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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Crowdfunding For Schools

Crowdfunding For Schools

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Schools…perpetual fundraisers. Like it or not, many of our schools are dependent upon the generosity of their families to fund things such as books, field trips and technology. Students selling goods to friends and family and their school often seeing a return of less than 50%. Any given day one can find numerous fundraising efforts posted on their Facebook wall.

Why not leverage our social media circles to help our schools achieve their goals more efficiently? Crowdfunding (also referred to as crowdsourcing) is fundraising mostly through the use of social media; asking many people, and their “network”, to each contribute a small amount. Unlike a traditional “fundraiser”, the school/organization collects nearly all of the donated money (host sites may withhold a small percentage), your marketing is not limited to those residing nearby, and donors typically do not receive anything in return. You can find crowdfunding for everything from disaster relief, to company start up funding, to big names such as Spike Lee looking to fund his next movie.

I have yet to try crowdfunding, but looking into it for our middle school next year; so I wanted to reach out and ask the community:

Have you used crowdfunding in your school? What were you raising money for? What takeaways can you share for others interested? What worked and didn’t work?

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Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

There have been some interesting crowdfunding initiatives, like those for makerbot's initiative to put a 3D printer in public schools- one friend put up their project and raised their $100, and the rest was paid for by Makerbot within 48 hrs. That's a big win.

I worry that we're forever being "hit up" by a school or program- at our school, there's a participation fee for the school musical of $70 or more, depending on the show (some kids are subsidized if it's an issue); the band sells spirit wear, fruit near Christmas, several fundraiser, bakesales and the lot- and that's before we get to the Sports teams, girlscouts, after prom, the education foundation, etc. And that's public school.

I love helping to fund one off infrastructure programs, like the 3D printer, that will help students long term. The year to year maintenance and funding of programs through constant fundraising gets to be a bit of a drag and I know I'm starting to get a little burnt out by it.

I know home & school organizations are involved in many things to help make sure there's money for everything from field trips to those classroom extras, and I clip those school points automatically now, but I never have a good sense of what happens to the money raised. Maybe if we made all of that a little more transparent, it would make it easier for parents and the wider community involved.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
K-4 Technology Facilitator from Northfield, New Jersey
Facilitator 2014

I have successfully used crowdfunding twice. The first time was over a year ago for some crazy classroom clocks (http://goo.gl/1Aigir) I wanted to help set an irreverent 'mood' for my classroom, and the second was within the last month (I managed to get one of those 3D printers Whitney mentioned.) We used Donorschoose.org both times.

I think to be successful on Donor's Choose, it helps to have a really active social media profile, and in particular, to be connected to parents in your school community. Crowdfunding via strangers is harder; people don't know you and there are so many worthy projects out there. By appealing to people you actually know, who are familiar with your classes and program, and who know and trust you'll use the materials well, it's easier to get support. In the case of my second Donor's Choose project, I got support from parents on Facebook before I even realized it because I gave Donor's Choose rights to post on my timeline on my behalf. I was literally at dinner and the funds were flowing in. Nutty!

It also helps to write a compelling narrative - really tell the story of what you need and why it matters. Good, engaging, effective writing is difficult - people should ask for help if they're not comfortable with their own words. A well written narrative can make the difference between funding and failure.

As far as WHAT to ask for, again, I think it has to be something that is going to make a real difference in ways you can convey powerfully. It's easier said than done!

I think crowdfunding has a bright future because it allows people to contribute on their terms - what they are comfortable when they are comfortable doing it.

-kj-

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