Quiet, Passionate Givers
We all remember our favorite teachers: those men and women who shaped our lives by giving us the encouragement we needed to feel good about ourselves, to try harder and achieve more. These are priceless charitable gifts that last a lifetime. So why are teachers largely ignored by fundraising groups?
“We call teachers ‘the philanthropists next door,’” says Kristina Carlson, president of FundraisingINFO.com, an Internet-based fundraising company that helps nonprofit organizations raise money. “We have a database of philanthropists who have given from $5,000 into the millions, and one of the things we see consistently with educators is that they tend to make large gifts later in life or as parts of their estates. Many teachers live frugally but, over time, they accumulate significant money.”
The National Education Association tracks teacher demographics with comprehensive surveys every five years. The latest “Status of the American Public School Teacher” report was released in August 2003 and held some surprising information about educators.
First, most teachers spend $443 annually of their own money to meet their students’ needs. Teachers also spend an average of 50 hours a week on instructional duties. These statistics prove that teachers are passionate people, but because of the relatively low annual salaries (averaging about $43,000 according to the NEA report), educators historically have been overlooked as potential donors. It would behoove fundraisers to look again.
“Most public-school teachers make significant financial contributions by supporting individual classroom projects,” says Julia Swope, director of membership for the Texas Classroom Teachers Association. “These include special incentive programs for their students, and purchasing any necessary instructional supplies that are not covered by the school district.”
“In our experience, teachers respond best to e-mail that has a direct-response mechanism,” says Gary Ingle, executive director of the Music Teachers National Association, an association for independent and collegiate music teachers. Given the nature of teachers’ busy lives, e-mail does not intrude on lessons, and the teacher is able to respond immediately regardless of day or time.”