· field trips · Pat Werner · supplies · theater

Start Writing Proposals Today!

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.

Give to 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.

14 thoughts on “Start Writing Proposals Today!

  1. I am a Vice Principal of private school. But I am interested in starting a science and technology high school that is ICT driven. Do you think Donor choose will be interested in funding the project?


  2. I wrote a proposal at donorschoose today. Yesterday I finished Ruth’s workshop and went straight to work finding picture books for my lessons.


  3. really I don’t have any issue with the teacher. Truth is I was only asking the Donors Choose if I could JUST have the teacher email me to say they received what I funded and I would have gone on my way. I don’t need pictures or letters from a class…..I just wanted to know they got what I paid for. It was “trying” to talk to DonorsChoose that bothered me more. They need supporters, they NEED the funding, but are too busy to respond. That is just one more bureaucracy that disappoints me. I thought they were different. I don’t want to hear they are too busy to respond to those paying for the projects. What am I supposed to tell others? Hence why I WISH I could just directly fund teachers and no middle man who is too busy for the likes of those paying the bills.


  4. Patrick: I’m sorry to hear that you have a sour taste in your mouth because of what happened after you donated to a teacher’s classroom through DonorsChoose. I’ve had 53 proposals funded in three years, and I assure you, I am exceedingly appreciative of the folks who’ve donated funds to benefit my students. I always get my feedback in by the date the feedback is due to DonorsChoose so that the donor can be thanked in the time they are promised by me when they initially funded my proposal.

    I hope you will reconsider funding another teacher’s proposal. Perhaps you should fund a proposal of a teacher who has a high punctuality rate (you can find that information on the left nav bar of each proposal) so that you will receive the thanks you are due in a timely manner.

    Thanks for taking the time to post a comment on our blog.


  5. I too am not a teacher. I was searching for places discussing DonorsChoose because as a donor, I was disappointed with it. I funded one project and I admit to being new to it. I do agree for teachers what better way to attempt to fund a project but I think they scare off more donors then they are aware of. They have already become too big to answer donor questions. It took me weeks of trying. The answer I did receive when I wrote Charles Best, their CEO, appeared to be a form letter (he probably never read my letter or wrote the reply). It’s ashame there isn’t a way to fun teachers proposals directly without them. I’m sure any company would ship any product anywhere, if someone paid them to. I am certainly not saying don’t try them. What can it hurt? But sadly, I won’t fund a project again and I never even heard anything about the one I did fund….months later.


  6. Hi, I just wanted to add a couple of comments to the advice above. I’m not a teacher – I’m a donor and found this site through a link on the donorschoose website. I have funded over sixty proposals in whole or part, so I speak from the perspective of the person who you are trying to interest in your proposal.

    Overall, this is excellent advice. Catchy titles do help. although they are not the make or break. Getting to the point is important and even more important, no jargon. I pass on those – even if the idea is good.

    I think teachers often underestimate the power of a feedback package. In a couple of cases, I was so impressed with the feedback, I shared the package with colleagues and was able to recruit more donors for other proposals. More relevant to you as teachers, because of the feedback, I search out a few teachers to see if they have new proposals I’d interested in. (sorry writing teachers about the dangling particible). Not only does not providing timely feedback does hurt your chances for future funding (note that the teacher’s timeliness record is now listed to the left on the proposal, it is a real disappointment for the donor who funded this proposal because they CARED about it. When you care about something, you want to know how it turns out. I’ve also had some feedback where each kids’ letter says the same thing which is not creative. Even the youngest kids can draw pictures. I’ve had some really creative feedback, samples of the crocheting they learned, the feedback in a book they put togther, etc. But, it doesn’t have to be fancy, just thoughtful.

    On one point of advice above, I do have a different view. I like to see the grade and type of neighborhood the school is in. The grade levels on the side are groups – grade 3-5, grade 6-8, etc. I’ve recently become a volunteer screener for Donorschoose and grade and type of school is supposed to be in the actual proposal per the screening instructions.

    Sorry for rambling on, but I hope this perspective is helpful and good luck to you all in getting your proposals funded.


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