy.
o Compelling feedback packages: It’s really true… The more compelling your students’ notes are, the more likely you are to have repeat donors. Several donors have requested to be updated when I post new proposals since they found my feedback packages (i.e., photographs, my letter and my students letters) to be meaningful. I suggest you have your students make handmade cards on construction paper for donors, rather than writing thank you letters on loose leaf paper since the kids definitely enjoy making the cards much more than writing a letter on loose leaf paper. (Plus, they can decorate the front of the card with fancy lettering and illustrations of the resource!)
I hope this is helpful! GOOD LUCK getting your proposals funded.
I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).