This weekend I was reminded again of how much digital tools have changed fundraising for schools. The ping came to me on social media, so bonus points for a double-dose of technology.

A school leader I met nearly five years ago, Principal Salome Thomas-EL, sent me a note on Twitter. The charter school he leads has an award-winning chess team. They also happen to be in a low-income neighborhood, so the school raises the money to send them to competitions. These days, they use a website to gather donations.

Not that long ago, fundraising for school trips required paper checks, envelopes stuffed with cash and an army of parent volunteers.

These days, a website can reach a wider audience more efficiently. These online tools for fund-raising have streamlined the process for soliciting private donations to pay for materials and activities that are not supported by many public school budgets.

One of the most prominent examples of this innovation is Earlier this month, the founder of that website, Charles Best, spoke at SXSWedu in Austin, Texas. He mentioned another benefit: It allows companies to find a market for new products without enduring the byzantine process of securing a full-fledged contract to sell to the school. If you want to learn more about which projects earned funding through, you’re in luck. They release data to the public, which allows people to track trends.

[Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

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Nichole Dobo writes about blended learning. Most of her 10-year career as a reporter has focused on education. She has also covered stories about government, courts, business and religion. She was a staff writer at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., The York Daily Record/Sunday News in York, Pa., The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pa. and The Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and has been published in The Atlantic's online edition. She won first prize and best of show for education writing in 2011 from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association. She earned a B.A. in journalism at the Pennsylvania State University.