"I wrote 63 songs this year. They're all about Jeter." Just kidding. The game we love, the players we hate, and more.

Culture and Criticism

From Norman Mailer to Wendy Pepper — everything on film, TV, books, music, and snacks (shut up, raisins), plus the Girls' Bike Club.

Donors Choose and Contests

Helping public schools, winning prizes, sending a crazy lady in a tomato costume out in public.

Stories, True and Otherwise

Monologues, travelogues, fiction, and fart humor. And hens. Don't forget the hens.

The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » Donors Choose and Contests

Contest: Looking Ahead

Submitted by on December 7, 2009 – 2:53 PM45 Comments

The Atlantic City trip

For a variety of reasons, I've postponed this until early next year. I'll give you plenty of notice, but the tomato won't head to AC until at least Martin Luther King weekend, and probably a couple weeks after that. Stay tuned. site feedback

Now's the time, here's the place: let me know in the comments how you think DC could improve its website. Functionality, navigation, overall user experience — any issues you've had, changes you'd like to see, elements that could make donating easier and/or clearer, post them here and I'll pass them along to the DC brain trust. (You can also email them to bunting at tomatonation dot com if you'd rather.)

Be Sociable, Share!



  • Shannon says:

    I just spent my awesome HP matching dollars and one problem I noticed was a typo in the auto-filled text asking why I donated to that particular project. It read "I gave to this project because I loved have live animals to learn from in the classroom and I think all students should have that experience." I'd rather there be no auto-text than incorrect text…

    Still love DonorsChoose though!

  • Bronte says:

    For those of us who aren't in the US, When is Martin Luther Day?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:


  • attica says:

    Martin Luther's birthday is in November. Heh. Martin Luther King Jr Day will be celebrated 18 January 2010.

    In case we were confusing Civil Rights with Protestant Refomation. Easily done!

  • Christine says:

    The sorting system never seemed to make much sense to me– selecting "most in need" (or a similar label) didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason to it that I could see, and when I'd click to the next page, the list would be all rearranged (things that had been on page 1 followed me to page 2, etc). It was kind of confusing.

  • Melanie says:

    The biggest problem I had is that if I clicked on a project to read more of the description and then clicked "back" to return to the full list of projects, the list was not in the same order as before, if that makes sense. That was so frustrating, because I'd have to scroll back to the beginning of the whole list every time to be sure I hadn't missed any projects that I might really be interested in.

  • AngieFM says:

    This may well fall into the "why would DC go to the trouble of creating that for a tiny number of people?" category, but here goes. For the past three years, I've chosen projects from DC that I fund on behalf of my parents and a group of my in-laws. The honoree thing works fine, but what I actually want is a way to fund the project on behalf of someone (or multiple someones), then not have the actual notification sent to them until after a specified date (i.e. Christmas.) Yes, the gift cards fulfill that function, and I may just do that this year, but I suspect the people I want to give these to won't go to the trouble of going online and choosing a project. Plus, I like to fully fund one cool project instead of splitting my gift up into smaller increments to give to my husband's three siblings and his parents.

    So yeah. This is probably just me. As you were.

  • Heather Rose says:

    I didn't get my HP match. When did they start going out?

  • I had a couple of problems loading up my HP gift certificate. The system spit me out and told me they couldn't accept the account at the time. It wasn't until the third time i tried I was able to get my code loaded and I could donate to projects.

    Other than that I'm pretty happy with the sight…. Nothing else to report…

  • Sharon says:

    As a Canadian, it would be nice to have the option to say my address is actually in Canada, rather than being forced to pick a random state just to get my info accepted. Since they DO accept Canadian/foreign donations, it would be great if the personal info forms could reflect that. Other than that, I have no complaints about the site.

  • coffeeweasel says:

    Once the spreadsheet went live, I looked through projects that way rather than on the actual site, because every time I went to the site it gave me only four projects per page. I wish it had had a higher number as a default.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @coffeeweasel (hee): Yeah, and the default doesn't stick once you select it. Good note.

    Keep 'em coming, everyone. No nit too small.

  • Natalie says:

    It may be that I just didn't do it correctly, but when I went to spend my HP match, the site forced me to use the balance from my monthly credit card sign up as well. I really wanted save all of my credits for next year's fund drive; it's not a big deal, but it would be nice to be able to separate funds.

  • JenB says:

    As noted during the drive, you can't sort the DC projects specific to Tomato Nation by anything else. The spreadsheet was awesome, but it'd be fabulous if it wasn't needed in the first place. Also, I frequently donate in memory of my mother, and that process is still rather clompy.

  • Sharon says:

    In the "Special Needs" category it would be great if it was broken down into smaller classifications. Being a Mom to a disabled kid, I know I probably pay more attention to this than other people, but it would be great to have some additional breakdown. I want to fund projects for multiple disability kids for equipment or experiences, not books for autistic kids (no offense to autistic kids). It would just be another searchable item.

    Because seriously, the thank you package from last year that I got from the kids who went bowling and whose beaming faces looked like my sons, was confirmation that it was one of the best uses of my charitable giving $$.

  • Leigh in CO says:

    @AngieFM – no, you are not alone.

    I give my family a Donors Choose "gift" every year for Christmas (purchased during the month of October, of course), and when I started doing that that I don't think they even had honorees yet. However, I still just print out the information and put it in cards every year, since I can't manage it any other way.

    It doesn't make any difference to my family, of course, and I agree that nit may be to small for DC to address (and I even kind of like the way I do it), but I did want you to know you weren't alone.

  • Lara says:

    I enjoyed splitting up my donation to a few different projects. I would have liked the page that said "I gave to this project" to have a space for each project I selected, instead of one comment that went to each of the different projects.
    The reason I funded the book project was different from the reason I funded the animal habitat project, and having to write something that covered both cases, probably left people reading the comment, thinking I was out of my mind. The only way I found to get around this was to check out multiple times and that was a bit cumbersom.

  • Dsayko says:

    In the past, they've have page numbers at the bottom of the screen so you could jump to a particular page (i.e. jump to the last page to see all the lovely completed projects). They didn't have that feature this year and I missed it.

  • Victoria says:

    Better sorting on the site itself would be very nice, although the Spreadsheet of Intern Awesomeness was a splendid workaround.

    @Heather Rose – My HP match came November 24. It came from an individual email account at Donors Choose, rather than a generic Donors Choose address, but the subject line was very specific. You might check your spam-bucket if you haven't yet.

  • Laura from CT says:

    Sorting, sorting, sorting. The spreadsheet was awesome, but DC should have that kind of coding baked-in.

  • apomp says:

    I donated to multiple projects and wanted to put a personalized message on each project site about why I was donating. I filled one message out and DC put that on each project. So on the knitting project page, it said I donated because my husband played baseball through college.

  • iiii says:

    I, too, would like better sorting and filtering at DC.

  • Kris says:

    I haven’t received my HP match yet, either. I’ve been keeping an eye on my Junk folder, and haven’t seen anything.

    I echo Christine, Melanie, and Dsayko’s comments. I too was frustrated by not seeing the same sort when I used the back arrow, and that the most in need took me directly to donating for one project without knowing much about it. I also navigated by going to the next page, and then changing the page number in the URL, since moving to a specific page wasn’t a choice. I like seeing how many pages we’ve filled up with completed requests, so changing the URL was the easiest way to do that.

    I didn’t browse through the site as much as I did last year, though, because Amanda’s spreadsheets were so comprehensive and easy to use.

  • Laura says:

    Another vote for allowing non-US donors to specify where in the world we're coming from. (Though I wondered whether not doing so was a political decision?)

  • Allison says:

    I'd like to be able to sort by $ needed to complete a project. I like finishing off projects, personally, but it can be hard to navigate around a list of 200 projects to find the one that's closest to completion.

  • Lizzie says:

    I found the DC website really struggled with foreign addresses. Not only did I have to pick a random state before I could process my donation, but the website just fell over when I tried to apply a refunded donation to another project. And similarly I couldn't use my HP matching dollars. I'm pretty sure this was because I was using a foreign address, since it was at the point where I entered my address details that things went screwy.

    It would be great if a) the website could cope better with non-US address formats (like, don't limit the zip code box to 5 digits), and b) our donation would show up with our country on, rather than a random state we're forced to choose.

  • LaSalleUGirl says:

    I agree with everyone who is asking for (a) better sorting options on the DC page itself, awesome Intern spreadsheet notwithstanding, (b) the option to add a separate personalized message for each funded project, rather than one generic message that gets added to many, potentially very different projects, and (c) the ability to add a "send notification to my honorees after THIS date" indicator.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Laura: I doubt it was political; I suspect that, for the initial build, they didn't put in international options because they didn't expect to have enough of them to standardize it from the get-go.

    @Lizzie and others: I kind of liked seeing "international" designations like "Norway, Mississippi." (Agreed that it's not ideal, but some of the state combos people picked were cute.)

  • Cristina in Vienna says:

    I had some of the issues already mentioned: one message for multiple projects, not enough sorting options, projects reordering themselves on the page if you click on them, and especially having to say I'm from the US, when I'm not.

    Also I wish the completed projects would be in order of completion so you can see what has been completed (the way it was on the Most Awesome Spreadsheet of Them All), now they keep changing order based on updates.

    In general the page is really good but I don't get the urgency sorting, and I wish they'd give trips and visitors equal treatment. I mean I get it that these projects are more work, but teachers already need to spend more points on them, so why are they then sorted to the end of every list? It doesn't seem fair.

    It might also be nice to have a way of sorting by cost highest and lowest. That way it would be easier to find the big kahunas that need a lot of help, Speaking of sorting I'd love to be able to combine cost, fewest days and popularity.

    None of these are biggies, but since you asked, I put in my 2 cents. Still love the site and will continue using it.

  • JeniMull says:

    Echoing feedback for a) ability to filter within the contest page itself; b) ability to write individual messages for each project, rather than one message that gets applied to all in that cart; and c) ability to use only a gift card and not also my monthly giving balance.

  • Duckie says:

    Agree with @Allison that sorting by those closest to completion is needed, and the sorting in general needs to be tweaked. If The Intern of Awesomeness can do it, surely the coders at DC can, too!

  • Another Lizzie says:

    I'll jump on the sorting bandwagon as well. FWIW, it's certainly better than it used to be.

    It would be nice if the default screenspace that a project took up was smaller (especially in the vertical) so you could scan projects easily. As it is, you're stuck looking at 4 or scrolling a lot.

  • Karen says:

    Yesterday, I received a "We miss you" letter and Donor Card with a $25 balance to spend. But I contributed to 3 or 4 projects in October and have already spent my HP match. I wonder how that happened?

  • Lauren says:

    @Karen — I received a gift card in the mail yesterday too. And just like you, I donated to two projects early in the year, then to one during the contest, and used my HP match. It hasn't even been a month since the HP macth, and they already miss me!

  • LynzM says:

    @Karen, same here, too. Wonder if they had some donated funds to disburse and somehow all the TN donors came up high on the list?

  • Karen says:

    I'm happy to use the card, but I wonder if we should ask them to void the cards and send them to someone who actually hasn't contributed in a while. Maybe they would encourage more donations. Sars?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Karen: You can ask them to do that, certainly, on an individual basis, but I don't know the system by which the cards were disbursed. Presumably there's a determining principle; also, not everyone will want the cards voided, so I wouldn't ask them to take blanket action there.

    You should definitely inquire as to how it works. Keep in mind generally that I'm not privy to most of these decisions, so if you have a question about how (or when) your accounts are credited, or about things that aren't necessarily specific to the Bet Red page, your best bet is to go to the source: zach at donorschoose dot org.

  • amy says:

    Count me in on the delayed notification for honorees. I did up a couple of Christmas gift donations and it was kind of strange for my honorees to receive a random email donation notification in early November. Not that they appreciated the thought any less, but it's a little anti-climactic.

    Also, me-too on: "more projects per page" and "better sorting" and "for heaven's sake why does the order change every time I go back a page how will I ever find that project again ack!"

    But all in all, my husband and I do all our charity donations through DC and have gotten other people started on using it too and I wouldn't have it any other way. DC rocks!

  • Mary says:

    Lara said: I donated to multiple projects and wanted to put a personalized message on each project site about why I was donating. I filled one message out and DC put that on each project. So on the knitting project page, it said I donated because my husband played baseball through college.

    This? Is too funny. I'm imagining the people reading the knitting project comments… "Wha…???"

  • mev says:

    I'm glad someone mentioned the $25 on the 'We miss you' note – I'd already deleted it. For me, I'm pretty sure the issue is that that is an old email address (old job, not certain when they will get around to removing it). I did donate this year, just under a different address (and for all I know, another DC login- I can never remember my passwords, even though I only have a few I try to use).

  • Jessica says:

    Count me in as someone who (a) has not received her HP match and (b) got the "We Miss You" card — um, thanks for the $25, but I donated in November AND signed up for the monthly giving. So, odd.

    (Although not as bad as the time Mercy Corps called me and spent ten minutes trying to persuade me to become a monthly donor before I finally told them that I AM a monthly donor.)

  • Molly says:

    I don't think I've seen this suggestion yet…

    I'd like to have the option of saving projects for later/bookmarking them. There have been times that I've seen more than one project to which I'd like to donate, but I can only afford to do one at a time. I always mean to go back later after my monthly donation has kicked in, but by then I've usually forgotten what the project was.

  • Carly says:

    I received my awesome Big Box of Canadian Candy prize today. It is fantastic and I recommend it highly for anyone next year. Each item has a hand written note relating some sort of history, advise, or general info on the item. It is so adorable. Here is a photo: Check out some of the other pictures to see an example of a note up close.
    Thanks Steph and Erica!

  • charmaine says:

    atlantic city trip update?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    You'll be the second to know.

Leave a comment!

Please familiarize yourself with the Tomato Nation commenting policy before posting.
It is in the FAQ. Thanks, friend.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>