IMPORTANT INFORMATION ADDED BY HCS FINANCE DEPARTMENT. Please scroll to the RED portion to make sure that you are 100% in-the-know for the requirements necessary to complete a Donors Choose project.
Updated 9/8/2016: Click here to check out the article in the News Enterprise by Anna Taylor on the success our schools have had using Donors Choose!
Scroll to the bottom of this article to find links to REAL LIVE projects on Donors Choose from our own Hardin County Schools!
If I had a nickel for every time a teacher asked me “how can I get Chromebooks in my classroom” I probably wouldn’t need a job in the first place. You guys, I hear you…
So in an effort to get the message to the masses, I’m giving you all my tips and tricks and I’ve even CROSS-REFERENCED my information with Mr. John Stith, Chief Operations Office for Hardin County Schools and Jessica Annis, Director of Finance. Ya’ll, this information is REAL and it is TRUE. Here’s hoping it helps a few of you out there find funding for your classroom.
Classroom Tech Funding Tips
1. Ask permission from yo principal, PUHLEASE.
In my day to day life, I normally operate under the “ask forgiveness, not permission” mentality but when money is involved, I follow ALL THE RULES in ALL THE PLACES. Certain things make me sweaty and finance is one of them. (Shout out to Mr. Stith and Jessica and all the finance peeps – they are my heroes.) Before you even type “technology grants in the classroom” into a Google search, you best talk to your boss man or boss lady first. This rule is non-negotiable, friends. You absolutely must keep them in the loop, especially on these matters. They are normal, kind, human beings who are literally being paid to support you in the education of our students. Keep an open mind, talk to them, tell them what technology you are seeking, your plan for using them and go from there.
2. Choosy Teachers choose DONORS CHOOSE
About (what seems like) 100 years ago the amazing Sherry Powers (Bluegrass Cellular) sent me an email. At the time I had her oldest son in my 6th grade social studies classroom at East Hardin Middle School. Her email asked me why I didn’t have a Donors Choose page/project set up. Ummmm, a whaty what? I had never heard of this before. I looked into it and thought “wow, okay, that’s too good to be true.” So naturally, I ignored it. Sherry explained to me that in her industry, businesses were giving gift cards to Donors Choose as Christmas gifts, thanks yous, you name it. The recipient of said gift card would go to Donors Choose, type in their zip code and browse local schools/classrooms/projects to help support their needs. At the time, it confused me, seemed like fantasy land and I never pursued it further. (No worries, Sherry was right, I was wrong. She’s also one of the best, most precious humans on the face of the earth and I have no idea why I didn’t listen to her immediately.) Let me give you an overview. Yes, friends, I know it sounds insane but it works and I have proof.
Okay – I went to Donors Choose, typed in “42701” and this is my search result. If you notice to the left, you can filter by subject area and even age groups. The search summary page gives donors an opportunity to see where teachers are in terms of time left on their project, previous donations and how much $$ is still needed. Now let’s do a quick overview of a wonderful friend of mine who has had SO MUCH SUCCESS on Donors Choose it would be a CRIME to not mention her in this blog post.
Okay, this is Ms. Newtons Donors Choose page. Currently, she doesn’t have any open projects (what the what, Ms. Newton?!) but it still gives us a nice opportunity to check out what she has done.
- Photo – When setting up your classroom page on DC, this is one of the first steps. For security reasons, you want to avoid student faces and any identifying information. It also has her school name, her photo, and information about her classroom.
- Classroom description – I love her heart ya’ll. She is excited and everything she does is for those kids in that building, I swear it. Her bio is 100% her but also accurately describes the demographics of her school.
- Supporters – I totaled up her project amounts and Ms. Newton has received $1517 in equipment for her maker space at James T. Alton. I don’t think I have anything else to say here in this box. The end. Well done.
- Completed Projects – During last school year, Katie posted 3 projects to Donors Choose. She was just getting started with “making” in her media center and building up the resources. She started simply with this project and it was funded rather quickly! If you follow her media center on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook guaranteed you’ve seen a Vine or two using this equipment. So fun. Her second project was the Dash and Dot robot. I love how you can literally watch her confidence growing as her projects evolve. Her latest project was probably the most involved and included an entire green screen set for her maker space!
- Coupons, Donors, and Communication – I’ll just go ahead and tell you, I’m a big fan of Donors Choose. I LOVE donating to causes that I get to literally watch play out. I have anonymously donated bits of moo-lah here and there to support our amazing teachers and one thing I LOVE about BEING a donor is the communication. Ms. Newton did an AMAZING job of sending thank you emails to donors and sending out project updates. An added bonus is that the great peeps at Donors Choose will send you tax info at the end of the year because your donations are tax deductible! #YES So see, this article isn’t just for my teachers out there – it’s for all my friends who need a nice little tax write-off! 🙂 Additionally, there are times where Donors Choose will match your donation. So if you’re feeling like giving up your weekly trip to Starbucks and decide to donate $10 to your kids teachers classroom, pay attention to this detail because your $10 can quickly multiply to $20! Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this article where I have linked you up with all the current Hardin County Schools projects on Donors Choose!
Now that you are super stoked to go set up a Donors Choose page, what’s the first rule teachers?! Let’s review.
TALK TO YOUR PRINCIPAL!!!!!
If your donations are MORE than $5000, your schools SBDM MUST approve the solicitation (i.e. Donors Choose class project).
From the HCS Finance Department, Jessica Annis, Director of Finance:
(This is important. Do not skip this part. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200 until you READ THIS INFORMATION. If there is one thing I’ve learned in the past year, it’s that this fine group of individuals knows their stuff and they keep us out of jail…tax prison…trouble in general. IDK, it’s all equally scary to me. The word “auditors” sends me under my desk, fetal position with a bowl full of chocolate, so I really, really, really want to make sure that I do all the right things and I know you do too! I’ve got your back!)
Go Fund Me and Crowd Funding Sites (Donors Choose)
We have received a number of questions about Go Fund Me and other crowd funding sites. Some of these sites, such as Go Fund Me, solicit cash donations. Other sites, such as Donors Choose, solicit in-kind donations like school supplies. After discussing the questions across divisions, please consider the following when using these sites.
- Approvals: All such solicitations must be approved in advance. Up to $5,000, the Principal alone should approve. Above $5,000, the Principal and the SBDM must approve the solicitation. Any school wide solicitations should be approved by Superintendent. To document these approvals, we recommend using the form FSA-2AC Crowdfunding Approval Form for these approvals. Without prior approval, the school or district name may not be used on any crowdfunding site to solicit donations.
- Please limit the number of crowdfunding requests per teacher/sponsor. A teacher/sponsor should limit crowdfunding solicitations to one per school year.
- When setting up a request on one of the cash donation sites, you must receive your donations by check rather than bank transfer. Setting up bank transfers through websites create a risk of identity theft or hacking.
- Donations may be solicited for numerous purposes. If a student organization solicits the donations, the funds should be deposited into the school’s activity fund. If the funds are solicited for general school purpose or school facility renovation, the funds should be deposited into the school’s district activity fund. Funds may not be solicited for the school’s Hospitality account.
- The use of these websites is considered a solicitation, not a fundraiser in the definition used in the Redbook (students don’t participate in raising the funds). These solicitations should not be included in the list of fundraisers sent to the Board.
- Receipts from these sites should be recorded at school or district level with the name of the site, such as Go Fund Me or Donors Choose, listed as the donor. A donation acceptance form F-SA-18 should be sent with monetary or items donated.
- Please note that projects completed from crowd sourced websites (like Donors Choose) the equipment received is property of Hardin County Schools.
That last bit is especially important. If you complete a Donors Choose project at one school but move to a different school the following year, whatever you received MUST stay at THAT school (where the project originated). This is in the Donors Choose fine print, so please don’t skip over it. Additionally, this becomes property of HCS. If you are awarded chromebooks, those devices must go through the proper channels in our department and receive a bar code in order to access the network. The items awarded do not become your personal property. Again, a lot of this information is outlined in the fine print on Donors Choose. If you have questions, concerns or are just a tiny bit nervous about money things like I am, talk to your office manager and principal at your school. If they don’t know the answer, they will help you find someone who will. 🙂
3. Grant (…me some technology please!)
I’ve been called the grant queen once or twice in my life… which I think is hilarious. Yes, I’ve received multiple grants in my teaching career. Ipods, class sets of iPads, Raspberry Pis, green screen equipment, 3D printer, you name it. However, what people don’t walk around talking about is all the grants I HAVEN’T GOTTEN. Yes friends, I’m talking about something that makes me a little sweaty…failure. Gasp. Just kidding, I don’t care to talk about it. That’s the thing. You can’t be scared to try because “omg I might not get it.” Allow me to let you in on a little secret, you probably WON’T get it. Did that sound mean? Sorry, not sorry. If you are going to enter the realm of writing grants for stuff, you absolutely must grow thick skin. Like…yesterday. To get a grant you have to write grants. Notice that last word was PLURAL. I went to a session at FETC on grant writing back in January that was so, so good. The biggest piece of advice I have on writing grants is… try it. Not too complicated right?
My secret tip on FINDING grants is GetEdFunding.com. Create an account, specify your criteria and when a grant opens up that meets your needs, you will receive an email summary. I can speak from experience, this not spam. I’ve found several good ones this way and I really appreciate the intentional email that ties directly to the criteria I had previously set.
I would also recommend paying close attention to content specific organizations. Personally, I am involved with KySTE (Kentucky Society for Technology in Education) and they always award technology specific grants to their members. (PS, it’s only $25 to be a member.) Last year they gave away around $50,000 and the year before I think it was closer to $100,000.
Locally, the Central Kentucky Community Foundation runs a partnership grant to help teachers in their classroom. Just because I love ya’ll so much, I’ll link you up with the PDF application RIGHT HERE!
Many of you are aware that two years ago we were able to offer several 1:1 chromebook grants in the district. These grants are not annual and are usually dependent on many things from a budget perspective (I’ve already mentioned I’m not good in this area, please don’t ask questions. HAHA.). Rest assured that when/if local HCS grants are open, you will be the FIRST TO KNOW! 🙂
Lastly, I’ll leave you with some fun tips by Sheryl Abshire, PhD who led the most inspiring session on grant writing at FETC.
- Be somewhat of a gambler –
- Taking chances that what you produce will hit a jackpot somewhere
- If you write a grant, you will get a grant. It may not be the first one. Copy/Paste. Once you’ve written one, you’ve got a grant.
- Call them and ask why they didn’t fund them to look for improvements to improve.
- Be somewhat of a masochist –
- Re-submit, resubmit, resubmit
- Be somewhat of a diplomat –
- Standing by quietly supportive, encouraging the grant team to “re-think” and “re-work” the proposal over and over and over
- Be somewhat of squirrel –
- Saving every article about grants and every scrap of paper on which notes are written just in case they might be useful someday….bookmark every site!
- Be somewhat of an inventor –
- Cook up new ideas
- Be somewhat of rhinoceros –
- So that the rejections you receive bounce off your hide
- Be somewhat of a magician –
- Crafting a proposal that appears to meet EVERY requirement of the RFP (rules for proposal) and just what the funder asks for. Don’t change the font, don’t add extra words
- Be somewhat of a butcher –
- Always cutting, cutting, cutting the proposal. Concise
- Be a financial wizard
- Stretching every dollar, doing more with less and garnering matching funds from every imaginable source
- Be a night owl
- Requiring very little sleep to work non-stop to meet numerous deadlines…NEVER missing one.
- Be a party animal –
- Always prepared to celebrate receiving a grant…FINALLY. Persistence pays off.
Read more of Sheryl’s tips and tricks on her grant website here: tinyurl.com/gransabshire
Check out these Donors Choose projects from our Hardin County Schools!
Are a teacher in Hardin County Schools and I left you off the list? Drop me a comment below and I’ll get you added!