Even when the economy is good, it seems that schools have trouble supplying teachers and students with all of the supplies that they need. When the economy is bad, the shortages are made worse. Fortunately, there are organizations designed to help teachers get the things they need for their classrooms.
1. Donors Choose is a non-profit organization with a mission of helping under-funded schools. Donors Choose uses the term “citizen philanthropy” to describe its program. Donors Choose essentially solicits funding from private citizens (and some corporations) which get to choose the projects they wish to fund. Donors can donate as much as they like to one or more projects. Donors Choose provides potential donors with information about the projects that need funding and the financial situation of the schools submitting requests. (Donations made through Donors Choose are tax deductible, but as always, check with your tax professional).
For teachers Donors Choose is essentially a “micro grant” program. Teachers submit requests for money for supplies that they need for their classroom. Requests range from $200 for basic classroom materials to $1000 or more for supplementary books. The next time you’re wishing you had just a little bit more money to meet a need for your classroom, considering applying to Donors Choose.
2. Goldstar Registry is a free service for teachers to use to get school supplies. The idea behind Goldstar Registry is the same as bridal registry services. Teachers visit the Goldstar website and register for classroom materials that they would like to receive. Then if a parent or grandparent asks if you would like anything for your classroom, you can have them look at your online registry.
3. Classwish is a service through which teachers can find people willing to help purchase supplies for their classrooms. Classwish operates in a very similar manner to Donors Choose. On Classwish, teachers can create a wish list of supplies that they need for classrooms that aren’t provided in their school budgets. People looking to help teachers can purchase products on a teacher’s list and receive a tax deduction for their purchase.
4. iLove Schools is a non profit organization that aims to provide teachers with classroom supplies that their schools don’t provide. iLove Schools operates in a manner similar to that of Donors Choose and Class Wish. To get classroom supplies teachers register on iLove Schools and create a list of items that they would like to have for their classrooms. Donors can visit iLove School to choose a classroom to which they would like to donate supplies.
5. If you love free stuff as much as I love free stuff, check out Go To Freebie. On Go To Freebie you can find free samples of everything from bath and beauty supplies to toys and school supplies. Go To Freebie has forums and feedback to share experiences and tips about the freebies. Go To Freebie could be a good resource for teachers that are looking for simple “prizes” to give away to students as recognition for levels of achievement. Something that I do with free samples at the beginning of each school year is give out free notebooks, pencils, and other school supplies as prizes in ice-breaking activities.
Bonus: If you have a classroom project that requires special supplies that your school cannot provide, it never hurts to ask local businesses for free or reduced price items for your project. This is especially true if the project is something that will be displayed publicly on an open-house night and you can display a thank-you sign on that night.