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Business investment and cake sales: Rocket Fund donor analysis

At the end of March, Ripple made headlines when it donated $29 million to fund all 35,000 projects on Donors Choose, a crowdfunding platform for schools in the US. What can we learn from this and what trends are we seeing in the UK from the 3,000 donations on Rocket Fund?

Donors Choose is a crowdfunding platform for schools in the US. Since its inception in 2000, it has helped over 1.1 million projects reach their target, raising $680 million for schools across the country. At the end of March, virtual currency company, Ripple, donated $29 million to fund all 35,000 projects currently live on Donors Choose, benefiting one million students in 28,000 classroom across the US.

Best School Day

Ripple’s donation was part of Donor Choose’s #BestSchoolDay flash-funding campaign, which was originally launched in 2016 in collaboration with Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone. From Elon Musk to Serena Williams, the flash-funding movement has created a domino effect among celebrities, athletes, business executives and philanthropists, who have collectively contributed over $14 million to Donors Choose projects.

Last week’s #BestSchoolDay donation from Ripple represents the single largest donation in the crowdfunding platform’s history.

See how the donation was announced by Stephen Colbert on The Late Show:

Rocket Fund donor analysis

While we haven’t received a $29m donation (yet), school projects on Rocket Fund are doing really well. We have attracted £120,000 in donations from individuals across the UK and abroad and £4,500 of match funding from businesses. Of the individual donations, 9 per cent donated more than £100, making up 50 per cent of the total amount raised.

While the majority of Rocket Fund donors (85 per cent) live within a 10 mile radius of the school to which they donated, one of the strengths of online crowdfunding is that it enables anyone to donate, from anywhere. After analysing the data from all four waves, we found that 8 per cent of Rocket Fund donors live over 50 miles away from the school they supported. This includes individuals from as far afield as Australia, Hong Kong, and the US, who are often friends and relatives of the pupils.

Donors don’t want rewards

Our analysis also revealed that 77 per cent of donors choose not to receive a reward, such as a thank you card from students or a tree planted in their honour. Based on comments from donors, it seems they are motivated by a desire to make a positive impact on students’ lives and show appreciation for the school’s hard work.

One donor from Australia donated £116 to help teachers at a small primary school in rural Scotland buy iPads for their students and wrote: “Good luck as you get your hands on tools to engage, inspire and innovate. Can’t wait to see what you have achieved”.

You can’t drop £1,000 at a bake sale

While we love cake, it’s hard to raise large amounts of money via a bake sale. In the last wave, it was great to see schools combining offline fundraising with online fundraising via Rocket Fund (like Oakham CofE below, which raised £1,254 in total). Several schools in the last wave received online donations of £1,000 from parents and businesses - that’s a lot of cake!

Tweet from a school

Businesses are getting involved

Local businesses are also getting on board, as you can see from the donations and comments on Central Park Primary School’s project page. See some of the other comments from businesses who have donated directly to projects in the image below.

Businesses want to support their local schools

Next steps

As we move onto the fifth wave on Rocket Fund, our goal is to grow the number of schools crowdfunding further and attract more support from businesses. If the success of Donors Choose is anything to go by, the future looks bright for Rocket Fund and the teachers and pupils who benefit from it. As one teacher emailed to us: “In an underfunded Devon school, it’s a little light at the end of a tunnel”.

Would you like to help support schools across the UK?

We’re not expecting $29m, but are on the lookout for partners to help us scale Rocket Fund. If you’d like to get involved - or have any questions - please get in touch here.

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Ben Gill

Ben Gill

Ben Gill

Senior Programme Manager

Ben was a Senior Programme Manager in the Innovation Lab's Education Team.

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Emma Sutherland

Emma Sutherland

Emma Sutherland

Assistant Programme Manager

Emma was an Assistant Programme Manager in Nesta’s Education team.

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