By Jennifer Roland
Few schools and teachers have access to all the funds they need or want to outfit their classroom. According to a PBS survey last year, only one in five teachers say they have the updated technology they need. But with some creativity, educators can go beyond the typical PTA fundraiser and earn funding for specific classroom needs. Here are some ways teachers have filled their classroom coffers.
CORPORATE SPONSORS AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS
Tim Smith, a San Francisco parent and chair of technology at Alvarado Elementary School, who's accustomed to schools asking parents for donations, decided to try something different three years ago.
He organized a Tech Search Party, now an annual event, which combines corporate sponsorship with a fun scavenger hunt using mobile devices. Corporations sponsor the event as part of their charitable give-back and provide participants with discount codes for purchases of their products and services. Participants sign up as teams and pay a small fee to be part of the scavenger hunt. Top teams win prizes.
The first year, all funds went to Alvarado Elementary School. The school purchased upgraded thin-client computer systems and software and upgraded many of the energy-hogging CRT monitors that were used at Alvarado. After the first event proved to be successful, they expanded to include two other local schools, splitting the proceeds from the event.
Other school systems can create similar events, looking at the needs and technology adoption rates to decide whether to use a smartphone scavenger hunt, as he does, or a traditional paper-based scavenger hunt.
ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED
Educators have also been using donation sites like Kickstarter and Donorschoose to raise funds for their classrooms, though it can be hard to get traction for projects among all of the other worthy requests out there.
SA500 Kids is another donation site conceived by Next Jump, the company behind many employee and customer rewards programs from major businesses. Next Jump partnered with DonorsChoose to bring more visibility to technology projects and reach funding goals. When projects with a technology component are submitted to the DonorsChoose database, they're automatically added to the SA500 Kids log at Oo.com. Next Jump says they average three hours to fund a project and that they have raised nearly $450,000 so far. See statistics on projects funded here.
One important tip to remember with online donations is to make sure that schools and teachers share the voting link with parents and through all their social media connections.
JOIN (OR START) A BRIGADE
TerraCycle, the company that got its start selling compost in recycled drink bottles, recently launched a Keyboard and Mouse Brigade that pays schools for things like old keyboards, mouse, and Web cams. As an additional incentive for participation, TerraCycle’s corporate partners have stepped up to offer grants and donations. Last year, Wal-Mart offered $125,000 in grants to the top-collecting schools in all of TerraCycle’s brigades, according to vice president of global communication Albe Zakes. One school used their grant funds specifically to purchase classroom technology.
This year, Logitech and TerraCycle have created the Erase Your E-Waste contest and set a goal of collecting 2,500 items in the Keyboard and Mouse Brigade by Earth Month. Until the end of April, the school that collects the highest number of qualifying products for the Keyboard and Mouse Brigade will be rewarded with up to 30 new keyboards and 30 new mice. If the goal is met, every school that sent in a shipment during the contest will receive a coupon for 35% off a school purchase of Logitech keyboards, mice, webcams, headsets and speakers. Every participating school is automatically entered into the contest.
To be successful with this type of fundraiser, set a specific goal for the recycling program and clearly communicate it to kids and parents, as Salem (Oregon) Child Development Center did. They used the funds they earned through TerraCycle and other programs to redo their garden area, and they are currently collecting to redo their play area.
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL FUNDRAISING
- Be specific. Have a specific budget for your project and be clear about what exactly will be purchased.
- Share your story. If you want parents to help, be specific about what you need them to do. Whether it is collecting recyclables or voting for your project, they will help as long as they know how.
- Work with local and national companies. Many companies have charitable giving funds, whether they are housed in a special community give-back budget or in the marketing budget. Connect with them to request funds for your needs.