Crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter are becoming increasingly popular fundraising platforms for everything from medical bills to education. And these days, pencils and paper are no longer a classroom's bare necessities.
That's why more than 280,000 teachers across the country are using crowdfunding websites to bring unique items to their classrooms.
Forbes.com defines crowdfunding as “The practice of funding a project or venture by raising a small amount of money, from a large number of people. Typically via the Internet.”
Madison County (Georgia) High School teacher Kelly Cassidy, picutred below her class, wanted to purchase drones to teach her environmental science students about land surveying and radiation. She turned to crowdfunding.
“It was our only option. We just don’t have any money,” Cassidy said.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the United States is projected to spend more than $634 billion on education over the 2016 school year. But when you break it down, Cassidy says, this statistic doesn’t amount to enough money per student.
“[I’ve] got to do labs for 157 kids for an entire year, and when you have six bucks a kid, you don’t have a lot of wiggle room,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy posted a request for drones on donorschoose.org, a crowdfunding website created specifically to fund educational projects. Chris Pearsall of Donor’s Choose says these requests have raised more than $420 million for educational projects over the last 16 years.
One a project is fully funded, Donor’s Choose takes the money raised, purchases the items requested by the teacher, and ships them directly to the classroom.
“And that’s for the sake of transparency. [This way], our donors know exactly that the materials they think they supported were actually sent to the classroom, and the project was executed as the expected,” said Pearsall.
Kickstarter.com, whose mission is to help artists, musicians, filmmakers, and designers raise money for creative projects sends money directly from donors to receivers.
According to a statement on their website, “Creators are responsible for their projects. When you back a project, you’re trusting the creator to do a good job, so if you don’t know them personally or by reputation, do a little research first.”
In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission busted a man who raised $122,000 on Kickstarter to produce a board game that never materialized. “Donors should be able to trust their money will actually be spent on the project they funded,” said FTC Director Jessica Rich.
While crowdfunding sites create an easy way to raise money, they also have to make a profit. Donors Choose covers its administrative costs through an optional 15 percent donation donors can choose to allocate. Whereas Kickstarter and GoFundMe both automatically deduct at 5 percent fee from each donation made.
Crowdfunding creates and endless realm of possibilities, but experts suggest you research how your dollar will be spent the next time you donate to a classroom or an online campaign.
Editor's Note: This piece originally published in Grady Newsource, a student production of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.