By: Katherine McLennan, Brand & Partnerships Writer, DonorsChoose.org
On March 28, 2018, thousands of public school teachers across the country woke up to the #BestSchoolDay celebration: every single classroom project request on DonorsChoose.org had been fully funded by Ripple, a San Francisco-based company that uses blockchain technology to facilitate international payments. With a $29 million donation of the cryptocurrency XRP (the largest single donation of a cryptocurrency to date), Ripple funded 35,647 classroom projects in an instant, reaching more than 28,000 classrooms and one million students.
These projects come from public school teachers across the country seeking to fill their classrooms with the resources and experiences their students need for an excellent education. On DonorsChoose.org, teachers request items ranging from textbooks and pencils to violins and robotics equipment. Individual donations bolstered by corporate and foundation grants typically bring these projects to life one at a time.
We couldn’t be more thrilled about this generous donation and have been celebrating with teachers, students, and Ripple since! Throughout that celebration, we faced a unique challenge: how do you measure the impact of $29 million?
Luckily, many of the answers to that question are built right into our model.
School Fundraising Impact Measurement
When Charles Best founded DonorsChoose.org out of his Bronx public school classroom, he had a hunch that people would want to help teachers like him — if only they could see exactly where their money was going. This idea has guided much of our work, from the design of our project pages to the reporting donors receive. By giving donors a window into the classrooms they support, we’re not only able to build the trust that donations will be put to good use, but we also cultivate the affinity a donor feels towards the individuals they help.
Here are a few ways we help donors understand the impact of their donation:
- Project descriptions. Teachers explain how the requested resources will be used in the classroom and how they will benefit student outcomes.
- Cost breakdowns. We list the vendor and cost of each item requested by teachers, showing donors how every penny will be spent.
- Impact letters. Once a teacher has received their resources and put them to use in the classroom, they send donors a letter sharing how the resources were used, along with photos of the project in action.
- Thank you notes. Donors can receive handwritten thank you notes from students, so that they can hear directly how the resources impacted learning.
Scaling Up the Impact of Donations
While our team facilitates these project impact moments every day, we’d never executed them at quite such a scale. We drew from learnings from our first two #BestSchoolDay celebrations, of which Salesforce was a major part.
#BestSchoolDay began in 2016, when DonorsChoose.org board member and teacher advocate Stephen Colbert pledged to fund every project in his home state of South Carolina. This gift inspired 50 celebrities, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists to fully fund projects in a region meaningful to them, resulting in $15 million donated to 15,500 projects. Marc & Lynne Benioff supported 183 classroom projects for 92 public schools in Hawaii. One project he brought to life was from Ms. Collazo in Waianae, who requested materials to introduce her students to programming, coding, and robotics principles.
In 2017, we decided to involve the public. Instead of fully funding projects, philanthropists backed dollar-for-dollar match offers, encouraging individuals to “unlock” their funds by giving to projects. Marc & Lynn Benioff once again did this for all Hawaii classrooms.
For both of these events, we sent funders detailed impact reports that included both quantitative data, like a breakdown of projects funded by grade level and subject, and qualitative data, like teacher responses on social media.
Well, what does $29 million look like?
For our #BestSchoolDay posts, we didn’t just include the high level numbers — instead, we used a combination of specific, tangible data points, social media responses from teachers and influencers, and traditional media to help bring the day to life. Check it out.
Going from Good to Great in K-12
Ripple might have wiped our site clean, but only for a moment. Since March 28, new teachers from schools serving students from predominantly low-income classrooms have submitted thousands of new project requests, and Salesforce.org is already jumping in to help.
Salesforce.org launched $700,000 in matching funds to Warmth, Care, and Hunger projects on DonorsChoose.org this past January. These projects request items that no student should go without, like the project Ms. H’s San Francisco high schoolers are leading to make sure their peers that deal with food scarcity have access to food throughout the day, or Mrs. P’s project to make sure her students have basic personal care and health items. When students come to school cold or hungry, or without confidence because of a lack of access to care items, learning suffers. These projects often reach some of the country’s most disadvantaged students, including homeless students. Combined with public donations, this campaign will drive almost $1.5 million in project funding to teachers and students across the country.
- See how DonorsChoose.org uses Salesforce
- Learn about Salesforce for K-12 schools
- Watch the webinar recording: How K-12 Public and Private Schools Fundraise with Salesforce