Last Spring, I decided to get started with creating a makerspace in my library. Around the same time, I heard about several teachers at my school who had been successful in funding classroom projects through the website DonorsChoose.org. It sounded like a great way to raise money to add some exciting new materials to my library.
To begin, I reviewed the website and then looked at projects from my school, other projects from Nashville, and then makerspace projects from other libraries. Once I had a sense of how it worked, I was ready to create my first project.
After setting up an account, the first step is simply naming and defining your project. After that, you are ready to go shopping! Through the website, you access their vendor directory, where you will place the items you would like in a cart. One thing to keep in mind here is their point system. You can both earn and spend points in DonorsChoose. You earn points by responding promptly to different steps of the process, and you spend points on your project, the cost of which determines the number of points. They recommend that you keep your project under $400 for the best chance of funding, and that costs one point. Then, you simply summarize what is in your cart.
The next step is to tell your story. Here is where you need to effectively communicate who your students are and why they need these materials. You’ll describe your library, your students, and how they will use the materials you are requesting. In order to be able to tell a compelling story, you need to carefully consider what materials you want to request, and why. When utilizing funding outside our regular budgets, I think it is important to look for items that are not things that our school budgets should supply. For example, a few reams of copy paper and computers should be provided by your school, but if you need several boxes of special origami paper or a Makey Makey and some alligator clips, those would be appropriate to request.
Finally, you add details by answering a few questions, upload a photo and edit your title, and then you are ready to review and submit. Creating a project is that easy! Then, you just need to get your project funded.
Two key components can aid in the success of a project. One is that you should tell a sincere, compelling story about your program and why these materials are necessary. You want potential donors to become interested in your students and see the impact that their donation could have. The second is that you need to publicize your project. Your library’s social media accounts are a great way to share the project with your school community. You might also send the link to your school’s Pencil Partner, or another organization that might be interested. Family and friends might want to donate to your project as well.
Once your project is funded, you confirm that it’s still needed, and then they send you the materials! You’ll need to write a sincere thank you, and then when you use the materials with your students, you’ll take a few photos and have the students write thank you notes. Donor’s Choose even makes this part easy to do by providing a prepaid address label. All you have to do is upload the photos and then put the notes in a large envelope, attach the mailing label, and drop it off in the mail.
After they acknowledge receipt of the thank you notes, you are all finished! Your project is listed as complete, and your students can continue to enjoy learning with the new materials.
So, the question is, what do you dream about having in your library? What materials could help you bring in reluctant readers, keep regular visitors excited, collaborate with teachers, reach out to parents, and engage and involve everyone? What will you ask for?