Educators in two states now can access what has been called the eBay of philanthropy—a Web site that offers teachers a chance to post their grant ideas online and find donors for their projects.
DonorsChoose officially opened its doors to South Carolina educators on Oct. 10, offering teachers the chance to post proposals on the DonorsChoose Web site, www.donorschoose.org.
A yellow school bus embossed with the DonorsChoose logo rolled into the parking lot at 500-student Watkins-Nance Elementary School in Columbia, S.C., for the kickoff celebration.
Charles Best, who founded DonorsChoose as a social studies teacher at Wings Academy, an alternative public high school in New York City’s Bronx borough, in the spring of 2000, appeared at the event and presented Watkins-Nance Elementary students with classroom supplies.
Donors can live anywhere. They can find teachers’ proposals online and donate as little or as much as they wish toward the featured projects, which usually cost less than $1,000 each. Donors who fulfill a project’s funding or give at least $100 will receive notes from the teachers and students on how the money was used.
South Carolina Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum attended the kickoff event and said in a statement that she was excited about the program’s potential impact in her state.
In addition to the South Carolina project, DonorsChoose has begun a similar statewide effort in neighboring North Carolina, and also is available for schools in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay area. DonorsChoose enters new geographic areas when philanthropists or individuals provide the start-up money.
“Our goal is to open nationally to every region, and we hope to do that in the next two to three years,” said Reyna Feighner, the development associate for DonorsChoose, based in New York.
The site has raised nearly $4.2 million from donors in 50 states, and will begin projects in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas by 2006. It is providing school supplies in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina, she said.
In South Carolina, about 200 teachers already had written requests for the site by Oct. 14.
“Once teachers get used to it, they’re going to use it a lot,” said Evelyn Cohens, the principal of Watkins-Nance Elementary School.
A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 2005 edition of Education Week