How DonorsChoose Maximizes Donations To Schools In Need

I recently made a donation through DonorsChoose, a wonderful nonprofit that allows public schools to raise money for high school projects.

Here’s how it works: teachers at public schools (usually in underprivileged areas) make requests on the site for projects they want to do but don’t have funds available. Donors can browse the list of requests, and make donations (of any size) to the project(s) of their choice. If a project successfully raises the funds that were requested, DonorsChoose sends the money directly to the school. The projects range from teaching children music to conducting science experiments.

DonorsChoose is obviously a wonderful project, but what’s just as impressive is the effectiveness in maximizing donations. They do this by making each donation an exceptionally rewarding experience for the donor…thus motivating people to keep giving.

Take a look at their homepage:

There are a few things that immediately stand out here:

- An amazing tagline: Teachers Ask. You Choose. Students Learn. This is a very powerful message. It conveys the appeal of choice and the importance of education. In just six words, DonorsChoose has piqued my interest while giving me a pretty good overview of what makes their nonprofit different.

- Brand-Building: They state in large letters that they have been helping children learn for more than 10 years. They also have testimonials on the right-hand side of the page which give a sense of validation.

- A Powerful Picture: Seeing kids smiling is very rewarding. The first thing that went through my head is "how can I be a part of making that happen." DonorsChoose does a great job of showing results, rather than just telling people what they do.

Once you've signed up to donate, you can select which projects you'd like to help make happen:

You can search projects based on category (music, science, etc), total amount needed, and urgency of the situation. If you'd like to learn more about a project, you can click through to a specific project page. On this page, you'll find:

- Detailed information about the project and students involved (posted by the schoolteacher requesting funds)

- Comments from donors who have contributed to the project

- Detailed information on how the money is spent.

But the most powerful experience is yet to come. After you select a project and make a donation, you receive the following e-mail, which features some of the simplest, yet most powerful copy I've ever seen:

Here are a few reasons this copy really stands out:

-  The header: The phrase "thank you for your kindness," is incredibly uplifting. Hearing something like this really makes us feel worthwhile, like we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves. Rather than the typical "thank you for your donation," this header makes me want to click through and read the entire e-mail.

- The first line: "You're the best! Thank you for being a citizen philanthropist." This is powerful for two reasons. First of all, it recognizes the donor as being unique and special. Secondly, it demonstrates the idea that philanthropy isn't something limited to the super-rich. It's something that anyone can do, and you have set a good example by paving the way. It makes you feel like a good role model, which is a strong motivator to donate more in the future.

- It keeps you engaged: The e-mail makes it easy to share your contribution through facebook, twitter, and other social media so that others can learn about DonorsChoose. It also keep you updated on the project's funding status. As an added incentive to donate more in the future, they say that "if you donate more than $100, you will receive hand-written thank you cards from the students." That is something that I'd never forget.

But the good feelings don't stop there…

A few days later, I received the following e-mail:

This was a notification that the project funding has been met, and the children will be able to enhance their musical education. There is a link to a thank you letter personally written by the students' teacher:

It is heartfelt and genuine, and right below are comments from donors. The whole process is incredibly engaging and rewarding from start to finish…and that's why I plan on donating more.

If you haven't explored DonorsChoose, please give it a try. It really is addictive. =)

9 Responses to “How DonorsChoose Maximizes Donations To Schools In Need”

  1. What a wonderful article. I've been lucky enough to have classroom projects funded through Donors Choose. As one of those teachers, I want to say thank you for getting the word out. 

  2. MJ says:

    Great article but the money is not sent directly to the school. Teachers request materials fron vendors. When the project is fully funded, DonorsChoose orders the materials/supplies and they are sent to the classroom. Like Michelle, my students have been blessed by generous donors.
    Thanks for spreading DonorsChoose to your readers.
    Warm regards,

  3. Arlee Hall says:

    I teach kindergarten in a very small school district in California, and through Donorschoose, my kiddos now have access to materials they would have never have seen before.  They rock, and so do you for spreading the word!

  4. We need to have not only website like that but "physical" as well. It's a great service to schools and to the community at large.

  5. Mariam Farhat says:

    Thank you so much for spreading the word about  I have been a part of Donors Choose for a few months and my students have been blessed by the donors on this site.  It is an amazing feeling to know that there are people out there that have not met myself or my students, but felt the connection to support our class!

  6. Amanda says:

    Thanks for spreading the word about!  I too am a teacher who has seen the impact these materials can have on a classroom of kindergarten students.  The joy and excitement they have as a new box arrives is priceless.  The progress made using new materials never ceases to amaze me!

  7. Ashley says:

    Thank you for letting everyone know about the great website Donorschoose.  My students and I have had two projects funded.  We are very fortunate to be blessed by wonderful people who donate their hard earned money to help students have a better education.  They are more excited about learning because of these materials.  Thanks again for helping our youth by spreading the word!

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