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It’s no secret that many public schools are underfunded and lack supplies, but the enormity of the problem can easily overwhelm those interested in helping. DonorsChoose.org aims to divide and conquer that challenge with a crowdfunding approach that matches potential donors with specific classroom needs. Created by a group of Bronx, N.Y., teachers in 2000, DonorsChoose.org is designed to engage everyday citizens in an online marketplace where teachers describe and individuals can fund specific student projects. It begins when teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need in order to learn. Volunteers at the not-for-profit site screen each project proposal and verify that the teacher and project meet set eligibility requirements. Citizen philanthropists can then fund the student projects of their choice—in whole or in part—and are emailed immediate acknowledgements for tax deduction purposes. DonorsChoose.org purchases the student materials and ships them directly to the school along with a disposable camera; the teacher then photographs the students participating in the project and writes an impact letter to the donor, while students write their own thank-you notes. DonorsChoose.org sends all that feedback to donors who completely funded or contributed at least USD 100 toward the project. DonorsChoose.org is sustained by an optional fulfilment fee of between 15 percent and 25 percent of the cost of each student project, depending on school need. Ninety percent of donors choose to include the fee, the site says, and the rest is made up by grants and contributions. The site’s impact, meanwhile, has been to facilitate the contribution of almost USD 19 million to fund more than 43,000 projects for more than 986,000 students, tapping more than 57,000 donors across all 50 states. We’ve already covered crowdfunding models for recording artists, software development and athletic teams, but between DonorsChoose.org and community-focused CrowdFunder, among others, it’s becoming clear that the collective spending power of the Internet masses may also be the key to filling in the gaps for chronically cash-poor social services. One to bring to other parts of the world? (Related: Peer-to-peer micro lending.) Spotted by: HL Tay

Email: cbest@donorschoose.org

Website: www.donorschoose.org

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