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Shopping for Your Students: 3 Questions Every Teacher Should Ask

It’s been more than six years since I first stepped into a DonorsChoose.org office as a young associate on our Partnerships team. (For a trip down memory lane, here’s the blog post I put up in 2010 celebrating our 10 year anniversary.) 
We’ve grown a lot since then, but funding your first (or twenty-first) project can still feel daunting. I’m here to offer three ways you can optimize your request and increase your project’s likelihood of success.

First, let’s back up. My experience comes from wearing several hats: Partnership Manager, kickball team captain, babysitter, exterminator, moving service, and serial runner-up in multiple cooking competitions. Most recently, I joined our Operations team, helping ensure that teachers receive the materials they need to achieve the goals of their project. I used to help projects get funded, and now I help bring funded projects to life.
After only a few months in this new role, I’ve realized how important it is for teachers to be smart, savvy shoppers when creating a DonorsChoose.org project. I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips that you can use right away to set your project up for success. Before posting, ask these three questions:

1. Can I lower the cost?
Treat your DonorsChoose.org project like your grocery cart or your holiday shopping list. Look for deals and other opportunities to save money, because the lower your project cost, the more likely it is to get funded.
The number one rule for finding discounts? Comparison shop. The materials you need might be available at multiple vendors.  Make sure to check to see if you’re getting the best price.
Also, don’t forget to check for bundles and bulk resources. For example, Lakeshore Learning offers 10% of STEM bundles exclusively for DonorsChoose.org teachers, and Best Buy Education offers quickstart technology bundles with pricing discounts.

2. Can I phone a friend?
If you get stuck, remember—you’re not alone. You can ask for advice from another teacher at your school who’s had a project funded, or check out our information about commonly requested items. Still not sure what to do? Contact us, and we’ll help you shop.

3. Can I find something that’s a better fit for my school?
If you’re requesting technology, there’s a little homework you can do to make sure it’s smooth sailing when your items arrive. Check your school and district’s technology requirements before posting your project. Consulting with your school’s IT expert before requesting a shiny new Chromebook or other technology is important to ensure it will work with your school’s wifi network and licensing specifics.

DonorsChoose.org has come a long way since I started here. Today—thanks to our incredible community of teachers and supporters—we have have helped more than 18 million students, raised more than $425 million, and supported more than 290,000 teachers.
If you’re a DonorsChoose.org pro, thank you for for making this happen. If you’re new to the site, I hope your project is the next success story.

Learn more tips and tricks to lower your project cost
Get inspired: Explore recently funded requests
Create a Project

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