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Beyond the Basics: Unique Ways to Inspire Support for Your Students

Guest blogger Andy Yung is a Pre-K teacher at P.S. 244Q, The Active Learning Elementary School, in Flushing, New York. Visit him on DonorsChoose.org and his own webpage.

DonorsChoose.org is an amazing resource for any teacher. I began my DonorsChoose.org journey five years ago when I first started teaching. With 91 projects successfully funded and over $35,000 worth of materials, supplies, and valuable experiences received for my students, I hope to provide you with some unique tips that go beyond the basics when it comes to inspiring other to support your class.
Mastering the Basics: A Little Bit of Background
My initial projects requested basic materials for my Pre-K classroom. When that first project was funded, I was hooked and wanted to explore the possibilities of DonorsChoose.org even further.
I took into consideration tips from the DonorsChoose.org blog and personalized my DonorsChoose.org/ayung page, adding the link to my e-mail signature and linking my page to my Facebook profile. The outcome was overwhelming. It was surprising to see just how many friends were willing to help—even those I haven’t spoken to in a really long time or ever met in person.
Over time, I found myself “going to the well” too many times. Many of my friends are working and trying to make their own ends meet. They were willing to chip in and help out once or twice and, for that, I was grateful.
Not wanting to appear to be spamming my feed only to elicit donations, I needed to think of other ways to get the materials my students needed. I had to go beyond the basics of inspiring others to help my students. Here are three unique ideas I came up with to inspire donors.

Building a Gratitude Wall
A personal touch goes a long way. The Wall of Donors was an idea I came up with to show appreciation to friends who supported my classroom. Every donor would love to receive handwritten letters from my pre-K students. However, not everyone can afford to donate $50 to have that option available for them.
The wall—really a bulletin board just outside my classroom—became a place to send special shout outs to friends and family who donated any amount to my projects. Each donor had a creature dedicated to them with a personalized thank you message. Then, I’d take a picture and post it on social media with the donor tagged along with a description and link to the supported project. They would be able to see that personalized message and laugh as it would contain puns and inside jokes. Once they were tagged, their network of friends would be able to see what they were supporting, expanding the message and goal I was trying to reach.

The Wall of Donors inspired many friends to donate so they could receive their own personal avatar and message. At the end of the year, the wall would come down and a new one would emerge in preparation for the following school year. Friends and family would donate yearly just to have their special place on the wall. It’s a personal touch for those you know and it’s something they look forward to every year.

Read the T-Shirt, Help a Teacher
Teachers are a little bit of every profession. Why not add promoter to the list as well? Using custom t-shirt sites, I’ve designed and ordered t-shirts and business cards that promote my DonorsChoose.org page. As ridiculous as that sounds, putting yourself out there is important. When I wear my t-shirt, I am a walking billboard ad for my classroom. You never know who will inquire about it. Strangers have asked about it and conversations are struck up about DonorsChoose.org and education in general. I will always offer my business card and ask them to check out what my class is currently up to through our class blog. If they’re willing to support us, the DonorsChoose.org info is posted there. (You can print your own business cards here.)

The business cards contain my contact info, classroom blog, and my DonorsChoose.org page. They’re handy in moments when you’re networking with others, but also useful in the beginning of the school year. Parents are eager to know what the year will be like for their child. When they receive my card, they can go on my website to see what my students from previous years have done. They will start to notice just how big of an impact DonorsChoose.org has on the class and will often be willing to help.

Band Together
In the past, with mixed emotions, I’ve grown a hideous mustache to raise money for my classroom and created a special giving page for my projects in the DonorsChoose.org Community section. My mustache helped raised $455 towards my classroom projects.
Last year, rather than growing a humiliating mustache myself, I made it into a competition between two of my friends. I collaborated with them to created two different giving pages and had them go head-to-head in growing a mustache and raising money towards my projects. It was a huge success as it raised over $1,000 combined. Everyone loves a little friendly competition and my two friends were very motivated to out-raise the other. They would constantly make posts about the cause on their social media page and it opened a lot of doors for new donors. I found this to be very successful as it rallied my friends’ network and connections. Both eagerly encouraged their friends and family to one-up the other.

In the previous years, when I grew a mustache myself, I had only reached out to my network, which had already been exposed to the great things my class was doing. By collaborating with others to set up a giving page, you can reach a new audience who is willing to help.
Get together with friends or colleagues to set up a giving page for your projects and others that you’re inspired by—then share the link with potential donors from your collective networks. Through giving pages, I’ve connected with wonderful people who are still willing to support my classroom and school.
Your Own Ideas
These ideas are meant to inspire you to find new and unique ways to reach supporters for your class. I highly encourage you to use these ideas any way you can, or come up with your own unique ideas.
Good luck, and May the Force be with you!

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