Teachers across Sarpy County are starting to ask for donations to support classroom projects and resources through a website that connects classrooms with philanthropists of all income levels.
Donors Choose lets public school teachers post requests for help with classroom projects. Donors can browse the requests and give any amount they choose to a favorite project. Once a project reaches its funding goal, the charity delivers the desired materials to the school. Donors get a thank-you and a cost report showing how donations were spent.
Erin Gonzalez, a fifth-grade teacher at Parkview Heights Elementary School in La Vista, recently used Donors Choose to collect enough donations to buy three kits for her robotics club students.
She raised $753 from 20 donors to purchase three Parallax Boe-Bot robotics kits and a course around which to navigate the robots. Some of the donations, about $113, went to support the nonprofit’s fundraising and operational costs.
Donors Choose collected the funds, preserving the anonymity of donors who didn’t want to disclose their identities, fulfilled the order and delivered the robotics kits.
“We didn’t pay a penny,” Gonzaelz said. “It was amazing.”
Gonzalez said she and her students watched as the donations started coming in and picked up speed toward the end, when the project funding neared completion.
“It was really neat to get the comments from people as they donated,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really taught (the students) about how generous people can be.”
About 63 percent of Donors Choose projects receive full funding, according to the organization’s website. Donors Choose says it has raised more than $75 million over the last decade.
The charity gained national attention last year thanks in part to a promotional offer with the educational documentary “Waiting for Superman” and a donation drive on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.”
Parkview Heights parents learned about the website through a gift-card giveaway by Shadow Lake Town Center’s Borders bookstore. The school’s parent-teacher organization president recommended the program to Gonzalez.
Gonzalez said several parents in Parkview Heights’ PTO used those gift cards to support her project. Donors from Lincoln; Maryville, Ill.; and Westerville, Ohio, also gave money to support the Parkview Heights students.
“It was so easy,” Gonzalez said.
Several other Sarpy County teachers are using Donors Choose.
Shawna Senff, a first-grade teacher at Two Springs Elementary School in Bellevue, hopes to collect $1,050 to purchase a classroom set of age-appropriate books and read-along audio CDs.
Other projects from around the Papillion-La Vista School District would provide funding for literature “playaways” audio books, a classroom world drumming kit, math homework backpacks and portable CD players for audio books.
To learn more about those or other projects, or to contribute to a project, go to www.donorschoose.org. Teachers can also find information there on how to list a classroom project on the Donors Choose website.