In 2016, TIME Magazine reported that the average teacher spends nearly $500 out of their own pocket for school supplies each year. Although the studies don’t break out music teachers, it probably wouldn’t surprise anyone that music teachers are at least at this average amount, if not higher. With larger class sizes and much more expensive products needed for the operation of a school music program, music teachers spend a lot of their time planning and executing fundraising for their classrooms.
Thanks to the efforts of supportive music parents some schools have the resources they need for equipment, music, repairs and even travel. But not every music educator is in this situation. So, where can they turn to in order to get the supplies necessary to introduce and grow the love of music in their students?
In 2000, a public school teacher in Bronx, New York named Charles Best had the same challenge and figured that there were people that wanted to help – if they could see exactly where their money was going and who it was helping. He created a website where teachers could post classroom project requests and then citizen donors could choose the ones they wanted to support. This was the humble beginning of DonorsChoose.org.
In recent years, crowdfunding has become very popular. Other crowdfunding sites have made this concept mainstream to the point where we all recognize these requests when they show up in our social media feeds. But for the unique needs of teachers and their donors, a few pieces really set DonorsChoose.org apart. First off, DonorsChoose.org is only available to public, charter, and head start teachers in the United States. You can learn more about who is eligible to use DonorsChoose.org here.
Transparency is a core part of the mission and work that DonorsChoose.org does. When teachers create projects, they shop for the specific items that they need to make their dream project a reality. In turn, donors can see exactly where their donations are going. Each project has a complete ledger that lists where every (tax-deductible) dollar will be spent. Once the project is submitted, the DonorsChoose.org team vets all the requests, handles the purchasing of the supplies, and even facilitates thank you notes from the impacted students which go directly to the donors. In this age of regulation and transparency, it’s important to note that DonorsChoose.org has consistently received the highest 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and reports that 94.9% of donations go directly to classroom projects and materials processing. Current impact stats are always available at https://www.donorschoose.org/impact.
Woodwind & Brasswind is proud to be able to offer our entire assortment of 90,000+ musical instruments and accessories to music teachers through DonorsChoose.org. From quality name brand manufacturers like Yamaha and Fender, to lower budget friendly alternatives. In addition to Band and Orchestral instruments, we feature several other categories like stage and lighting equipment, Orff instruments, and over 30,000 print music titles. Music teachers can find everything they need for their classrooms by using Woodwind & Brasswind and DonorsChoose.org.
Teachers creating their first project will be surprised at the amount of support that DonorsChoose.org provides. Projects with a cost of $500 or less have a 77% chance of becoming fully funded. There are a number of additional tips and tricks in their fundraising tips article. A few of those tips include making your teacher page really shine and sparkle. In your project essay, you should make sure that your potential donors know a lot about your music program. The history and tradition – successes and struggles and especially how music participation impacts the students. There are also many different ways to help spread the word about your music project through social media channels. Easy Facebook and Twitter links can make your project super-easy for your friends, students, and music parents to share among their network.
One of the most exciting ways that DonorsChoose.org can help your music classroom is the through the availability of different matching donation programs. Their team works to develop relationships with corporations like Yamaha and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that want to put their support behind classroom teachers. This often results in specific “match offers”. A new marching snare drum for your marching band that costs $500 might only need $250 in donations with a match offer. These offers pop up throughout the year and can be very useful especially for music teachers with more expensive classroom needs. You can always view all current DonorsChoose.org Funding opportunities on their match offer page: https://www.donorschoose.org/match-offers.
Once you’ve selected the needs for your classroom and built your project that only marks the beginning of the process. For each donation made on your project you have the opportunity to say thanks! That immediate feedback really helps personalize the donor experience. Share the progress, tell your friends, have the students’ parents share the progress and watch as your project nears completion.
For music teachers especially, the joy of unboxing your new instruments and supplies is absolutely a photo-worth moment. Seeing the students’ faces when they get new tubanos or microphones is one of the best ways to share that success with your donors as part of the thank you process. The team at DonorsChoose.org takes care of all details once your students write their thank-you notes.
I can tell you from personal experience that few things will tug at my heartstrings more than seeing a student experiencing the joy of music, and seeing their personal thank you for that support. Each week our team receives dozens of thank you cards from students whose projects we helped to fund. It’s a daily reminder that music matters, and what we do to support music education genuinely makes a difference.
Start your first project today!
1. Go to https://www.donorschoose.org/teachers to create a DonorsChoose.org account and start your first project!
2. If this is your first project on DonorsChoose.org, during the first 7 days of your project being on the site, you are also eligible for a “liftoff match offer”. This offer will double all donations up to $50 that are made during the first 7 days of your project being on the site. Learn more about this offer here!
3. Reach out to the DonorsChoose.org team at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you have, they are excited to help you get your first project up and running! You can also find a ton of support directly in their help center. Good luck!