Families & the Community

Fundraising Effort Launches to Help Teachers Forge Connections With Families

By Francisco Vara-Orta — November 01, 2017 2 min read
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Teachers who want to get to know students and their families better after school will have a chance to get some funding toward those efforts through a new fundraising campaign that DonorsChoose.org launches this week.

The website, which for nearly two decades has helped educators raise money to help buy supplies for their classrooms, has partnered with the Carnegie Corporation of New York to launch its first-ever campaign to help teachers hold “family engagement nights,” according to Tim Sommer, partnerships director at DonorsChoose.org.

Carnegie will offer about $500,000 toward matching—dollar for dollar—what teachers raise themselves, according to Celeste Ford, a spokeswoman for the foundation. Overall, DonorsChoose.org officials anticipate approving about 200 proposals from teachers throughout the country. Sommer said that the organization will be looking for creativity in teachers’ pitches.

Teachers of all grade levels are eligible to apply, including those in early-childhood programs, Sommer said. They will follow the same pitch process as they would for any fundraising campaign on DonorsChoose.org, but must focus on explaining why they need certain supplies for their particular idea for a family-engagement night.

When setting up a campaign on DonorsChoose.org, teachers sign onto the website to create a project proposal that includes a wish list and where to buy the goods they need. Each application is screened by website staff to ensure it’s a legitimate request from an educator who works in a public school or public charter school and works with students directly at least 75 percent of the time. If approved, the fundraising portal goes live usually within three days. Fundraising can last up to four months, and once the goals are met, as 70 percent of proposals do, the site’s staff will order all the goods requested and mail them directly to the teacher.

Over the years, DonorsChoose.org has helped teachers raise nearly $600 million, according to data on the website. And the average cost of a funded project for teachers is $596.

Finding ways to more closely link families with their children’s teachers and the work they are doing in their classrooms has grown as a priority for education philanthropy, said Ford.

TheEvery Student Succeeds Act, the current federal law for K-12 schools, replaces the term “parental involvement” with “parent and family engagement,” which some see as fostering more-collaborative relationships between schools and the wider community, Education Week wrote in a 2016 analysis.

Sommer said his organization hopes to have projects approved as quickly as possible to get the programs running, and completed by end of February. The parents and community members who take part in the family-engagement night activities will then be asked to fill out a survey about their experience so more research could be done to see which programs seemed to make an impact.

Those who successfully fill out the information on site right after the activity will get a DonorsChoose.org gift card through which they can play the role of education philanthropist by deciding which project in their school or district should get some more funding.

Teachers can apply here.

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