TEACH FOR CHINA
Teach For China was established in 2008 with a mission to eliminate educational inequality by enlisting promising future leaders to teach in Chinese schools.
Samantha Kriegel is the Vice President of Development and Communications at Teach For China. “There is a distrust of institutions in China, and that’s why cultivating strong personal relationship with donors is vital. Donors need to trust that charities will do the right thing with their money, and charities need to trust donors to help them meet the challenges they face.
Donors want the opportunity to give input and provide value in terms of advice and leveraging their own networks. Just like any investor, our major donors want to know that they are adding value in ways that go beyond their cheque book. Of course one way that a major gift can help us is in lending credibility to our organisation and encouraging others to donate.
Identifying and cultivating donors is not about cold-calling – it’s about relationships. When someone is willing to refer you and leverage their personal network that’s a huge endorsement. Potential donors need to be convinced that you have a good understanding of what the problem is, and how you are going to tackle it.
But trust is one fundamental that you simply can’t do without.
A million dollar gift is a big responsibility. Here, at Teach For China, we have a small number of donors who make up a large percentage of our revenue. We receive a relatively modest portion in government subsidies and so the fundraising challenge is significant. We have two donors who have supported us at the million dollar level.
Any major gift requires a tailored approach. Different parts of our work appeal more or less to different donors. Some people are interested in what we are doing in one particular region, perhaps because of their personal story. Others are more interested in the impact on students in our teachers’ classrooms in the short term, or in the broader social impact we hope to achieve in the long term. With a sustaining gift like a million dollar donation, you have to be finely attuned to what that donor really cares about most.
Teach For China’s mission is to address educational inequity in China. There are a few wealthy urban areas, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, where the college enrolment rate is comparable to the developed world – 80% of children will go on to some form of post-secondary education. It’s impressive for a country that until 25 years ago didn’t have compulsory public education. But if you go out of those major urban centres, the rate drops to just 5% in rural or low-income areas.
We believe that a huge part of that difference is driven by the quality of teachers. One of the challenges in China is that a good supply of passionate, well-qualified and well-trained teachers is lacking. Teach For China recruits and trains top college graduates primarily from China, but also the US, to teach for two years in low-income schools in China. Our US Fellows teach primarily English, and our Chinese Fellows teach across the rest of the core curriculum. By attracting the ‘best and the brightest’ to the problem of education we can not only improve the education of thousands of children today, but also create a group of young leaders who will be advocates for their entire lives. Our hope is that our alumni will go on to become leaders not only in the education field, but the private and public sectors as well. And, that wherever they are, they will continue to work on making sure all children in China have access to a quality education.
Bringing in a million dollar gift takes a long time. You can proactively connect with organisations that have the capacity to give these types of gift, but to a certain extent they have to choose you. Personal networks are important, and being referred to potential donors by our board or existing donors is a good approach for us. We’re lucky to have an incredibly active and supportive board.
We provide an annual report to all our donors. For million dollar and other large donors, our reporting is tailored depending on what they are most concerned with. The tailoring tends to be equal to their investment. At a minimum, we are in touch with them two times a year formally, but we love to have as much interaction as possible. It’s important that our donors are kept in the loop on everything that is going on. We aim to make them feel engaged because, again, it’s part of that spirit of partnership.
Million dollar donations are transformational gifts. A million dollar gift can change the game for a non-profit and put them on a different playing field. Not just in terms of the programmes funded, but by giving credibility. Which in turn will help build a foundation for future growth and innovation. Million dollar donors have the potential to create tangible change. That’s exciting. You have the ability to leave a legacy – in a way that giving smaller sums wouldn’t, even though they may be just as sincere and heartfelt.”