Crowdfunding guide helps districts develop safe, effective practices
- Chiefs for Change has released a new guide to help schools and districts use crowdfunding effectively, safely, and equitably, and to develop policies concerning approval, collections, ownership and tracking of results.
- EdSurge, the organization that developed the guide, consulted more than 40 educational and crowdfunding experts in the process and determined that education leaders' major concerns include whether crowdfunding may violate district policies or state laws, that it causes confusion regarding the ownership of resources obtained through crowdfunding, creates legal issues, raises equity concerns and fails to align with school district priorities.
- The guide seeks to answer these questions as well as provide guidance about how crowdfunding best works in education, how to create policies that provide transparency and accountability, and how to choose crowdfunding platforms that best align with school district priorities and needs.
Though funding for schools is slowly recovering from the recession, this funding rarely reaches the classroom in a way that teachers can use to implement special projects or gain needed supplies. In some cases, teachers want to gain access to technology or resources they feel will improve the learning experience and create more hands-on opportunities for students. Some teachers want to raise funds for field trips or other experiences they feel will broaden their students' knowledge. Other teachers are simply trying to help meet basic student needs for school supplies or clothing.
In recent years, crowdfunding has become a growing source for money to meet these needs and wishes. Over the past decade, millions of dollars have been raised for education-related projects, some from small donors and some from major organizations and charities who are looking for ways to support students in ways that will go directly to the school or classroom. Multiple case studies and examples show how crowdfunding benefits schools and provide ideas for teachers about the potential of crowdfunding. There are also a growing number of platforms joining existing sites such as GoFundMe and DonorsChoose. Ed.Co is one such example. Each site has its own rules and guidelines, and navigating them may create confusion for teachers and school districts.
Despite the good crowdfunding can do, some school districts remain skeptical about crowdfunding because of the potential for abuse and difficulties in tracking its use among teachers. Just this week, the Metro Nashville School District banned teachers from using crowdfunding out of concern over teachers keeping the cash or using the money to buy items that would not meet school district approval. And in Ohio, a 2018 state auditor's report shows that 55.4% of reporting school districts have banned crowdfunding, 26.2% are not aware if teachers are crowdfunding, 56.2% of districts that allow crowdfunding have no idea how much money was raised in the last year and 59% have no crowdfunding policy in place.
Guides such the one just released can help clear up some of the confusion and pave the way for school districts to craft clear policies and procedures that may allow for crowdfunding, but also place needed protections and guidelines in place to prevent abuse or waste of resources. School districts may need to consider adding policies specific to funds for technology resources to ensure those purchases meet the technology specifications for the school district. And while legal discussions about crowdfunding for schools are available and can help guide deliberations about crowdfunding policy, school districts need to consult with their own attorneys to make sure these policies align with established state laws and district policies.