Wherever you are in your school year, it’s a great time to think about your next DonorsChoose projects. Planning your DonorsChoose timeline in advance can help you get the exact materials you need by when you need them, take full advantage of match offers (including surprise funding opportunities!), and know when you may need to break up a large project into smaller requests.
Here are the top five tips from your fellow teachers for how to plan your DonorsChoose projects to minimize the work and maximize the funding.
1. If you can dream it, you can do it.
We’re starting with the #1 most commonly offered advice from teachers about how to plan your projects: Keep a running wish list. From phone notes to Amazon to social media, create a place to save the ideas that inspire you. As you track the items you want most for your classroom, the project requests will (almost!) write themselves.
“I keep a note on my phone for when I think of something small to add to my list of items I want to request. Sometimes it is something silly, like low tack tape even.” — Mr. Herskowitz, South CA
“I keep an Amazon wish list called “DonorsChoose”. I revisit it from time to time or add when I see a great idea. When I have a decent amount of items gathered that “go” together I write a project (books, basic supplies, etc). I write a project every year for art journals – I basically copy the text from year to year – why reinvent the wheel? Always keep a live project. You never know when a local business or company or donor is looking to help a classroom just like yours!” — Mrs. Schneider, Wisconsin
“I keep a Google Keep note of ideas for projects. Dream projects, unit specific projects, and just supplies I notice we need that my yearly budget doesn’t cover. By using Google Keep I have the lists synced in my phone, my desktop, and my Chromebook so whenever I have an idea I can write it down so I don’t forget. I often get ideas talking to other teachers about their classrooms and this way I can reflect back to the needs of my current students as I create each project.” — Mrs. Webb, Carterville, IL
“I try to group [similar] items together for projects. I keep a list on Amazon of things I want so I can easily pull from there when making a project. That’s especially helpful when a match comes up and I want to get a project out quickly.” — Ms. Wartberg, TX
“I keep several Amazon wishlists for various activities. For example, I start to brainstorm things I might need for a spring planting activity in the winter so it’s ready to go in the spring.” Mrs. Chappell, Queens, NY
“I also keep a saved list of DonorsChoose ideas in both my Facebook and Instagram posts. When I see something or a thread people are talking about that’s great I add it to my DonorsChoose Tips saved posts!” — Mrs. Webb, Carterville, IL
2. Make a game plan.
The best gift you can give yourself is time. When you finish an annual project, consider posting a project for replacement items right then, so you won’t have a time crunch next year. Your curriculum calendar can help you plot out which materials you’ll need (and by when!). Don’t forget that lower-cost projects are more likely to be fully funded. Our not-so-secret recipe for project success: Organize your projects in advance, break large projects down into smaller requests, and give yourself plenty of time for funding and delivery.
“Match your year at a glance curriculum maps or theme schedules and plan ahead for what dates projects should be posted.” — Mrs. Draper, FL
“As a science teacher, I map out my units and then plan what activities or investigations I’d like to do. I prioritize them from dream projects to down and dirty basics that they need. I also think about what resources would be reusable.” — Ms, Flyn, Louisiana
“Plan for next year, this year! I wrote my scholastic news project for the upcoming year in the spring – mine got funded yesterday with the a match” — Mrs. Pack, Tennessee
“Larger items we try to do a year in advance (our 6th graders make fleece tie blankets to donate at Christmas-fleece adds up) when it first got funded we put the next year’s project up so it had plenty of time to fund.” — Ms.Knapmiller, Wisconsin
“I’d say…to post it 4 to 6 months in advance in case it doesn’t get funded. Always keep a project up and watch for matches!” — Mrs. Goodner, Oklahoma
“Break big projects into smaller ones. It never hurts to dream…you’d be surprised how quickly something can fund! Always have a project posted!” — Mrs. Zeiner, Ohio
3. Restock, reuse, repost.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel for each project. Consider recycling a past project to replace high-demand consumables or expand on a successful initial project. (“Part II” projects are always a popular option.)
“Remember and keep track of what you got funded that you’d like to restock for the following year. I did a project for arts and craft materials related to holidays which worked out great and I now have a list of things I want for next year for holiday craft materials.” — Mrs. McCauley, NYC
“Note projects that are big hits with students or are student-led. Create a ‘Part 2’ for the project.” — Ms. Ovalle, Chicago, IL
“Projects requesting basic supplies or for other items that are consumable are easy to create. A great time to do these for the beginning of a new school year is [summer]. To replenish basic supplies for mid-year–November.” — Mrs. McLain, Georgia
“Consider your current class size and always overestimate how much you will need by a few students. You never want to leave possible new admits or transfers out!” — Mrs. Goodman, NYC
“Think about what you spend your own money on – pens, markers, office supplies? That is what to start your first project with. Stay [within] $200-300.” — Ms. Yonks, NYC
4. Seek out inspiration.
Great classroom ideas can come from anywhere. With thousands of projects live (and recently funded!) on DonorsChoose, take a look at what’s trending for your grade level, nationwide or near you. Your students can be a great source of inspiration, too! Invite them to be part of your project creation process.
“Use the DonorsChoose project search tool to find projects similar to what you are thinking about. You may find great ideas or items you didn’t even consider.” — Mrs. Goodman, NYC
“I do lots of searches to see what other teachers are doing using a couple of key words that interest me. Then when a match comes along that fits, I write a project.” — Ms. Bartolomeo, Indiana
“Refer to the experts – ask the students what they wish they had for a project or unit. They might give excellent insight to spark some fun next year!” — Mrs. Keely
5. Sharing is caring.
With some extra planning and communication, you can create a project that benefits your entire grade level or school. Share your ideas with fellow teachers and see if they’d like to collaborate on a project or if they’d like to reuse the materials you get for your classroom.
“Collaborate with other teachers in your building, with two or more teachers promoting a project it’s easier to get funding.” — Ms. Steiner, PA
“Try to collaborate to get items that can be reused by grade level partners. Get items that are reusable.” — Ms. Penny, TX
BONUS TIP: Always have a live project!
“Remember to always have something posted. You never know when your dreams are going to become a DonorsChoose rocket ship! ” — Mrs. Webb, Carterville, IL
“Be prepared for special match days you know are coming around. There is usually always something at the beginning of the [school] year and around teacher appreciation week!” — Ms. Alston, VA
The best time to post your next project? Now! Get started today!