When teacher Dominquie Anthony first arrived in her classroom, the walls were bare. Kindergartners would be arriving in under a month. It was up to her to transform the empty space into a fun, colorful classroom for her students—all on a teacher’s salary.
A year later, Ms. Anthony, as her kindergartners call her, knew she couldn’t keep spending her paycheck on construction paper and glue. So in August, she decided to set up a school supply drive. Teacher School Supplies! is her plea to the community for help.
“I completed my first year as a kindergarten teacher on a wing and a prayer,” she wrote on GoFundMe. “I didn’t have many school supplies that would aid in the success of my students, but the supplies that I did have, I purchased.”
Anthony is one of many teachers nationwide who must pay for their own classroom supplies. School supplies aren’t free, and it’s often the teacher who ends up footing the bill. Schools help out a little, but the majority of the expenses are left to teachers. According to the Department of Education, 94% of teachers spend their own money on school supplies. Back to school fundraisers can help make up the difference.
How much teachers spend on school supplies
In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service allows teachers to deduct $250 in exchange for buying supplies. But during the 2015-16 school year, most teachers spent an average total of $479. 7% said they spent more than $1,000 a year on school supplies.
Whether teachers are from urban or rural locations, these numbers don’t budge. That said, teachers in impoverished areas spend the most. One elementary school teacher in Tulsa made headlines by panhandling for school supplies. Teresa Danks said she did it because she had been spending $2,000 of her own money a year. She wasn’t sure how else to raise money for classroom needs.
“Teachers have been doing this from the beginning of time,” Danks told the Washington Post. “It’s just getting hard because the pay isn’t keeping up with the cost of living and the need is getting greater and greater.”
Danks’s method was unconventional, to say the least. But it turned into a school supply fundraiser idea that anyone can use. Her stunt inspired support for a later GoFundMe fundraiser. Teresa Danks, Begging for Education raised $30,000 for teachers in Oklahoma and beyond. She isn’t alone. An increasing number of teachers are using back to school supply drives to raise money for classroom expenses.
How to organize a school supply drive
It isn’t fair that teachers have to shoulder the cost of school supplies. The success of back to school fundraisers shows that parents agree, and understand the need. A school supply drive is a great way for teachers to ask community members to help shoulder the costs.
How to organize a school supply drive depends on the teacher and the community, but a few tips can help to make it a success. Here are a few school supply fundraiser ideas for teachers looking for a little help:
Teachers know better than anyone that it takes time to get the classroom ready. Though school supplies are on everyone’s mind in August, it’s even better to start looking for help in May or June. It may seem odd to begin so early but every extra day counts. It means community members have more time to find out about and take part in your drive.
Collaborate with other teachers
Your classroom isn’t the only one that needs supplies. A fundraiser can make a bigger impact by supporting many teachers working together. Talk to the principal and organize a school-wide supply drive. Donors will be more likely to help because they’ll know their donation doesn’t just help out one class, but many.
Compile a most-needed list
If you’re a high school teacher, for example, your classroom won’t need finger paints. Make a list of school supply donations you need. That way, the community can offer up what will help the most. If your fundraiser is for monetary donations only, a most-needed list can still help. It will show donors how you and your students will be using the money they donate.
Create an online fundraiser
For many teachers, the local community won’t be able to help very much. Teachers in impoverished areas spend a lot because nobody else can. But with an online fundraiser, you can reach donors all over the world. Many teachers choose GoFundMe, the most popular fundraising platform. It’s a good choice for teachers because GoFundMe provides free fundraising.
Promote your drive
A fundraiser won’t be very helpful if people don’t know about it. Tell your friends and family, and encourage other teachers to do the same. Share your fundraiser on social media. GoFundMe automatically creates links that donors can share on Twitter and Facebook. It also gives your fundraiser a short, easy-to-remember link that you can text or email to contacts.
Get your students involved
Almost every teacher has spent his or her own money on school supplies. However, they don’t have to do it alone. Summer back to school supply drives can help ease the burden. At the same time, they remind the community just how much teachers do. Students who join in may receive an education beyond what they usually learn in school: a lesson in generosity.
For more crowdfunding tips, see our posts Ten Donation Request Tips for Beginner Fundraisers, How to Build a Winning Fundraising Team, and Your Crowdfunding Fundraiser’s Story: a Comprehensive Guide.