If Web 2.0 is about collaboration through online tools and and "the market as a conversation", then DonorsChoose.org is a shining example of Philanthropy 2.0. This innovative website connects public schools in need of resources with donors, who can fund any of the educational projects posted online. Requests for classroom range from pencils and paper to digital cameras and computers, and potential donors can search for projects by the school's geographic location, subject area, keyword, or amount of the funding request. In an age of charitable and corporate accounting scandals, the transparency of DonorsChoose.org is refreshing. After a proposal has been fully funded by one or more donors, the organization purchases the necessary items and ships them directly to the school. Donors then receive thank-you notes from students and teachers as well as an expenditure report so donors know their tax-deductible gifts were spent as intended.
But if 100% of the contribution goes directly to classroom materials, who funds the overhead expenses of DonorsChoose.org? According to a recent Slate.com article, 93% of donors elect to add 15% to their donation to cover operating expenses.
To date, DonorsChoose.org has raised more than $12 Million for students across the country, and has funded 3000 proposals for art and music classrooms. A quick search for the keyword "technology" in "art and music" subjects yielded 233 open proposals, including "Writing Pictorial Instructions For The Technology Center". In this proposal, a high school teacher requests funds for the materials needed for her students to create a manual for the school's technology center. The students will write a description of a task's step-by-step process, take a photograph of each step, and develop a PowerPoint presentation of the task for the teacher. The Technology teachers will use the work instructions to help teach new procedures to technology students.
With many grassroots arts organizations also struggling to purchase materials for administration, education, and community outreach, there is a clear need for a similar service to connect these organizations with potential donors. And indeed it may not be far behind. DonorsChoose.org has already inspired spin-off websites in China to find donors for small rural schools. Can arts managers work together to form a similar philanthropic network for the arts community?