How Social Media Helped me Earn over $30,000 in Classroom Supplies
Less than 2 years ago I was just finishing my 2nd year of teaching and wishing I had more books for my class. My students were learning to read, but I couldn’t provide them with the books they needed in a variety of interest areas. So, like many teachers, I was spending about $50 a month to buy new books and also other things I needed for my classroom. My husband was not happy when I added up the receipts for our taxes. While he supports what I do, I started teaching to make money, not spend it.
I started my 3rd year teaching with the goal of not spending as much money, but knowing that teaching a new grade would mean a lot of other expenses in order to teach the way I wanted to. The second week of school, one of my co-workers came in excited telling me how she got some books she wanted for free and all she had to do was write a grant. The idea of free materials to an educator is like holding out a steak to a hungry dog. She told me about a website called Donors Choose and I checked it out. My first project was for a magnetic easel to use during gathering time. I told my husband that I wanted him to fund it for my Christmas present, I never imagined strangers would donate toward it. Boy was I wrong.
While waiting to find donors, I turned to Facebook and the Donors Choose – We Teach page. I found some amazing veterans who helped walk me through finding donors. Here are some things these amazing teachers taught me:
First, I learned that social media is the perfect place to build a relationship with your donors. I try to personally thank each donor through whichever social media outlet I found them (if I was the one that found them). The donors I’ve built relationships with are the ones who I actually follow on Facebook or Twitter and I communicate with.
Second, I learned the difference between asking and spamming. I will admit being guilty of spamming when I first started using Twitter. I saw a few of my Donors Choose friends asking a donor for donations and so I would tweet them. I would see a website was doing a giving page and I would ask to be added or ask for a donation. I was annoying and deserved to be reminded to only ask for donations from people who are following me. I learned how to use hashtags to catch the attention of possible donors. For an ocean project, I used the hashtag #ocean and found a whole group of ocean lovers.
I also learned how annoying it was for my facebook friends to only see status updates asking for “just $1” for my project. Everything I posted had to do with getting donations for my classroom. While it’s a worthwhile cause, people will be turned off to helping me if that’s all I post about. Now, when I ask family and friends and tell them a particular project is important, they know I mean it and do all they can to help with a certain project. There’s something to be said about the difference of spamming a donor and great communication between the teacher and donor.
I learned to add my Donors Choose link in my profile information. One particular donor found me when the Reddit community donated over $300,000 to Donors Choose. I joined Reddit and started following Reddit and Reddit Gifts on Twitter. The founder of Reddit Gifts noticed that my school was close to his hometown. He was able to easily find my Donors Choose information because my link was in my short bio. He donated and we’ve since become friends. If my link had not been there, that connection may not of happened and I would’ve lost out on a donor and friend.
Last, I learned there is a network of wonderful teachers who are all willing to help and provide wonderful support for each other. Through previously mentioned Donors Choose – We Teach Facebook page, I found a group of teachers who were as passionate as I was about helping my class. They were willing to help get the word out about my classroom and helped me learn the ropes. I returned the favor for them. These teachers have become a support for not only Donors Choose, but also to give teaching ideas. We are there for each other to sympathize over testing score stress and to keep each other up to date on new ideas to help us even more in the classroom. The cardinal rule in this group is much like the Golden Rule, only ask if you know you will be able to return the favor. People get tired of giving if you won’t return the favor.
Since my first project, I have received over $30,000 in donations to buy supplies, books, art projects, and so much more for my class. During this time, I’ve learned a lot about the power of social media in helping my students. I truly believe that social media and the things I’ve learned have helped me become successful. Hopefully it’ll help you too.
- Michelle Francis (www.donorschoose.org/francis-ocean)