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DonorsChoose: Tips & Tricks

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on 7 July 2013

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Transcript of DonorsChoose: Tips & Tricks

DonorsChoose:
Tips & Tricks

Introduction
So, you’ve posted your project, maybe even had one or two funded, but now what? You may be thinking that your resources are tapped out, or perhaps you’re not sure how to even begin drumming up donations. Maybe you're wondering how you should go about writing your next project. How do you get projects funded?
Tip 1
Write a catchy title. Clever titles make donors want to stop and check out a project. There are over 20,000 projects posted on DC at any given time, so a catchy title can help your project stand out from the crowd.

You're Ready to Try DonorsChoose
Where Do You Begin?
Writing a Project:
My friend and I checked to see what percentage of our donors were parents. The answer? Less than 10% for each of us. That means 90% of our donors are coming from
outside
of our classrooms! Where are they coming from, you may ask. Well, it definitely requires some work on our part, but if you know what to do, the donors are out there waiting for you. Effort from us, yes, but the payoff is well worth it!
Choose a good photo. Again, you need to stand out. Try and pick something unique, cute, or just plain eye-catching. Choose carefully, though, because once you become known by a particular photo you don’t want to change it.

Check for Partner Funding Opportunities. Before you write or post a project, check out this section at the bottom of the DC page. It’s categorized by state and updated frequently. A slight change in wording here or there could help your project qualify for a half-off or almost-home match.

Tip 2
Tip 3
Tip 4
Shop carefully. I’ve seen several donors complain in blog posts that they just can’t stomach yet another iPad project. They don’t understand why teachers are requesting iPads rather than other less expensive tablets and fear that it is purely for the name. They also worry about theft and how such items will be protected in a classroom with dozens of little people handling them. It’s a valid concern, and one that applies to most tech projects. So, consider your request carefully before placing an item in your cart, and if you are requesting a pricier item, make sure to justify the expense.

Keep project costs low. Projects that are less than $200 have a 90% chance of being funded. Projects over $1000 are only funded 43% of the time. People feel like their donation goes further with a smaller project. Consider breaking up bigger projects into several smaller ones if yours is getting pricey.
Tip 5
Keep the “Summarize Cart” section short. Ex: “My students need colored pencils, markers, and watercolors.” Donors see this section in the feed of projects and only the first 80 characters show (give or take). If this section does not directly state what you’re requesting, most donors will move on.
Tip 6
Be specific. When writing your project, have a specific purpose in mind. Try not to request items for general use or “to help kids learn.” Donors like to envision how your requested materials will be used in the classroom, so it helps if you give them a clear picture. Think of a particular activity you would like to do using the materials and describe it in a way that enables donors to visualize it.

Tip 7
Avoid educational jargon. Speak as you would to parents rather than to colleagues. Most donors won’t know what you’re talking about if you use too much “teacher-ese.” It also helps if you sound friendly, upbeat, and approachable in your writing. Stay positive (even if you’re explaining a problem or a need in your classroom). Make donors wish their kid was in your class.

Tip 8
Tip 9
Spell and grammar check! This is important. I’ve bypassed donating to projects that were poorly written or had several typos in them. Everyone makes mistakes, but if you’re project has several it looks like you don’t care enough to check your work. Not attractive to donors.
Funding a Project:
Tip 1
Submit your projects for review around the 12th or 28th each month. That way, it will post around paydays and people are more likely to have money to donate. It will help you get the most out of the INSPIRE match code that is only active for the first week a project is posted.
Tip 2
Be your own first donor. First, it shows that you are invested in your project. Donors love that. Also, the odds of a project being funded go up by 11% once it has a single donor! Many people don’t want to donate to a project with no donors.
Tip 3
Thank each donor. Once you get an email that you’ve had a donation, immediately go and “Reply” to the donor on your project page. It shows that you’re thankful for the donation and that you care about the outcome of the project. Many donors will skip donating to a project where the teacher hasn’t thanked his or her donors.
Tip 4
Include a link to your DC page in your email signature. Use the DonorSig site (donorsig.com) to help you create a signature and select the Advanced > From a Teacher ID option.

Tip 5
Send out friendly emails. When you submit your project you’ll get some advice from DC about getting it funded. There are email templates they provide that you can modify to suit your needs. Email parents and friends, and don’t forget to ask them to forward the email to anyone they know who might be interested in supporting your classroom. This is usually how students’ grandparents and other relatives find out about your projects. You may only get a few donations from your email, but it takes very little time and effort, and every dollar helps!
Tip 6
Reach out to the DC Giving Pages for help. For most of them, you need to find and “Like” them on Facebook, then post a comment asking them to consider adding your project to their giving page when there is room. Don’t forget to attach a link to your project. The more giving pages your project is on, the better your chances of being funded quickly. There are lots of giving pages out there, some that specialize in particular project types, so check out their Facebook and DC pages to get a feel for them.
Tip 7
Practice the Golden Rule: Give unto others as you would have them give unto you. Most of the giving pages run contests on a regular basis, which is a definite win-win. You can usually enter by donating $1 to someone else’s project. You're helping others, and you can win donations to your own projects or other prizes, but the bigger benefit is becoming a part of the giving page community. When people feel like they know you, they are far more likely to choose your project to donate to in the future and to help promote your projects. All those little donations really add up!
Tip 8
Use social media. Facebook and Twitter are a great way to promote your projects. You never know who might see your post and decide to donate. It is best to use both since Facebook only reaches so far, and Twitter is public. You should try posting at different times of day as well, since not everyone looks at their social media sites at the same time and it is easy for your post to get buried. Put some thought and effort into your posts to show people how important your project is to you.
Take advantage of match codes. Usually the giving pages will post comments on Facebook whenever these are available, and they are generally only around for a limited time. Most donors like being able to get more bang for their buck by using a match code, so make sure to tell everyone in your network. You can also still use match codes when you qualify for partner funding opportunities. So, if you’re project is half-off due to partner funding and there is an active match code, you can actually fund your project for only ¼ of the total cost!
Tip 10
Make sure your thank-you packages are completed on time and look good. Don’t submit pictures that are fuzzy or oriented the wrong way. If you need to turn in thank you notes from the kids, go for quality rather than quantity. Better to send in eight really nice thank-you notes than thirty poorly written ones. As with everything else, impressions matter. If donors see that you care about your projects and are thankful for their help, they are far more likely to donate to you in the future. Your past donors will actually receive an email from DC automatically whenever you post a new project, so you want to make sure they are motivated to give to you again.

Tip 9
Full transcript