This week we are proud to share our first advisor profile featuring Danielle Strachman who has led and designed education programs for the last 10 years. In 2002 she started an educational consulting business serving the homeschooling community. It was this group of passionate and driven young people who inspired her to cofound Innovations Academy in 2006, a public K-8 charter school in San Diego, which she led for 4 years. Currently, she leads the design and operations of the Thiel Fellowship program and also sits on the board of Innovations Academy.
With her deep experience in the field of education, she intimately understands the struggles of public school finances and is excited to advise donornation. Danielle gives us further insight as to why there is a great need for donornation.
donornation: You clearly have a drive to transform education. What does quality of education mean to you?
Danielle: I feel that giving each child the one-on-one time they need and differentiated instruction is integral to the quality of education offered in schools. This means smaller classroom sizes and extra support for each class of students, such as teacher aids. Some children may need extra attention and support with special learning needs while another child may need extra stimulation and challenge. Funding ensures that children will have the appropriate classroom size and one-on-one time with their teacher.
donornation: Given your background as an educational consultant, a founder of Innovations Academy Charter School and now as Program Director of the Thiel Fellowship, what is your opinion on the funding crisis facing American Public Schools today?
Danielle: Initially, I knew that the funding crisis existed, however, I did not know how severe it truly was until I founded the Innovations Academy. From the outside, you think, “Well schools are still open, they aren’t closing therefore everything must be okay – schools are getting by.” However, after running the charter school I learned quickly how you are constantly living by the moment unsure of what is going to happen next. You really don’t know when a payment for $60,000 will be deferred leaving you scrambling to figure out how to pay your teachers’ salaries, supplies or purchase the new computers promised for the classroom.
|(Above: Children playing during recess at the Innovations Academy.)
We went through a period where my colleague and I would forgo our own paychecks in order to pay for our teachers. We had to request supplies from our parents with “paper-towel week” and so forth. It was embarrassing. I saw first-hand how difficult it is to depend on state funding…it is unstable and leaves us in a state of constant flux.
donornation: Danielle, you recently joined donornation’s Advisory Board. What attracted you to the position?
Danielle: Honestly, I have seen other companies try to create funding programs for schools with the best of intentions, however, each has been labor and time intensive and they all require great amounts of energy. Also, these types of programs were asking not only for time, but also money. With that said, I was impressed that donornation took a different approach. They are not asking parents to do anything that they are not already doing since many parents already shop online. There is no asking for extra time, energy, labor or spending. This is the first fundraising tool that I see with potential. All of the programs I have seen thus far had the right intention, however, none of them had a solution like donornation.
donornation: Why do you feel our mission is important?
Danielle: I feel that donornation could potentially be the missing puzzle piece and exactly what schools need. If donornation can crack the code for our current issue of funding then schools would have the constant stream of funding that they need. The platform seems to have the potential to be like amazon…ultimately being a powerful resource for each and every school.
donornation has created a stable funding platform where schools are no longer subject to unreliable government funding and being at the mercy of their cuts and deferments. At the very least, schools can utilize donornation to fundraise for specific programs or needs. I especially think it’s great that you can be anywhere and still donate to the school of your choice. For example, even though I live in San Francisco, I still can donate to my charter school in San Diego. Furthermore, as the donor, you can have a direct impact. You know where your donation is going as opposed to it being filtered through a district. You can tell your family and friends to shop online and make a positive impact directly on the schools you care about most.
Furthermore, the donornation platform is also a huge win for businesses that want to do good in their community. Instead of expending time building partnerships, businesses can now concentrate on promoting their products and services on the donornation marketplace and let their customers funnel the businesses’ donations to their favorite school(s).
donornation: Thank you Danielle for taking the time to share your insights with us.