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What donors think of project essays

As the school year is winding down, our team is getting busy thinking of new ways to improve our site.
We recently sent a short survey to a group of donors asking for feedback on the essays our teachers write to describe their projects (example here). The results were so interesting, we had to share:
Do you read through the entire project essay?
95% of donors said that they do read through the entire essay
5% said that they skim the essay, but were more interested in the product and impact details associated with the project.
How important is the project essay to you when choosing a project to fund?
Most donors described project essays as “critical;” “very important;” “the biggest factor in choosing one request over another;” “determinative”
Others said that the project essay was only important after narrowing down projects by other factors (i.e. location, subject type, school poverty level, items requested, project expiration date)
What do you look for in a project essay?
Overall donors said they looked for (1)details about why the materials are needed, or (2) a look into the classroom through the eyes of the teacher
People looking for details about the request said they wanted to see:
Thoughtfulness from the teacher
Clear and thoughtful goals, and how the materials requested will help move towards the goal
Extent of impact/ benefit of the materials
Specifics about what’s missing in the classroom (i.e. I only have enough of X for 1/5 of the class)

People looking for insight into the classroom said they wanted to see:
Details on what children will be helped: “High Poverty? Special needs? All? Gifted?”
“Excitement and passion” from the teacher
Imagination and creativity from the teacher
Inspiration, “something to pull me in;” “Compelling story”
“How [the teachers] feel about their students”

Numerous donors also mentioned that typos and grammatical errors deterred them from supporting a project
Is there any information you wish was included in essays, to make it easier for you to choose projects?
About 50% of donors said the essays on our site are sufficient.
The other 50% suggested ideas like:
More information about the materials requested: How many years will the supplies last? Will you share it among other classes in the school?
More information about the school: How many students are above/below grade level? Where does the school fall in comparison to other schools in the city/ state?
Student comments on using supplies
Detailed product descriptions on project page

Thank you to everyone who participated in this survey! We look forward to using this information to improve our website.

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