Wednesday, October 7, 2009

'Tis the Season for Supporting Public Schools

Those of you who get around the blogosphere may already be aware of the DonorsChoose Social Media Challenge. For those who haven't heard of it, I felt the need to write a post, because this fundraising effort is so awesome.

DonorsChoose is a charitable organization that works with public school teachers to fund educational projects. Teachers essentially write little grants, and DonorsChoose provides a platform through which those grants can be funded through individual donations from many different people. Projects raise money for field trips, microscopes, books, art supplies, games, and -- in some heartbreaking cases -- even paper, pencils, and food, for needy kids who can't get these things any other way. The folks at DonorsChoose also connect donors with the teachers they support, so that the teachers and students can provide thank-you notes. I have received these notes in the past. They are usually filled with adorable crayon drawings. Aww!

To drum up support for their estimable cause, DonorsChoose created the Social Media Challenge. During the month of October, bloggers and tweeters recruit their readers to donate through Giving Pages. When donations are made through these pages, they are tallied up for the blogger running the Giving Page, allowing social media users to compete in a "philanthropic throwdown."

Many science bloggers are participating in the challenge through the Seed Media ScienceBlogs Giving Page. Their combined efforts have raised over $9000 in the first week of October. You can check out the list of bloggers and see if there are any scientists who deserve your support in the challenge. Some are even offering offering tangible (e.g., t-shirts) and intangible (e.g., suggest a topic for a blog post) rewards to donors who support them.

And then there's Sarah Bunting. Through her blog, Tomato Nation, Sarah is attempting to raise $210,000 for DonorsChoose... this month. She and her readers have raised over $37,000, as of this post. In one week! To motivate donors, Sarah gathers fabulous prizes donated by fans of her work and gives them away to DonorsChoose supporters at the end of October. She also offers "mini-prizes" each day for funding a particular project. And if readers meet her fundraising goals, she does something silly to reward them (this year she promises to wear a tomato costume to Atlantic City casinos and videotape the ensuing hijinks).

But it isn't about the prizes. It's about coming together to do something great for kids. I've donated in support of several bloggers this month, but I'm really trying to support the school children who need our help. With that in mind, I donated a $50 Amazon.com gift certificate (thanks, credit card points!) to the Tomato Nation challenge as a prize for supporting this project. The teacher who submitted the project needs to raise a couple hundred dollars today (all projects on DonorsChoose have a deadline for funding; this one's is tomorrow) in order to purchase games for his high school dropout prevention program in Alabama. If you'd like to help, you can make a donation of any size through the link above. For a shot at the Amazon gift certificate, you must then forward your email receipt to Sarah (sars at tomatonation dot com), who will do a prize drawing later.

It's inspiring to see the donations piling up as October goes on. I know many readers of this blog are fellow poor graduate students, but if you can go without coffee and a bagel today and donate even $5 to one of these projects, you can make a difference. I hope you will.

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