Fundraising Learning Series: Q&A with Travis Franklin, Spokane International Academy

Mar 20, 2022 | Fundraising Learning Series

Travis Franklin, SIA CEO shared his advice on DonorsChoose. Travis used DonorsChoose for four years as a classroom teacher and raised $50,000 worth of classroom supplies, including book sets and a 3D printer. The platform empowers teachers to directly respond to students’ needs through their classroom campaigns. It also allows the community (parents, board members, etc.) to directly support teachers and their children. Check out Travis’ tips before you start your campaign.

What are the benefits and challenges of using DonorsChoose as a fundraising platform for school needs?

  • Pros: It’s really easy to share teacher projects with our community and get the word out.
  • Cons: Teachers need to understand that all resources acquired through DonorsChoose are the property of the school and not the teacher. This is in DonorsChoose’s policies and procedures. If a teacher leaves the school, the schools keeps the stuff.
  • Resources acquired through DonorsChoose need to be inventoried and tracked as a donation to the school.

What is the process for setting up the campaigns?

The initial setup requires someone at the school to make sure the school is in the DonorsChoose database. They add schools quickly if not already there. The teachers are responsible for posting their own projects, admin staff may provide information to help, but we don’t post any. Projects can be put up pretty quickly, depending on how complex they are. It’s really easy though.

What types of projects have performed the best? What contributed to the success of those campaigns?

  • Campaigns under $500 perform the best. A $25 donation to a $500 project looks and feels different than a donation to a project over $1,000. 
  • The easiest things to get funded are book sets, hands-on activities, and STEM-related asks. There are times when private companies will fund a bunch of projects with keywords like STEM, literacy, etc.
  • Be clear in your ask.
  • Individual teachers should not post more than (2) projects at one time. People get confused as to which one is most important, and you run the risk of each of the projects getting a little bit of funding, but none of them getting fully funded.

What are your top three tips for other charter public schools looking to use DonorsChoose to raise funds?

  1. Look through projects at other schools that have been funded for ideas. Typically, teachers can copy a project from another school and don’t need to spend all of the time trying to build one from scratch.
  2. Ask for resources that “enrich” the learning experience, not those that appear to be basic needs. When families see teachers asking for basic supplies, it makes the school look like we are not willing to give teachers the basic things they need to do their work with kids. It might be beneficial to have admin review early projects that get posted to ensure what’s being requested is appropriate or not already on its way to a classroom.
  3. Start with projects that are under $250. Use the initial days of being on the platform to get “early wins” so that when people go to the school’s page, they see that projects have been previously funded. 
  4. Note: The State Auditors Office will audit DonorsChoose activity. We added language in our financial policies and procedures to cover this, and it came straight from DonorsChoose. Also, DonorsChoose will send you an annual inventory of all projects that were funded during a calendar year to use as supporting evidence in an audit, as well as to make sure you have properly inventoried all of the items at the school level too.