Self-serving donations

If you think your child’s education system is lacking something and you’ve got means… why not make a restricted donation?

We’re interested in differentiated independent learning activities for our child’s classroom.  The previous teacher had a ton of them.  We asked the new teacher if she would be continuing the tradition, but it turns out the former teacher is taking a lot of the independent stations she’d bought with her own money throughout the years with her when she goes.

So we offered to make a donation to help the new teacher outfit her class, with a specific emphasis on independent learning activities.  We contacted the teacher first, to make sure she was ok with the idea, and to figure out how best to get her the money so that an equivalent amount of general school money would not be taken away from her classroom for other purposes.  She came back with suggestions:  a listening center with books on CD, scales for math, etc.

We wrote a check for a set amount and allowed her to use it as she saw fit.  We’re not particularly picky with the type of independent learning activities, but if we were, we might talk to the teacher, ask her if it is ok to donate the materials or time etc. to the class, and then do so.  If the money were to be more fungible (that is, if the school were to take away an equivalent amount of money), then we would need to give a gift card or in-kind donations (buying the things she wants directly).

It’s better to ask, “if you’re interested, what can we do to facilitate this?” than “why aren’t you doing this?”  People are more likely to do things if you make it easy for them, if you put your money or time or both where your mouth is.  They’re likely to accept suggestions if you ask them if they’re interested in a spirit of helping, rather than if you take up a combative position.

Even though the gift is self-serving and restricted, if it is being given to a public or non-profit organization, it is still tax-deductible.  And your child will not be the only person to benefit.

(Of course, if you’re not self-serving and just want to help education in general, donorschoose is one of my favorite charities.  Man, I cannot visit that site without giving– this time I gave $25 to a high-poverty school in an inner city whose teacher needed money for independent math learning activities for when her fast students finished their work early, so they wouldn’t have to do more of the same worksheets as a punishment for being done.  How can you say no to that?)

Related:  Guest lecturing at your kid’s school by feMomhist

Do you ever give self-serving donations?

17 Responses to “Self-serving donations”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    Yup I have. My kid’s K teacher is awesome always actively recruiting parent’s skills. She had people’s parents who were electricians and firemen and hunters come in and talk about that kind of stuff. She was really proactive in trying to get parents engaged in the classroom.

    I bought a raptor demo early this year where a bird rescue person brought in 8 birds of prey and had a 1 hour demo and both kindie classes were able to see it. We did it when the kids were going through their bird month at school. It was fabulous. Selfishly, rather than buying candybars or crappy wrapping paper I don’t want for fundraising, I’d rather just pick what I want the kids to have and buy it directly. Of course, I ask permission and brainstorm what ideas may be most appropriate, but it’s rare people say no to free money.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      How awesome is that?

      Yeah, the fundraising stuff is always so overpriced and often junky. I’d rather just give money directly. Especially when they’re selling crappy candy bars.

  2. Coquo ergo sum Says:

    I give to disaster-relief charities, like the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, so there will be funds if a natural disaster strikes my area.

    Also, I give to environmental charities in hopes that there will be a future for the planet.

  3. Spanish Prof Says:

    I give to donorschoose a lot. I have a lot of former students that ended up in Teach for America (there you have a post for a controversial topic, if you want. I can add the comic relief with stories of naive white students fighting snakes with machetes, or leaving a street corner 40 minutes of a drive-by shooting).

  4. Rumpus Says:

    It’s hard to engage with schools. They want me to spend time selling candy or popcorn or gift baskets or magazines, or whatever, and it’s never worth my time. (The one exception I remember was boxes of yummy fruit.) It’s better off for both of us if I just send money. Restricted donations sound like a great idea. I didn’t know that was possible. I thought if you gave the school money they could do with it whatever the administration wished.

  5. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    differentiated independent learning activities

    Can you please translate that into English?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      differentiated = different for different children (in gifted kid jargon, this means they can work at their own level and not the same average level for all students as in most worksheet activities)
      independent = by yourself without help from the teacher
      learning = the act of acquiring a knowledge or skill, here used as an adjective
      activity = something they can do

      They’re also called “stations” “learning centers” “workjobs” “structured free-play” etc.

  6. Molly On Money Says:

    My older daughters school (public) asked for donations at the beginning of the year. The idea was if they got enough cash they wouldn’t be doing fundraisers (like selling candy and wrapping paper). At the very least they could do less of them. I loved it!

  7. Debbie M Says:

    I just last year started thinking about making self-centered donations. I like to spend 10% on important issues (the environment, poverty, pain, abuse, torture) that, thank goodness, do not apply to me (at least not very directly). And I contribute a little more as payback for things I have used myself (public TV, public radio, the local wildflower center, my neighborhood association).

    And I just got the idea to contribute to basically unimportant things that I actually want. I got that idea after listening to a presentation from someone who wanted to open a planetarium in our city because I like planetariums. Then I realized I could donate to some of those things I love accessing for free like wikipedia. And I could try to make it more likely that more hike-and-bike trails will be built around here. it’s hard to figure out how to make some of the things I want more likely to happen, though.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, it’s a neat way of thinking! A lot of our donations are for food for people, kitty shelters, and education. But we also contribute to our local public radio station and other things we use. And more generally to cancer research, red cross etc.

  8. Carnival of Personal Finance #316- Family Edition | Prairie Eco-Thrifter Says:

    […] from Nicole and Maggie: Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured tells her story about giving Self Serving Donations. Sometimes a charitable contribution can make a direct impact on your life and others. In this […]

  9. It is harder to give directed donations to a public school than to a non-profit | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] we did this back when DC1 was in Kindergarten in private school, it was super easy, we just wrote a check along with a little note outlining the particulars of the […]

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