A leveraged contribution to education

Most of us give generous lip service to being staunch supporters of education. (Hey, who’s “against” schools, right?) Some among us give considerably more than just lip service, but that’s another story.

Now there’s a new way we can put our money -- as much or as little of it as we choose -- where our mouths are. The Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley has partnered with the national nonprofit DonorsChoose.org to participate in something called the “50 for 50 School Gift.”

The best part of this project, aside from the children it will help, is that there is no ambiguity about where your money goes or how much of it will get there. (Answers: It goes where you want it to, and far more than you give -- up to three times as much, in fact -- will get there.)

As described in L-E staff writer Larry Gierer’s Wednesday news story, it works like this: Teachers go to the DonorsChoose website and describe the classroom projects or equipment they need to have funded, and donors can log on and choose which one (or more) to contribute to.

The Community Foundation is matching donations for projects in its 13-county service area in Georgia and Alabama, and in fact has already committed $50,000 for area requests. When DonorsChoose.org receives enough money for a specific request, it buys the materials or otherwise funds the project for the classroom. (It does not just send money around the country.)

And there’s another source of funding as well: “Doonesbury” cartoonist Gary Trudeau has also committed to DonorsChoose, so if contributors enter the code word “Zonker” (one of Trudeau’s veteran characters) during online checkout, he will match the gift as well.

If you go to the website and start scrolling through the requests, you’re likely to be struck by how humble most of the needs are. Teachers are not asking for a fully equipped planetarium or banks of latest-model computers. (Most, it seems, are asking for books.) Classrooms need things like art supplies; an egg incubator for a science class; a digital camera; pencils, pens and paper; geometry tools like compasses and protractors; a bookcase; a table.

In addition to helping students, this project, according to one local donor, is about “empowering teachers” -- not just by providing them with tools they and their students need, but also by sparing them the necessity of buying some of those things out of their own pockets. That admirable and too often necessary practice has gotten harder as the economy has continued to struggle.

There are few things so gratifying to most people, said Community Foundation Executive Director Betsy Covington, as “having given something of themselves, and given it well.”

In a community as demonstrably generous as this one, a project like the 50 for 50 School Gift looks custom made.