Summer has flown by, and teachers all over the country are preparing to return to the classroom. This means writing lesson plans, learning about incoming students, and creating welcome packs and letters. It also means buying classroom supplies, which often turns into an out-of-pocket expense. How can you as a teacher reduce, or even eliminate, this expense? Many teachers have turned to classroom crowdfunding.
If you’ve never heard of crowdfunding, have concerns about classroom crowdfunding, or are looking for tips on improving your next classroom crowdfunding campaign, this post will help you start off on the right foot.
What is Crowdfunding?
In a sentence, crowdfunding is the practice of raising money for a project through small amounts of money from a number of people. Typically, it’s done online. You may have seen crowdfunding campaigns for all sorts of projects from new inventions to businesses to paying medical bills to classroom funding. The goals of a crowdfunding campaign can change the nature of it slightly. (For example, inventions usually use rewards-based crowdfunding while businesses might use equity crowdfunding.)
Classroom crowdfunding, then, is the practice of raising money through donations for a classroom project through small amounts of money from a number of people.
Why Choose Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding is one of many ways to save on classroom supplies, field trips, and other classroom projects. You might choose to crowdfund over other more traditional fundraising methods, or you might use two methods at once. As a teacher, you might choose crowdfunding for some (or all) of the following reasons:
- You have a supportive and involved community of family, friends, and colleagues.
- You have a specific project you’re looking to promote and get off the ground.
- Your project requires a deadline.
- You have several projects you hope to fund.
- You want to teach your students about the elements of fundraising.
These are just a few of the reasons you might choose classroom crowdfunding. As you read about the basics of crowdfunding and the tips for a successful campaign, you may find more personal reasons, as well.
The Basics of Crowdfunding
Successful classroom crowdfunding campaigns require time and attention, but they do not need to be complicated. In order to start a classroom crowdfunding campaign, you only need to take three steps.
- Choose a crowdfunding platform.
- List your crowdfunding information.
- Share your campaign.
Let’s break these three steps down.
#1 Choose a Crowdfunding Platform
With the rise in popularity of crowdfunding among all industries, there’s a dizzying amount of platform choices out there. Some platforms cater specifically to teachers. The two most well-known platforms for teachers are Donors Choose and Adopt-a-Classroom. As you’ll see, there are reasons to use one of these platforms, and there are reasons to choose a different platform. Here are several other popular platforms.
When researching the different platforms, you’ll want to ask yourself a number of questions.
Do I need flexibility in the items I choose? Some crowdfunding platforms require you to choose from a list of items rather than choosing a total amount.
Can I reach my target goal once the fees are factored in? Each crowdfunding platform has its own fee structure. Make sure the fees aren’t too high to reach your goal amount while still asking donors for a reasonable amount.
Have any of the platforms successfully funded projects similar to mine? If you find a platform with several projects similar to yours that have been funded, odds are it’s a good platform for you.
Do I plan on running an all-or-nothing crowdfunding campaign? Some platforms work on an all-or-nothing basis. In other words, if the project is not completely funded by the deadline, you will not receive any funds.
Does my district have any rules or guidelines about crowdfunding? More and more school districts have guidelines in place regarding crowdfunding and which platform(s) teachers can use. Check with your district before choosing a platform.
Will I give donors something in return? Most teachers use donation-based crowdfunding, where donors give without expecting anything in return. Some platforms, however, require a gift in return.
#2 List Your Crowdfunding Information
Once you’ve chosen a platform, it’s time to tell your story. How much money do you need? Why are you raising this money? Who is it going to help, and how? Share how these funds will benefit your students without using teacher jargon. The tips section will give more details on how to share your information in the best possible way.
#3 Share Your Campaign
After you’ve crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s for your classroom crowdfunding page, it’s time to share it with everyone you know (and even people you don’t know). Successful campaigns build on their community first, so send your campaign to family, friends, colleagues, and your students’ families. Encourage them, in turn, to send the information onto others. You can send your campaign through email, social media, or through any websites you manage.
You may also find that there are organizations, businesses, or even strangers out there interested in your campaign. Reach out to any potential donors with a personalized message as to why your campaign affects them. Then, again, encourage them to share it with others.
6 Tips for a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign
Now that you have the basics down, it’s time to go through your classroom crowdfunding campaign with a fine tooth comb to make it as successful as possible.
#1 Be specific.
What exactly will the money go towards, item by item? Some platforms even allow you to request money for specific items. Or, you could make a list on Amazon of the items you want rather than asking for the money.
Also, if there’s something unique about your project, highlight it. Similarly, if your campaign aims to fill a specific gap, highlight that as well. For example, if you’re a science teacher who wants art supplies because your school cut art classes, this story will draw donors in.
Finally, make sure to focus on the students, as donors want to help kids above all else.
#2 Share pictures and videos.
Make them as high-quality as possible. Donors won’t necessarily expect professional camera work (especially if you’re raising money for technology!), but it should show a clear picture of what you’re aiming to do and tell a clear story. If your students appear in any of your pictures or videos, make sure you have permission from their parent or guardian.
#3 Look at other crowdfunding pages.
Examine how other teachers set up their crowdfunding pages. What do you think makes them successful? Do you find yourself motivated to give to any of them? Why or why not? This information will help you strengthen your own campaign.
#4 Ask for less.
When you ask for less, it also makes it easier to always have a project up. Some teachers point out that corporations or individuals will sometimes fund the projects of every teacher in their area. Having a project up might pay off in unexpected ways.
#5 Identify your donors.
While the basic message of your campaign will remain the same, how you posit that message may differ according to who you’re appealing to. Parents will give different amounts and for different reasons than alumni or colleagues, for example.
#6 Use your campaign as a teaching opportunity.
Transparency is key when it comes to crowdfunding campaigns, and that goes for your students, as well. By teaching them through the process, you’re not only involving them in the classroom; you’ll also be able to show your donors every single benefit of giving to your campaign.
The best way to know if classroom crowdfunding is right for you is to try it out! The risks are minimal, but the potential rewards are great. Within a short amount of time, you can launch a classroom crowdfunding campaign that will take your classroom above and beyond.
Kristen Seikaly began writing on topics in education for her website, Operaversity. Now, she primarily writes about educational games for Crossword Hobbyist and My Word Search. This is her first guest post for Teacher Habits.
I am, once again, partnering with Angela Watson to help promote her 40-Hour Teacher Workweek Club. It’s an online professional development program that has already helped more than 32,000 teachers take control of their time and stay focused on what matters most. The next cohort starts in July, and the Club has been updated to cover emerging best practices for the changes ahead. Click here to join!