Bonjour, Terre!

22/02/2011 § 3 Comments

This Donors Choose project was funded a tiny little bit by one person, and a whole heap by Google.

I asked for the project to be retweeted. I sent notices to the school’s PTSA newsletter, and they were published, one a week for two weeks, until the project was funded.

I incorporated a link to this project on some local “we care about our public schools, and our public schools teachers” communities. I challenged people who used forum threads to champion one school board candidate and disparage an opponent to fund the project by $20 per winning candidate. They didn’t do that.

But only one person and Google funded this project. Mostly Google.
Seven people clicked on the link I posted on Twitter, but I know none of those people who clicked funded the project.

If every parent in the school donated $1.50 to the project it would have been funded.

If every person who donated to a Seattle School Board candidate donated $0.30 to the project it would have been funded.

If every PTSA BOARD MEMBER of the school donated as much to this project as they did to a pro-education reform, pro-charter schools candidate, this project would have been funded.

If every US-based Twitter account who BEGAN following me post project-publication retweeted to their hundreds of thousands of followers, and .1% of them gave $2, the project would have been funded.

I feel that I went to the appropriate online areas, but those appropriate areas are not populated with people richer than I, who care as much as I about this project.

I thank Google and that one other person for fully funding the project, but I am reversing my thinking on asking the US public, especially Seattle, for help. If my state legislature is not interested in funding fully public education, why do charter school operators, who want public funding but none of the accountability, think they can succeed here?

I can’t even get people in a community of “let’s support our teachers!” to contribute to a project that wouldn’t even go to if the school district hadn’t made staffing budget cuts, if the school itself and its PTSA had amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars (I was a PTSA school treasurer, I know how large those accounts can be!) to retain staff and fund itself adequately for supplies, if the state legislature fully funded state education. I wouldn’t have posted the project if I didn’t know the teacher to be excellent, and if there were not a donation drive already run by the school PTSA.



§ 3 Responses to Bonjour, Terre!

  • I’m responding here instead of at the Save Seattle Schools blog.

    It sounds like much of your asking has been done online, or through email or other written forms of communication, and largely to groups of people you don’t know personally or don’t interact with in real life (Twitter followers, online groups). Is that accurate? If so, I think that may be why you aren’t seeing people support the things you’re asking them to support. In my experience, people don’t often take the time to support something that they don’t have a personal connection to unless they are doing so under their own initiative (by intentionally going to Donors Choose, for example, and looking for projects to help fund). I’m very much a “get things done online” person (I am intensely introverted), so I tend to try to do activism in this same way — by posting to Facebook, Twitter, online groups like Melissa’s blog, through email, etc. This works well for some things, but when it comes to asking for money or time, I find it just isn’t effective. This is especially true for something like a Donors Choose campaign — there are SO many worthy DC campaigns, people are less likely I think to respond to one unless it’s for their own kids’ school or they have some other personal connection to the project.

    Anyway, I have learned that as much as I don’t want to, I have to go out of my comfort zone and talk to people in person. It’s much easier to convey your passion and enthusiasm for a subject in person and people respond to that — that’s what gets them fired up to help. I have to personally ask my friends and family members, acquaintances, and even perfect strangers, for a moment of their time to make my case, and then ask them specifically for the support I hope they will give.

    I also really identify with the frustration of communicating in factual, well-researched, respectful ways and getting nowhere. There’s definitely value in it, and it does make an impact, but again, in my experience it’s not likely to lead to much forward momentum unless it includes a personal connection at some point.

    I’m not sure if that perspective helps, but it’s what came to mind when I read what you wrote.

  • Maya Pinyun says:

    Hi Jill!
    I’m immensely grateful for your insight and attention. Speaking introvert to introvert, I admit with a heavy sigh that I’ve overlooked the need to venture beyond or expand my comfort zone. I may try asking coffeehouses in my and the school’s neighborhoods for permission to post funding issues with the school. If the project isn’t funded because the community doesn’t see it as valuable, that’s better than the project not being funded because I wasn’t brave enough to advocate for it.

    Thanks again. I’ll be re-reading your comment when I feel a massive attack of social anxiety holding me back from helping the school.

  • I saw your post on SaveSeattleSchools as well. I am also an introvert, but somehow found myself employed as the Volunteer Coordinator at an Option School a while ago. I agree with Jill that the only real way to get support for school projects (time OR money) is to make eye contact with a sizable percentage of the people who care about the school. If you do that, a chunk of them will pull in their friends and family to help (some people are good at that.) The best solution for you, I think is to find one person to be yuor partner who is good at that sort of thing, but may not be as good at the online part. Then the two of you can support each other. Good Luck!

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