Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Basking in the Awesome

Sarah Bunting's Tomato Nation has raised $101,280 dollars for an organization called Donors Choose in the last month. Check that number, people: $101,280. That, my friends, is the very definition of "awesome."

Let me give you a little background. Donors Choose is an organization that helps US teachers fund projects for their classrooms that they otherwise could not afford. The teacher comes up with a project, researches the costs, then writes up a proposal and sends it in to Donors Choose. Someone at Donors Choose vets the proposal (they ask teachers to include a 15% Project Fullfillment in their proposals to cover their own labor and costs, but they do not require it), then puts the proposal up on the website. Anyone can then click on that propsal (there are many ways to search for projects on the site) and make a donation to fund all or part of that specific project. All donors get a thank you email from the teacher once a project is funded, and donors who fully fund a project (or donate $100 or more to a specific project) get a box of thank you letters from the class that they've just helped. Once a project is funded, Donors Choose buys the materials from the proposal and sends the materials directly to the teacher, so you know that your donation is going for exactly what you intended it for.

Last October, Donors Choose beta-tested a Blogger's Challenge, asking prominent bloggers to pick some projects and challenge their readers to fund them. Sars set her initial goal at $25,000, and promised to shave her head if they made it to $30,000. Crazy-wonderful Tomato Nation readers raised the money in a week, and Sars dutifully shaved her head. This year, the contest ran full out, and Sars outdid herself: the initial goal was $35,000; at $40,000, she agreed to go to work all day (she works at 30 Rock in New York), do a dance at lunchtime in the courtyard (the Angela post-kiss dance from My So Called Life), and go out for drinks after work all while wearing a tomato costume (and being filmed for posterity); at $45,000, she'd throw in another $5,000 herself. Claire Danes (who has supported Donors Choose in the past) contacted Sars and said if the donations reached $55,000, she would also donate $5,000, bringing the total to $60,000. It took the Tomato Nation 3 1/2 days to break all these goals, forcing Sars to up her goal for the month to $100,000. On October 24th, the final project in her challenge was funded.

Let's think about that for a minute, shall we? Over 15,000 students across the US have been directly affected by the generosity of 1099 individuals, all in 24 days. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. It was so much fun that I was inspired to start this blog, simply for the privelege of joining the challenge next year and pitting my Geek Nation up against the mighty Tomato Nation.

So get ready, Bunting. Next October, it's a Donors Choose throwdown!

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