If you are looking for a gift for someone who is hard to choose for, may I suggest one of my favorite websites, www.donorschoose.org? I have found gift cards from this website to be a very well received gift to give, and a fun and rewarding gift to receive. Donorschoose is a brilliantly simple and effective online charity that supports classroom projects in public schools all over America and, with a minimum donation of only $1, allows even donors of extremely limited means to participate in supporting students and teachers in need. The fun (and hard) part is choosing which classroom project to support.
Classroom teachers send in their requests, all of which are vetted by the donorschoose organization. If a teacher needs, say, $200 worth of copies of Othello for a high poverty high school class in South Carolina, one well-off person who loves Shakespeare can fulfill the entire request, or, more typically, many Shakespeare lovers, through their individual, small contributions, are able to fulfill that request just as effectively. After requests are fulfilled (teachers are sent materials, not money), donors get feedback, emails and photos, so they can see how the project impacted the students.
Donors can sort through the thousands of projects by grade level, geographic location, subject, “highest poverty,” “closest to the finish line,” or other classifications such as special education, autism, military children, etc. Yes, it’s hard to choose from among so many worthy needs, but it’s great to be a philanthropist even when one’s ability to contribute is very limited. I’ve contributed to a diverse group of projects, sometimes choosing based on a personal interest, such as autism or dyslexia, and sometimes supporting topics I have no background in at all, but wish I did, such as band or anatomy. Once, I ignored all logic and supported a project in a KIPP school, simply because Kipp is my last name.
Reading the enthusiastic and heart felt thank yous from students and teachers is a strong motivator to return to this website again and again. Here’s a bit from one thank you I received after contributing to anatomy models and posters for a high school class: “My students and I would like to profusely express our thankfulness for your contributions to student achievement and academic performance … Your assistance has allowed discouraged students to believe in themselves once again and will usher in a new generation of doctors, nurses, and students of scientific inquiry.” I got all that for only a $10 or $15 contribution! Would you be able to resist contributing again after receiving thanks like that?