A holiday donation worth considering

Published 6:36 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2007

By Staff
What if you could make a charitable donation and know, down to the penny, exactly where your money went?
You can.
If you’re having trouble coming up with something to buy for someone this holiday season, you might consider logging on to www.DonorsChoose.org and making a gift in honor of someone you know.
The program was launched in the spring of 2000 by Charles Best, a public high school teacher in the Bronx, N.Y. The organization connects teachers with donors to fund specific classroom needs. Since it was launched in North Carolina in 2003, more than $1.6 million has gone to benefit 117,096 students across the state.
Right now, seven Beaufort County teachers have requests pending on the site. The way it works is a teacher fills out a form listing what he or she wants and why he or she needs it. It could be simple classroom supplies like pencils and paper. It could be money for a solar science project.
In one case, a first-year kindergarten teacher at Eastern Elementary School wants $514 to buy a large, rectangular rug that her students can sit on instead of a cold floor. As of Tuesday, she was 15 percent toward her goal. A teacher at Washington High School wants $563.77 to buy eight containers so the school can start a recycling program there.
Once the teacher’s request has been accepted, donors can log in and view the application and fund all or part of the request. The minimum donation is $10. At the $100 level, donors will also get feedback from the teacher in the form of pictures of how the money was used and notes from the students who were impacted. No matter how small the gift, the donor will get a complete breakdown of how his or her money was spent.
For teachers, the system sort of works like eBay, the online auction system. As instructors make requests and prove that they follow through on their end, they earn points with DonorsChoose.org and they can ask for more for other projects.
Perhaps one of the more unusual requests came from a teacher who had students who believed they would never attend college. She arranged a field trip to Harvard University.
Burroughs Wellcome has provided $50,000 to fund math and science projects, Cerkovnik said.
The problem, Cerkovnik says, is some teachers aren’t aware that the program is out there.
The beauty of the system is that donors get to decide what is, or isn’t, important. If you don’t want to fund a field trip, you don’t have to. If you do want to make sure a small, poor school in Mississippi gets a new computer, you can make that happen, even though you may not fund the total amount.
Teachers have already used $3,000 to provide 12 solar power engine kits for Croatan High School in Carteret County and alternative energy supply labs for Hawley Middle School in Granville County.
Today, 34,181 public school teachers use DonorsChoose.org and individuals in 50 states have funded more than 38,086 projects, channeling $16.8 million worth of books, art supplies, technology, field trips and other resources to classrooms in low-income communities.
There are a number of good organizations out there that could use your help this holiday season. We believe DonorsChoose.org is one of them.