Soulsville Charter School teacher Bryan Hearn has used DonorsChoose.org since he began teaching a few years ago.
"I heard about it from another teacher the first year I was here," the 10th-grade English teacher said. "That's how I get all of my novels."
The site works as a homepage for education proposals, which prospective donors can visit and pledge to fund any amount of a project's necessary budget. While there are users who give to projects outside their communities, Hearn says most of the funds he's received have been from familiar faces.
"For every project, I get random donations from people in other cities," he said, "but mostly it's people in my social network. It's kind of up to the teacher. If you have a project [on the site] but you don't publicize it, it's harder to raise the money."
His class' fourth — and latest — set of novels didn't come from familiar faces, however, but maybe familiar flavors. Earlier this month, Sonic's Limeades for Learning campaign awarded a combined $2,000 to teachers at Soulsville Charter School, including more than $600 to Hearn's class.
As part of Limeades for Learning, Sonic will give more than $500,000 to the DonorsChoose.org projects that receive the most votes from visitors. Each week, a new group of teachers will be selected to receive funding, and if there are more than one million votes by the end of September, Sonic will extend the voting period and donate another $100,000.
Projects range from Hearn's books to cameras used to supplement math classes; all can be perused via Limeades for Learning's website, limeadesforlearning.com. And though Sonic works each year to take a chunk out of the funds needed to make each project possible, DonorsChoose.org continues to attract individual donors year-round.
"It helps the kids get novels into their hands that they can keep for the rest of their lives, and the money doesn't come out of the school's budget," Hearn said. "It comes from people who want to give these kids a life full of choices."