This was originally published on The Chicago Moms.
When our girls receive their allowances, we have them break the money into four categories: spend, save, donate, invest. Recently we’ve been discussing where to donate their money. They’ve been struggle with where to donate their small amount of hard-earned money. There are a lot of local, worthy causes. What’s missing for them is the idea that their few dollars will have a direct impact on others. The idea that their dollars can help others seems so abstract to them.
One day I was listening to WBBM-AM news when the Osgood File came on. I always like to hear the Osgood File as Charles Osgood does the kind of interesting feature stories you don’t hear often enough. For this report, Osgood talked about DonorsChoose.org, interviewing the founder, a public school teacher named Charles Best. According to the DonorsChoose.org website, “Charles Best, a history teacher at a Bronx high school, is spending his own money on school supplies. So are his colleagues. He sketches out a website where teachers can post classroom project requests–and where anyone with $5 can be a philanthropist. His colleagues post 10 projects, but Charles doesn’t know many donors, so he anonymously funds those projects himself. His colleagues think that the website actually works, and rumor spreads.” DonorsChoose.org’s big break came when Oprah Winfrey called the group “a revolutionary charity.” The website notes that “Fifteen seconds later, our site crashes under the strain of all the traffic. When our site comes back up, viewers donate $250,000 to classroom projects.”
As soon as I heard his story, I knew DonorsChoose.org would be a good site for our girls to explore. What’s great about DonorsChoose.org is that you do exactly what the name says. Teachers from across the country submit specific projects they hope to have funded. You can read about the project and how it will help the target students. It’s completely free for teachers to submit projects, which are vetted to ensure that donors are giving to legitimate projects.
Each project has a specific monetary goal. You get real-time updates about how much is needed to fund the project. Some projects need as little as $5 to be fully-funded. Others are part of a “half-off” donor match. For these projects corporate donors and foundations match half of the total cost.
Our girls love the site. They spend a long time clicking through different projects and taking notes. They search by topic and state. They think they want to donate their money to projects in Illinois, but they keep finding interesting projects in other places. They are deciding which projects to support, although right now they are leaning towards finishing off a few. With the money they have, they can send $4 here and $10 there to give several classrooms their projects. They like that they can see how their money will help other children. They really like that they can make a big difference with a small donation.
One of the things I like about the site is it gives our daughters a glimpse of what other schools have to do to give their students the education our girls already receive. I always tell our girls that they attend a good school. Now I don’t need to tell them. They click through the projects and seem to be in shock. Students need books for the library? Some classrooms don’t have computers? These kids don’t have math flashcards? They see that the things they take for granted would be gifts to other students. For us, that’s a really good lesson for them to learn while they decide where to donate this holiday season and beyond.