What would you do if you had more money to spend in your classroom?
Perhaps you’d add books to your classroom library. Or maybe, you’d buy a subscription to an app, like Happy Numbers, to help your students all learn math at their own pace.
Whatever it is that you need, the trouble with getting it is often a low budget. Unfortunately, grants are often a hit or miss and teachers’ personal budgets are strained when they spend their own money in the classroom.
The good news is that there’s a third way to get the extra funding you need: crowdfunding!
Today, there are lots of crowdfunding tools and resources that make it possible for you to start raising money for your classroom in just a few clicks.
Here are the steps you need to take:
Before you embark on any crowdfunding efforts, get approval from your school or district. There may be rules about if or how you can raise money for funds that will be used in your classroom. Make sure you file any necessary paperwork so that you don’t run into trouble later.
Once this is out of the way, the fun begins!
Choose a Tool
You’ve probably heard of some of the most popular crowdfunding tools like “Go Fund Me.” However, there are also tools and platforms that cater specifically to education.
Make sure you know some details about the platform before you get started. It’s important to note that while some will give you a check that you can spend, others require you to purchase products through their vendors. If the site works with vendors, you’ll need to make sure the site has the items you want before starting your fundraiser with them.
It’s also important to double check what happens to funds if you don’t reach your goal. While some platforms will give you whatever funds you raise, others return funds to the donors if you don’t reach your goal.
Here are a few fundraising platforms to consider:
Fees: No fee to fundraise, although withdrawal fees may apply (for example if you transfer to Paypal)
You Get: Money as cash to spend how you want
Goal Policy: Any funds earned are available to you, no penalty if you don’t reach your goal
Additional Details: If your campaign is very successful, it may trend on the platform’s website, meaning you might also get donations from people you don’t even know!
Fees: No fee to fundraise. However, you may be charged for shipping and a donation of 15% of the total project costs to the organization is suggested. Note that donors are the ones who decide whether or not to contribute to the overhead costs of running the website.
You Get: Products from approved vendors such as Best Buy, Amazon Business, Lakeshore, Scholastic, and others. However, note, that with the special request feature, you can ask to work with any vendor, including Happy Numbers.
Goal Policy: You have 4 months to reach your goal. If you don’t reach your goal, then funds are returned to donors who may support your next goal if they choose to. However, 70% of the projects on the site are fully funded.
Additional Details: Only teachers who teach 75% of the time at public schools are eligible to start a fundraising campaign. Note you may have to report back with photos and notes of the products being used in your classroom, for transparency.
Bonus Benefits: Sometimes there are matching funds opportunities so that if someone makes a donation, either Donors Choose or a corporate sponsor matches these donations.
Fees: No fee to fundraise. However, withdrawal fees may apply.
You Get: A check sent to your organization marked for your specific classroom if necessary.
Goal Policy: You get whatever funds you raise. No penalties for not reaching your goal.
Additional Details: Your organization will need to be verified in order to participate. The process is easy to complete.
Fees: No fees to fundraise.
You Get: Money that you can spend with approved vendors.
Goal Policy: You get whatever funds you raise. However, funds may expire if you don’t spend them within a year’s time.
Additional Details: There are opportunities for corporate sponsorships, sweepstakes and giveaways. Supporters can also sign up and give a monthly donation to a specific classroom.
Fees: No fees for fundraising.
You Get: Products available through Digital Wish.
Goal Policy: You can only get the products that have been paid for. However, there’s no penalty for not reaching your goal.
Additional Details: This website focuses specifically on technology needs for the classroom.
Set Up Your Fundraiser
Once you’ve chosen the platform that you’ll work with, it’s time to set up your fundraiser.
Some helpful tips for success include:
Break it down into pieces. If your goal is significant, or over $500, you might want to break it down into smaller, more achievable steps. For example, if you want 30 digital devices for your classroom, start out by asking for 5 or 10. You can still use these in centers or for small group work until you are able to get all of the devices you need.
Make a video. Video content is very popular for donors and gives them a great sense of what your classroom is like. In fact, a video can increase contributions by 25-30%. However, before posting any videos or photos, make sure you have permission to use your students’ images. You can always use editing tools to cover their faces as necessary.
Jazz it up. It sounds boring to ask for pencils and paper. However, you can make it sound more exciting by telling your student’s stories, what they need, and what they can use these basic supplies to do.
Spread the Word
There are so many ways you can spread the word about your fundraiser. If possible, ask your students’ parents, your school’s PTO, and other teachers to help you spread the word. Use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic to your fundraiser page.
Some other creative ways to gain traction include:
Partner with a local business: Ask a local business if you can leave flyers or a poster in their space, advertising your fundraiser. Some local businesses may also be willing to be a donor too! You can make a big “Thank You” poster that they can post in their store or office.
Contact your local news: Ask your local paper or news broadcasting company to see if they’d be willing to highlight your fundraiser and the need you have.
Ask your students to help: Instead of asking your students to sell subs, ask them to spread the word about the fundraiser. Your students’ families and friends may be happy to support the cause.
Spend the Money!
Once you’ve earned the money you need, it’s time to go shopping! Whether you withdraw funds digitally, receive a check, or purchase products through the fundraising platform, it’s a wonderful feeling to finally get what you need for your classroom.
Don’t forget to take pictures to prove that you’re using the materials or digital products in your classroom.
Most crowdfunding websites allow you to post updates on your project. That way, you can share the outcomes with your donors.
In fact, many of the platforms will also allow you to reply to each individual donor, thanking them for their contribution. The more you can connect and communicate with donors, the better. Building relationships with your donors is a great way to set yourself up for having a group of regular donors who donate to future projects.
With these steps, you can launch and complete a successful crowdfunding campaign. Some teachers are able to fund their projects in as little as a few days! However, most fundraisers need a bit longer to succeed.
Remember, stay positive and work little by little to achieve your goals. Before you know it, you’ll have the funding you need for your classroom!