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Crowdfunding catching on in cash-strapped schools

Crowdfunding sites like DonorsChoose.org and others are helping teachers equip their classrooms with educational technology

crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way of using the internet to raise money.

Coach Brittany Staggs wanted her students to get a rigorous workout even on rainy days. The equipment she needed would cost $800.

With the click of a mouse, the School at St. George Place physical education teacher’s request for a Wii, dance video games, and projection technology was sent to thousands of potential donors. Within a month, the Houston ISD students were sweating to popular Disney tunes in the cafeteria of the Galleria-area school.

“It was awesome,” a breathless 6-year-old Summer Fahoud said after trying out the technology.

Crowdfunding—an increasingly popular way of using the internet to raise money for everything from starting a company to adopting a baby—is slowly taking root in Houston-area schools. Painfully slowly, some would say.

While the largest of the education-centered crowdfunding sites, DonorsChoose.org, started in 2000, only early adopters have put crowdfunding to work in the city’s cash-strapped public schools. Overwhelmed teachers are reluctant to tackle yet another endeavor and often are uncomfortable with the platform, experts said.

Yet, while other campuses struggle to raise meager funds by holding labor-intensive car washes, hosting spaghetti dinners, and clipping “box tops,” the School at St. George Place has banked $43,000 worth of supplies since August 2012 from DonorsChoose.org.

“It’s 2014. Technology is here,” said Adam Stephens, the 32-year-old principal of the School at St. George Place. “This is a great resource, and this is free, to get right down to the nitty-gritty.”

Teachers can create proposals in their pajamas with little risk, he said. Corporate giants like Chevron and Kia sometimes provide matching funds, he said.

(Next page: Other crowdfunding options)

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