Micro-Fundraising for Virginia Schools

The RTD’s Olympia Meola writes about the state’s embrace of an online micro-fundraising program called Donor’s Choose, and how individual teachers are already using the site to fund projects for their students.

Having been on the receiving end of numerous fundraising pitches from my son’s school (to fund programs, trips, equipment and even personnel), I have to say that this sort of approach is much better. Not only do the teachers have to make the case for why you should give, but they give you details on exactly what your (tax-deductible) gift will provide. That’s the sort of transparency I like. Plus, unlike some of those other, school-wide fundraisers, there’s no middle man skimming up to 40percent of your contribution (though donors have the option of adding to their gift to cover the site’s administrative costs).

You can look here at the proposals I found by entering the keywords “Richmond Virginia.”

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7 responses to “Micro-Fundraising for Virginia Schools”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    “Not only do the teachers have to make the case for why you should give, but they give you details on exactly what your (tax-deductible) gift will provide. That’s the sort of transparency I like.”

    This sounds a bit like my proposal to have taxpayers allocate their tax dollars. The departments would have to make their case directly to the people, leaving out the middleman (politicians).


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Maybe all we have to do is open awebsite, where people can print out a form and attach it voluntarily to their tax forms.

    The department of revenue would just throw them away, but maybe after they get a few million, they would get curious as to what the people say they want.


  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    rated 4 stars out of 4 – but don’t mistake this as an all-volunteer organization…

    Leadership (FYE 06/2006)

    Charles Best CEO, Founder $116,313

    Alfonso Malabag C00 $120,240
    Administrative Expenses $465,932
    Fundraising Expenses $393,196


    Also – when exactly are teachers supposed to have the time to design a project, write a grant proposal, administer the funds and do the project – in the context of their normal workday duties – like ensuring the SOL curriculum is taught?

    and this:

    …”dedicated to addressing the scarcity and inequitable distribution of learning materials”

    and here’s an example of a “need” on their website:

    “a very important project over the past couple of years. This project requires a classroom set of pedometers so that my students may track their steps/miles across the country while in PE class and during recess.”

    The cost of this proposal is $699


    I dunno folks…. this sounds a lot to me like what happens to money left on a table in plain sight…


  4. My issue with this is that it distracts from the real problem. If these projects are so important, why can’t they get done within the confines of the $6000-$10000 per student that the schools are budgeting per student? If each district fired one overpaid useless administrator, they could easily fund every project the teachers want to do.

  5. There is a new alternative for online fundraising, take a look at GiveStream ( http://www.givestream.com). It offers a set of free and easy-to-use online fundraising and community-building tools that help nonprofits create their own branded easy giving center.

  6. Larry — Mike from DonorsChoose.org here. I wanted to address a few of your comments.

    Of course we have administrative expenses. We differ from other non-profits because you choose whether or not you want to contribute to our overhead. When you donate to a project you have the option of giving a “fulfillment fee” which goes to our overhead (running the website, handling all the purchases, compiling thank-you packages, etc.)

    Teachers are already paying out of their own pocket for projects and supplies. Writing a DonorsChoose.org grant doesn’t take much time, and in terms of follow-through we only ask them to write a thank-you letter to the donor and have their students to the same.

    As to your last point, we screen every proposal to make sure it benefits students. We don’t tell teachers what to ask for. If there are ideas that aren’t good, they won’t get funded. (About half of the projects on our site get funded.) If you, for instance, find the pedometer project to be unnecessary, don’t choose it. I’m sure you could find a different project that’s more to your tastes. ๐Ÿ™‚ You can also see exactly what goes into that price tag by clicking on the “Project Cost Report” on each proposal page.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Mike – thanks for responding.

    Four Stars on Charity Navigator tell me that the organization IS legit!


    But I know several teachers personally, including my wife and I am familiar with the funding out of their own pockets issues and I’m okay with this concept WITHIN the context of the existing curricula such that we don’t have folks going off and doing their own thing – at the expense of content that should have got covered and did not.

    And I have to say.. looking at one of the examples of pedometers for $600 bucks does NOT sound like the money is going for basic stuff that is needed by at-risk kids…

    but that’s a minor grump. I guess.

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