DonorsChoose sees an impressive donation in aid of the Gates Foundation and millions in small gifts
New York (AP) — Kerry Richardson likes being called “Walmart” by some of her fellow teachers at Richmond Public Schools, Virginia. Others call the second grade teacher the “Boy Scout.”
Yes, Richardson says with a laugh, she’s always ready to lend her fellow teachers what they might need. She says this is only possible because of the supplies she gets from DonorsChoose, an online platform that connects educators looking for materials for their students and classes with contributors looking to support their efforts.
And Richardson is not alone.
donors 2023 marked a banner year for the donations, setting records by raising nearly $10 million during Teacher Appreciation Week in May. Earlier this month, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $2 million to match 50% of all donors. Choose One-Day Pledges—a marked departure from the way the largest U.S. charitable foundation makes donations, based on its meticulous research and big priorities . .
DonorsChoose is also seeing a lot of donor engagement at a time when giving in general is declining, especially among young people.
Alix Guerrier, CEO of DonorsChoose, says families with school-age children are using the platform to teach their children generosity because children understand what it means to get sports equipment or school supplies for students who don’t have any. He said the platform’s appeal to older donors is stronger.
“Among young people—whether it be Generation Z or perhaps even Millennials—there is a mistrust of large organizations and a high premium given directly,” Guerrier said. “They already have an interaction with the teacher directly through the platform and can offer a word of support. The teacher sends their thanks and says what happened. So that kind of frankness really appeals to them.”
The model—created in 2000 by Charles Best, who was attending a public high school in The Bronx—actually attracts many philanthropists, old and young. Teachers go to the platform to request supplies that are not provided by their districts. When the campaign is fully funded by donors, the donors send the supplies to the teachers.
On any given day, philanthropist Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, is likely boosting a few DonorsChoose campaigns from his personal account On the X platform, formerly known as Twitter. Actress and SAG-AFTRA Board Member Yvette Nicole Brown He does the same. As does the host of sitcoms and talk shows W Kamau Bell.
“It’s one of the best days of the year: @DonorsChoose game day,” Bill Gates Books on X, earlier this month, to announce the Gates Foundation match. That day, the DonorsChoose Foundation raised $8 million between the Gates Foundation match and nearly 40,000 donations for 24,000 teachers.
Bob Hughes, director of K-12 for the Gates Foundation’s US program, said he views the donation as a privilege to help support teachers, especially with the current shortage in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are a strategic charity and our goal is to change the great cranes of the world,” said Hughes. “We’re doing big things. We’re looking at the math curriculum and we’re looking at assessment and we’re looking at vocational learning and these are big, hairy systemic problems. But DonorsChoose is just an opportunity to drive a little more with your heart.”
In 2022, the Gates Foundation Donated $290 million to K-12 education in the United States to address the big issues in the sector, particularly around improving students’ understanding of mathematics. However, Hughes said hitting small goals also makes a difference.
“Every part is important and every day in the life of a student and teacher is important,” he said. “If we can change the course of those days in ways that benefit them, that’s very exciting.”
These small donations mean that Richardson’s students at Richmond learn earth science by making “edible dirt”—a mixture of candy chips, crushed Oreos, and other foods that represent the layers of soil—with some gummy worms on top for good measure. It’s a relatively low-cost science activity, but in an area where More than 34% of students They live in poverty, these expenses have to be supported by someone.
“DonorsChoose has taught me to create, to be able to bring ideas to fruition,” said Richardson. “It also helped me create a fair classroom, equal when compared to classrooms in Northern Virginia or even private school classrooms that tend to be better supplied.”
Eric Odom, a social studies teacher at the East Bronx Academy for the Future in New York, said DonorsChoose has helped him transform his classroom into a place where his students feel comfortable. He’s excited to get an air fryer and microwave combo for his class next school year, so his students can make healthy meals.
“When the students see the boxes coming, they really appreciate them,” Odom said. “Even if it’s just little things, I want them to understand that this comes from other people — doing it for them. It means a lot.”
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