If you’re in need of a last-minute holiday gift, how about giving the gift of charity and education? I had a series of experiences with DonorsChoose.org this year that exceeded every expectation.  Never have I been more appreciated for a contribution, nor have I felt and seen the impact of a donation more directly. The affirmative feelings I received from  DonorsChoose.org were so wonderful, I want to share them with you (and I’m giving gifts of DonorsChoose.org to people on my gift list this year).

I came to know DonorsChoose.org through Twitter, which distributed $50 gift cards to attendees of its Chirp Conference in April. (Classy move, Twitter!)  I was not familiar with DonorChoose.org and learned that it is a site where public school teachers in the US can post classroom project requests for which they need cash. Visitors can surf the site for projects based on topics or location and may give as little as $1. DonorsChoose.org vets each teacher’s request and purchases the requested classroom materials, shipping items directly to the school.

With Twitter’s gift card in hand, I surfed the site for a worthy school project in my home state of Wisconsin. I found a request from Mrs. D’s classroom in a high-poverty area of the state. Their need was simple: 16 current children's dictionaries and 16 current children's thesauruses.  Others had already donated, such as Kirsten from Santa Fe, NM, who had attended the school in the 1970s and Sharon from Bayside, WI, because "I’m a strong believer in Literacy education." I used my $50 Chirp gift for Mrs. D’s request and then chipped in another $25 of my own to help the classroom hit its necessary total.

The purpose of the site and the way it operates was impressive, but it was after the classroom achieved its goal that DonorsChoose.org made an impact on me that was perhaps even greater than the impact I had for Mrs. D’s kids. You can, if you care to, remain anonymous when donating, but given my experience, I’d recommend you identify yourself and reap the rewards:Pictures of Mrs. D's appreciative students

  • At first, I received a simple online note from the teacher:  "To Augie: Jubilation!!”
  • Then, every donor received a heartfelt email from Mrs. D.  She wrote, in part, “I want to thank you, not only for your precious financial support, but also for the way in which you have inspired me… Thanks to you, my students will have the joy of using and treasuring up-to-date writing tools. Thanks to you, these readers and writers will share in what we know to be the magic and power of words.”  Potent words and feelings, but the appreciation continued…
  • I soon received photos of the kids using the books I helped purchase.  Look at those faces!  How could one not be touched by that kind of happiness and acknowledgment for the simple gift of dictionaries and thesauruses?
  • And finally, the Pièce de résistance: handwritten notes from the kids.  Said Anjahli, “We love to write. It is important to be a good writer.” Said Bao, “You can earn when you read. I love to learn from books.” Madeleine wrote, “We will use them very much and they will help me lots and lots. There is just something nice about knowing words and what they mean.” Meng said, “I like to read and write because it helps me learn sentences and words. They make me feel smart. I hope I can be a police officer when I grow up.”

Thank you letter from Mrs. D's classPerhaps if I was a better person, the flood of gratitude wouldn’t mean so much.  But it was exactly this level of positive reinforcement that has driven me back to the site this holiday season to give more to classrooms and to gift this same experience to my loved ones.  I hope you’ll do the same!  Visit DonorsChoose.org and make a difference in the lives of some students!

P.S. DonorsChoose.org gets a four-star rating from Charity Navigator with 92% of donated money going to classroom programs. To date, 350,000 donors have donated $68 million and helped more than 4 million students.  Most of the projects funded have been in high-poverty schools. Teachers have reported that 94% of their funded projects have increased their effectiveness in the classroom.

P.P.S.  In the event any of Mrs. D’s kids should read this, I used a thesaurus to write this blog post. Best of luck, and thanks for making a difference in my life!

P.P.P.S.  If you're still reading this, I'd very much appreciate your tweeting this blog post. Perhaps we can introduce this worthy organization to others and make a difference in many students' lives this holiday season!