Giving Compass’ Take:
• Ben Paynter reports that the systemic underfunding of public schools is leading to a boom in the classroom donation industry.
• With more platforms being developed to support classrooms, how can philanthropy address the systemic problem of underfunding?
• Learn about America’s racial school funding gap.
In early May, the New York Times reported that while public schools remain chronically underfunded and teachers woefully underpaid, there’s at least one online platform out there helping. Instead of teachers having to pony up their own (already meager) cash for basic classroom supplies, they can now turn to Classroom Giving, a service that allows them to publicly post their needs so that other people can offer to fund them.
For anyone the least bit familiar with this sector, that might raise an obvious question (one not asked by the Times): Isn’t that what DonorsChoose.org does already? But Classroom Giving founder Ben Adam says he built his service to specifically combat the things he dislikes about leading crowdfunding platforms like DonorsChoose.org and GoFundMe.
“The majority of classrooms that are on there, it’s like playing the lottery,” he says of participants on DonorsChoose. “I’m not saying that those sites don’t work, but they are still big. I mean, New York lottery works, too. But does that mean you’re going to win the New York lottery?”
But Adam doesn’t call that a donation. Classroom Giving isn’t an incorporated nonprofit; it’s a website that he paid $12 to register, so any gifts are not tax deductible. The same is true for anyone giving to an individual campaign on GoFundMe, as opposed to one started by a school district program or nonprofit group. “If somebody’s buying something on Amazon and sending it to somebody [else]–maybe a friend of yours bought you a new sweatshirt–that wouldn’t be a donation. They would just buy you a sweatshirt,” he says.
Nonprofit DonorsChoose.org uses a different format, which requires teachers to make profile pages for specific projects they want funded, which can range from basic supplies for better in-class activities to more advanced ones (like butterfly cocoons for a science project) and field trips. The platform’s average project cost is about $700–Adam’s own rough estimate to fund one classroom’s supplies for a full year. However, if the project goal on DonorsChoose isn’t met, the entire project may not happen. Donors are then given the chance to redirect their money elsewhere.
Read the full article about the classroom donation industry by Ben Paynter at Fast Company.
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