You spend a lot of time learning and developing as a teacher, and now you can post a DonorsChoose.org project requesting the resources you need to do so!
Here are four essential tips for creating your professional development project. Implementing these ideas will help you bring donors to your request—even those supporters who had no clue teachers spend hours (and dollars) honing their craft.
1. Put student impact front and center.
When you talk about your project, explain how your learning will impact your students—and be specific.
Mrs. Thornton lays out the issue her project is solving by attending a workshop on math instruction, explaining: “Many students come to school with negative [assumptions] about math. They think, ‘I’m bad at math’ or ‘Math is boring.’ My goal is to help change that attitude into one of confidence and eagerness to learn more.”
After she describes the workshop, she goes on: “I know my students will be more engaged, motivated, and driven to succeed in a math classroom that is run with these best practices.”
Pow! The donor who’s never heard the term “professional development” is now sold on the whole idea. Potential supporters give to projects because they, like you, care about great outcomes for kids. Don’t forget to put your students front and center, even if you’re talking about a conference that’s taking place a few thousand miles away.
2. Keep project cost low.
The odds of full funding are highest when your project cost is low. But professional development can be expensive! If you’re sighing longingly at a conference taking place across the country, research what options are available in your state. If you don’t need to pay for travel and lodging, you can cut the project cost to under $500, and boost your project’s likelihood of success.
If the conference is a one-of-a-kind, think about how you can post a project at the lowest possible price. Explore your options: Will your district pay for half the cost? Can the conference provider offer a discount if you volunteer at the event? (Pro trip: If you get funding from an additional source, you can create a DonorsChoose project for just part of the total trip cost.)
3. Skip the jargon.
A lot of your potential supporters won’t know terms like differentiation, phonemic awareness, or tactile graphic organizers. But when you want to attend a workshop about differentiating instruction using tactile graphic organizers to teach phonemic awareness, explaining your project in your essay and in emails can be tricky!
Instead of getting lost in the weeds, try to get at the core of the learning experience. Mrs. Rothermel requested funds for National Board Certification fees. Here’s how she boiled this complicated topic down to the essentials: “National Board Certified Teachers are highly respected teachers who continually challenge themselves for the betterment of their students.”
Anyone who’s been through certification process knows there’s a ton more she could have explained, but she’s selected only the information important to her supporters. (And if they wanted to learn more, they could ask her about it—or Google it, too.)
4. Rally your classroom supporters to give first.
Getting some early donations is a quick way to give your project momentum. Send an email to your friends and family, asking them to support your development as an educator. Feel free to use the example below as a guide:
I’m working hard to be the best teacher I can be for my students, and I’d appreciate your help. Every year, I have fifth-graders who say, “I hate reading!” and who struggle to be able to read books on grade level. I want to make sure all of my students fall in love with books and are able to be lifelong readers.
Can you help me attend a workshop to learn more strategies for teaching reading? I want to make sure my class next year doesn’t have a single reluctant reader!
Support my DonorsChoose.org project at this link: [your project link]
I appreciate your help—and so do 50 fifth-graders who will love reading because of you!
When you write your own email, make sure you get at the core of what you’ll be learning, explain the student impact, and make it easy to give. These first donations from people who know and support you will make it easier for other classroom supporters to make a difference on your project!