Donors Choose is a great resource that helps both classrooms and libraries add resources to use with students. How it works is you request materials from specific vendors listed on the Donors Choose site, write a brief project proposal, and then you are given a web page that you can use to promote the project to your family, friends, co-workers and also to the wider school community. I had donated to co-workers and friends’ projects in the past but I never tried to get a project funded for my library before. The reasons for this were I felt like it would be too much work and I was not sure that Donors Choose would offer the right materials for my library. After seeing co-workers create projects and receive their materials, I knew I had to do a project too. Teachers at my school have requested earphones to use with classroom computers, a binding machine for students to publish their own books and other projects. A friend of mine was successful in funding an iPod and speakers so his students could have music in his classroom.
After seeing these successful projects, I was inspired to make a project of my own on Donors Choose for my library at The Harbor School. The Harbor added a new autism strand this year and I didn’t have the resources I needed to support these new students in our library. I decided that it would be great to purchase a picture book collection for these students. I found a set of 30 picture books on the Donors Choose website from Lakeshore Learning. They are all high quality hardcover books and include titles by Eric Carle, Shel Silverstein, Mo Willems and many more. I also decided that I wanted to add an inclusive game to my collection to make sure there is something for everyone to use when they come to the library. On Donors Choose there is a program called “Double Your Impact” and it matches projects with corporations that will help you meet your goal. In September, Panasonic had a program where they would match 50% of any project if the project requested a Panasonic product. I have always wanted a digital camera in my library to do projects with my students and I also thought a camera would be a great way for my autistic students to make their own social stories to help them navigate the library and the school. I found two Panasonic Cameras on the Donors Choose Website from Best Buy. The total cost of my project came to over $900, and I needed to raise the 50% to match the Panasonic funding. I posted my project on my Facebook page and asked my friends and family to post it on theirs as well. I also sent the project around to the principal at my school and asked her to share it with my co-workers.
My project was funded in just four days by 11 different donors. I received my picture books two weeks after my project was finished. Donors Choose also requires that I write a thank you message to my donors and take pictures of students using the products to send to the donors. All in all it took not a lot of work to get almost $1000 worth of products for my library. All of my students will benefit from these new products. The success of this project has inspired me to submit another. I just submitted my second project to fund sets of books for the new afternoon reading program that our school is rolling out this year. Please see http://www.donorschoose.org/ms.otoole for more details about this project.
By Maura O’Toole