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Tuesday Tip: 11/28/2017

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Since starting in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a major force for philanthropy across the country. If you're not familiar with it, #GivingTuesday is a part the wave that I like to call the post-Thanksgiving theme days. The day after Thanksgiving there's Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday, we get a reprieve on Sunday, then onto Cyber Monday, and finally #GivingTuesday. (If you have any money left after the three biggest shopping days of the year!)

All shopping jokes aside, I think #GivingTuesday is a great idea that helps people focus on the importance of the work non-profits do to help make our society a better place. It's a special day to highlight these organizations and commit to helping them by making a donation to advance their missions and help others. Now as a teacher, you know there's always a need for more funding to benefit your classroom and provide students with innovative opportunities, and thankfully DonorsChoose.org is a way you can ride the #GivingTuesday wave to do just that.

DonorsChoose.org was created in 2000 by a former high school history teacher from the Bronx in New York. He wanted his students to read Little House on the Prarie, but there was only enough funding to buy one book. As he was making photocopies of it, he figured there were people out there who would want to help, especially if they could see where there money was going. Since then, DonorsChoose.org has turned into the largest website for teachers to submit requests to fund projects for their classrooms that can be funded by donors from across the country.

How to Benefit Your Classroom

If you're a public or charter school teacher, good news! You can create a request on the site and all it takes is around 30 minutes, a list of materials needed, and the answers to a few short essay questions. Once submitted, DonorsChoose.org will screen your request and as long as everything looks good will post it online for searching donors to see. As of this writing, over 70% of the requests posted are fully funded withing 4 months. Once a request is fully funded, DonorsChoose.org will source the materials and ship them to your classroom where you can use them to make your request a reality for your students. 

Getting started is easy and can be done at DonorsChoose.org/Teachers. Check with your district's education foundation first because they may have a policy of contributing to the funding of your request if they know about it. I'm on the board of the Pike Township Educational Foundation here in Indianapolis and we have a policy each year to contribute the second half of the funding to our teachers' DonorsChoose.org request that raise the first half of the funding needed, up to a set budget. Just like a 403(b) match, you don't want to miss out on free money for your request. Plus, they may be able to connect you with donors interested in funding your request.

How to Benefit the Classroom of a Teacher You Care About

If you're not a teacher, that's okay because DonorsChoose.org is one of the easiest websites to use to make a donation to benefit a classroom. Well not just a classroom, but as many classrooms as you'd like, anywhere in the country, for any specific reason. That's the beauty of the site for those looking to donate, there's full transparency of all the requests, allowing you to know exactly what your donation will be used for and who it will be benefiting. You can search by school, grade, type of project, and even by specialized screens like high-needs schools and never before funded schools.

Pick one or many requests to fund and then checkout is as simple as buying an item on Amazon. This is made possible because DonorsChoose.org is itself a non-profit organization so it streamlines the process. Your entire amount used to fund requests counts as a donation to them, they handle all the details on the back, and come tax time you receive one statement from them to use for your taxes. They've taken all of the hassles out of the process of being charitable to benefit one or many classrooms. 

So if you're interested, don't wait! Make the most of this #GivingTuesday and find a classroom to support at DonorsChoose.org. Your donation will not only fund a request, but also make a hard-working teacher's day.

Have questions? No problem, we'd love to hear from you!

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Mychal Eagleson, CFP®, AAMS® is the President of An Exceptional Life Financial, a firm that specializes in financial planning for teachers and families with special needs. He frequently writes and speaks on personal finance topics relating to these clients. Mychal also serves on the board of the Financial Planning Association of Greater Indiana as the Director of Public Relations & Social Media. To read more of his articles and learn about An Exceptional Life Financial please visit: www.anexceptionallifefinancial.com.