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Our Team’s Award-Winning Operations Approach to our Biggest Day Ever

When a teacher has a project fully funded on DonorsChoose.org, our team springs into action to fulfill these projects. Unique among crowdfunding platforms, the DonorsChoose.org team purchases and ships resources directly to classrooms and works with teachers to coordinate field trips and classroom visitors for their students. As a result, teachers don’t have to worry about shopping in person or finding the right price, and we provide the extra layer of trust and accountability that school districts and donors crave.

Behind the scenes, DonorsChoose.org teams handle everything from fulfilling projects to answering your questions to making sure student thank-you notes get to donors. These teams were just recognized with the Business Transformation and Operations Excellence Award for pulling off the herculean task of bringing to life more 35,000 classroom projects in a single day.

Making March 27 the #BestSchoolDay for 28,000 Teachers

On March 27, 2018, Ripple, a San Francisco-based technology company, donated $29 million to fully fund all 35,648 live projects on the site in a single swoop. This was a huge day for teachers, and was also a huge day for our team!

Most days, we see an average of 750 requests funded. Prior to Ripple’s funding, the largest number of projects funded in a single day was 12,272. So the team had to figure out how to massively scale their processes to make this event happen — oh, and they only had three weeks to do it, and had to do it all in total secrecy!

To make #BestSchoolDay happen, we took some pages out of the teacher playbook — relying on the same relentlessness, ingenuity, and flexibility we know that teachers bring into the classroom every day. Here’s a quick peek behind the curtain of how they pulled it off:

Clearing the Queues

Because we purchase and ship resources to teachers after projects are funded, we knew that the weeks following #BestSchoolDay would be wild for our team, so we started prepping as soon as we could. In the weeks leading up to #BestSchoolDay, the team hustled to approve as many projects, answer as many questions, and fulfill as many funded resources as possible so their plates were clear come March 27.

Keeping a Keen Eye on Vendor Inventory

We work with 22 vendors, like Amazon Business, Lakeshore Learning, Best Buy Education, and Staples, through which teachers can shop for their projects. We have close relationships with these vendors and work to get teachers the best deals with the best service. But because #BestSchoolDay had to be top secret, we had to be a little more creative than usual!

Our team figured out how to keep an eye on the inventory of our vendors and compared it to the classroom requests that would be funded on March 27, so that we could be sure that the most popular resources would be in stock when the orders hit on March 28.

Secretly Screening Projects at Top Speed

When a teacher writes their project request, typically it’s reviewed by our expert team of volunteer teacher screeners. We wanted to make sure as many teachers as possible would benefit from Ripple’s donation, but we weren’t able to tell our teacher volunteers why we needed to screen so many project so quickly! Instead, our staff screened more than 1,000 projects in the 24 hours leading up to the big day.

Supporting Teachers & Donors at Scale

We knew that between fulfilling everyone’s projects and welcoming the new teachers and donors learning about our site for the first time through the buzz of the event, we’d likely have a lot of questions to answer! Our Customer Service team did some hefty optimization to be prepared to answer all of those questions, with huge success. In the weeks following #BestSchoolDay, we saw a 74% increase in the number of questions we were receiving, but we were able to reduce the amount of time it took to answer questions or solve problems by more than 14% — all without adding additional staff.

Reaching 1 in 6 Schools in America

Not only did Ripple fund a record-breaking number of projects, but within just a week of the big day, 87% of all projects had been ordered and delivered — that’s 31,151 project requests!

Each day we come to work inspired by the ingenuity, relentlessness, passion, and care we know teachers bring into the classroom every day. Whether we’re working with our friends at Blick to get teachers the best pricing on paint brushes, answering questions on submitting student thank-you notes, or talking to companies like Ripple to unlock more funding for your classroom, we hope to be even 1/10th as awesome as the teachers we serve.

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