Something to Read When You're Bored


A Cool Way to Contribute
February 21, 2008, 9:54 am
Filed under: Interesting | Tags: ,

It feels good to donate money to a good cause, but the experience can be a bit of a letdown. Basically your money disappears, you have some vague idea of the general purpose it went to and you wonder exactly how much of your money will really be used for your intended purpose (in some cases more than others). The website DonorsChoose.org offers, in my opinion, a much more satisfying philanthropic experience. The site is devoted to helping schools get the supplies and funding they need for specific projects (which, coming from a very education-appreciative family, is a cause that I can really get into). Here’s a good description I found of how the site works:

Teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need in order to learn. Volunteers at the not-for-profit site screen each project proposal and verify that the teacher and project meet set eligibility requirements. Citizen philanthropists can then fund the student projects of their choice—in whole or in part—and are emailed immediate acknowledgements for tax deduction purposes. DonorsChoose.org purchases the student materials and ships them directly to the school along with a disposable camera; the teacher then photographs the students participating in the project and writes an impact letter to the donor, while students write their own thank-you notes. DonorsChoose.org sends all that feedback to donors who completely funded or contributed at least USD 100 toward the project.

I think several things are awesome about this system. First, that you get to read about exactly what your money is going to accomplish for students and only help support programs that you really feel are valuable. The site also lets you search for projects in a specific area and shows you the percentage of low-income students at the school so you have a better sense of how much they can use the help. Plus you get something back from the process, a story about how you actually made a difference to kids’ lives. And the transparency of being able to see exactly where your money is going just seems… right. Maybe it is a selfish approach to doing something selfless, but I think that if this system inspires more people to contribute, then hooray for being selfish!

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