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Behind the Scenes: Replacement Shopping on DonorsChoose.org

Dot Kuznia helps our Project Fulfillment team bring classroom dreams to life by ordering resources for funded projects. If you’ve ever received packages from DonorsChoose.org, chances are Dot had something to do with it!

It’s been six exciting and delightful months since I transitioned to our Project Fulfillment team. Working in fulfillment is exceptionally gratifying because we get to bring so many classroom dreams to completion.
Most importantly, we care that every teacher’s project comes to life just the way they envisioned. Occasionally, when a project is fully-funded, we hit a snag: an item is no longer available. It’s moments like these when our teachers and team really shine, working together to get the necessary resources for students. Here’s a little bit about replacement shopping, how it works, and why we do what we do.

Why the Toughest Moment Is My Favorite
Anyone who’s ever online-shopped knows the availability of items can change in an instant. Sometimes, when a project is funded, an item a teacher requested is no longer available. Usually it’s just one or two items, but this can still be disheartening for a teacher. That’s where we come in.
One of the best parts of my job is reaching out to that teacher and saying, “You’re the expert! What do you need to bring your project to life?” We have faith in them, and respect their opinion and vision for their project. If they tell us a new item will do the trick for their students, we’re going to do our absolute best to purchase it and send it their way.

On the Double
A vendor’s inventory changes from the time a project is created to when it is funded—but of course that doesn’t mean your students’ needs have changed… so we need to find a replacement together and quickly. We are here for you every step of the way; consider us your own personal shoppers.  You got a project funded on our site—that’s awesome!—so it’s our responsibility to get the materials to you. Once you pick your replacement items, our team is equipped to fulfill them as fast as we would have with your original items.
As a Fulfillment Specialist, it makes my day when I hear a teacher say that they got support they needed from us, that we made their life just a little bit easier.

What to Choose, What to Choose
When shopping for that replacement item, pick something that speaks to the goals of your project. The donors, our team, and most of all you believe in your project and want to see it through. Many of our teachers shop for similar materials or look for the same item (which might be available from a different vendor). Will Hokki Stools work just as well as those out-of-stock stability balls? We learn from our teachers and what they’re requesting—and can offer advice.

Fulfillment
I can’t write back to a teacher without reading their project first. The thought of the kids getting those materials is what motivates me to come to work every day.When I hear, “These Chromebooks are going to change our classroom” or “Our kids can’t wait for our field trip to New York!”, it gives my work meaning. I know, for example, why I’m on the phone with the bus company working through a logistical snag. Students should know that there’s people who want them to have Hokki Stools, a trip to New York, pencils… any resources they need for a great education.

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