Let me tell you something, if you want to learn a new skill and improve, then you need to do that thing a lot and learn along the way.
And that’s exactly what we did with Donors Choose!
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of writing grants, and having all those boxes of supplies and materials show up at your school, the feeling is amazing.
But there are so really important factors that come with the amazing feeling. We learned some great lessons along the way and here are our three biggest mistakes.
We Asked For Too Much
There was some very early success with our teachers and getting some really large grants funded. A funding program through Donors Choose in partnership with Chevron called Fuel Your Schools provides automatic funding for grants. It’s super amazing and we had some multi-thousand dollar grants funded immediately.
I can remember a time one of our 1st grade teachers wrote a grant for 30 Hokki stools and she got funded the first day it posted.
Three pallets of boxes with the Hokki stools arrived at school one Friday afternoon, and it was the most amazing unboxing celebration we had ever experienced.
Now I don’t think we got greedy, we just didn’t know enough about Donors Choose yet to effectively write grants throughout the year and the ebbs and flows of matching offers and angel donors.
Moral of this story, don’t ask for too much. Because after the 30 Hokki stools celebration extravaganza, a few teachers wrote really large grants than never got funded, and it took the wind out of our sails.
We had to reevaluate what we wrote grants for, and how much.
With Donors Choose, smaller is better. Grants under $600 have a much higher possibility of getting funded. Keep them small and be patient.
We Didn’t Share Enough
I’ve said it for years, teaching is not that collaborative. Most of the time it’s you and your four walls with your students.
It’s challenging to find effective ways to really get teachers together on a regular basis to collaborate.
This was a big mistake we made in relation to Donors Choose.
On the surface, writing grants is simple. Create a title, talk about your students, your project and post on Donors Choose.
But it takes more than that.
It takes thinking. It takes creativity. It takes knowing what you want. It takes filling a void in your classroom with needed supplies. And most of all – it takes time.
We had some teachers writing grants, getting funded, and celebrating when the supplies arrived at school.
And we had other teachers stifled with where to start. Not sure what a Donors Choose grant should even look like.
And that was my failure as the Principal.
We didn’t share enough.
We didn’t tell each other what grants were being written and funded.
And we should have.
Share your grants with colleagues, it helps in a major way.
Write More Grants
Once we really got our price range dialed in, our collaboration was on point, we didn’t write enough grants.
I firmly believe that every single public school teacher should have at least one Donors Choose grant posted all the time.
Nobody knows when an angel donor will come and donate or fully fund a grant, which happens all the time.
Companies will come and partially fund grants that are posted on the Donors Choose website.
Celebrities will come and flash fund an area across the country and purchase all the grants.
But with all of those amazing opportunities – you need to have a grant posted in order for it to happen.
Write small grants.
Share with your colleagues and friends.
Post them early and post them often.