As a librarian, I try to be aware of the way library services are evolving. Librarians want to be able to offer the latest and greatest in reading materials, but we also have to meet the needs of the 21st Century Learner. It seems like every professional development session I attend has a strong focus on technology integration and the Maker movement. But how can we bring our libraries into the 21st century when our budgets are barely enough to keep literacy programs moving forward? For this first post, I’ve decided to focus on expanding your library budget with the help of crowdfunding.
What Started it All
I’ve worked at 4 Title 1 schools throughout my 11 year career, so I am no stranger to having to make miracles with a minimal budget. Toward the end of the 2015-2016 school year, I decided to take a chance with crowdfunding. I created an account with DonorsChoose.org, and the impact was immediate.
My first project was what I figured my community would expect to see from a library- it was a request for about $800 worth of books. After posting on social media, the project was funded in about 3 weeks. The school year was nearly at a close, but I knew DonorsChoose.org was going to make a world of opportunities available to me for the 2016-2017 year!
During this school year, my funded projects have amounted to over $6000 in items ranging from print books and Playaways to robots and other tech equipment for my students’ use. As I gain more confidence in the project writing process, I find myself feeling that more educators should take advantage of this awesome program, and I’d love to share some of the tricks I’ve learned to building a successful project. Here are some of the things I feel have helped me be successful with crowdfunding.
Tips and Tricks for Getting Funded
- Keep Your Project Focused: Sure, there are a million things you can do with your requested iPads. Try to focus on one or two immediate lessons you plan to use your iPads for and describe them in your DonorsChoose.org project. Keep your project centered on acquiring just those specific items; you can always create a later project to add other tools (green screens, tripods, etc.) later.
- Keep Your Project Small: DonorsChoose.org has released multiple stats on which projects typically receive full funding. Their studies have shown that the majority of projects are $400 or less. Try to keep your projects under that threshold, and you will likely see the most success. Plus, when you are able to get projects wrapped up quickly, you can accrue points faster and create your next project!
- Find a Match Offer: Maybe your project doesn’t seem like it could fit a particular offer at first glance. Can you possible change it to accommodate an existing match? I made a request for some Makey Makey kits to keep in the library, for instance. My initial intention was to keep them here for student use. I found a match offer, however, that would support STEAM projects at home. After thinking on this a bit, I began to think, “Why shouldn’t my kids be able to take these kits home to show their parents and siblings what they’re working on at school?” Sure enough, the project was posted and funding very quickly.
- Get Your Thank-You Packages Submitted Quickly: I’ve noticed many of the people donating to my library come back and support my other projects. Try to make your thank-you packages meaningful, and send them out as soon as possible to get those credit points back! My students are already in the habit of writing their thank-you notes when we receive new items. I encourage them to make their letters personal; What did they especially like about the project? What did they learn? What was difficult? What will they do next? If your donors see the impact their contributions are having in your classroom, maybe they’ll be excited to come back!