Not that many years ago, when teachers needed additional, unbudgeted supplies or books for their classrooms, they had little choice but to reach into their own pockets and fund the project themselves. In fact, studies show on average, teachers spend $487 a year of their own money on students.
However, these days teachers no longer have to go it alone. There’s a new approach to raising money for classroom, school, and district needs while building a community of enthusiastic supporters to tap into in the future. It’s called crowdfunding and, for an increasing number of teachers, it’s providing money for virtually any worthy project they come up with.
What exactly is crowdfunding? How does it work? Will it work? Read on to find out.
Solving the Money Crunch: Think Outside the Box
Let’s set the scene. One teacher wants to provide each of her students with an iPad® mini. Another is looking for specific art supplies. Still another has his eyes on a teacher conference coming up. However, these teachers cannot count on their schools or districts to fund their wish lists. There’s no budget. Does that mean they need to give up? Absolutely not. They may find the funding they need through crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people. It’s like a Kickstarter for education. In recent years, it has emerged in education as a viable option when budget cuts leave no extra money for essential classroom resources.
For many teachers, crowdfunding may seem like a strange, new world. Are there really generous, anonymous strangers out there willing to fund educational projects in classrooms, schools, and districts they may never visit?
The answer is yes. Whether you’re in a kindergarten or high school classroom, crowdfunding may be just what you’re looking for. But your efforts must be thoughtful and well-executed.
How Crowdfunding Works
There are numerous crowdfunding web sites designed specifically to raise money for educational projects. Many teachers are finding success on DonorsChoose, Adopt-A-Classroom, Classwish, and Edbacker. Most operate the same way. Basically, a teacher presents a project they’d like people to contribute money towards. The site takes part of the money raised, and the teacher gets the rest.
Some teachers are consistently more successful than others at raising funds online. How do they do it? They certainly didn’t jump into it this brave, new online world. They took time to clearly understand the process, from pre-launch to post-campaign. And, they then follow a few rules to give their projects the best possible chance.
Tips for Getting Started
Is crowdfunding doable for novice teachers? What about those with little tech confidence? Absolutely, with some help. Here are some tips for teachers to follow that will increase the odds they’ll meet their fundraising goals:
- Use crowdfunding to raise funds for a specific project or purpose, not a general fundraising project. Donors like to know exactly where their money is going.
- Choose the right crowfunding platform. Research the many platforms available and compare their features. Once a choice has been made, donate money to it for a better understanding of how the process works from a contributor’s perspective.
- Expect small donations. In the case of projects requiring large amounts of money, break them down and run several separate campaigns. “Progressive crowdfunding” is easier for donors to digest than an all-or-nothing approach.
- Keep each campaign short—30 days is a good goal.
- Limit a project pitch to one page. Use passionate and urgent language to make an emotional connection to potential donors.
- Include a clever, well-produced video. Studies show donors respond well to videos. In each video, be sure to ask the donors for a contribution.
- Be gracious. After the campaign, recognize and thank each donor, even those whose contributions were small.
For a closer look at crowdfunding and other ways to pay for classroom supplies and training, check out SDE’s webinar 3 Big Ideas to Help You Raise Funds for Professional Development (Gr. K–12) by veteran fundraising professional John Bluthardt.