Physical Space

7 Tips to Ensure You Get the Donations You Actually Want

Getting the supplies you need when you need them can be a daunting task. It took me some trial and error to realize a staff email sent on an “as needed” basis isn’t the best way to get my hands on all the materials I desperately need for my art room.

I found out the hard way this wasn’t ideal when many people missed the email entirely or interrupted ongoing classes to deliver one item at a time.

So, I decided to get organized about asking for donations – particularly recyclable products before they are tossed in the bin.

Once a month I edit a pre-made “Art Collection List” and send it off to the office for distribution to all the families in our district.


Over the years, I’ve gleaned a few important tips to ensure you get what you want when you want it. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Make the list short and include visual examples.


I’ve found it’s best to limit your list to three items. People are overwhelmed by too much text, so be sure to include visuals as well. Show them exactly which plastic containers you want. Using photos or drawings is also helpful in districts like mine where so many different languages are spoken. Everyone can understand!

2. Show kids the list in class and remind them to hang it on the fridge at home.

Making a point to show your students what’s coming home makes it more likely that they’ll give it to their parents. You might even want to mention how you’ll be using the supplies so students are more excited about collecting them. Encouraging students to hang the list on the fridge will serve as a constant reminder of items to save.

3. Provide an incentive.


This could be a special award or privilege in the art room. In my class, I award the title of “Best Recycler” to one student each month complete with a crown made from entirely recycled materials. It’s a hit and reminds students garbage can be turned into something pretty awesome with just a little creativity.

4. Be consistent.

It’s important to keep the look of your list consistent. This way, parents recognize it each month and it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of papers that go home.

5. Create a designated space for donations.


To avoid disruptions during class, have a bin or box outside your door where students can place items they’ve collected. Above it, put a folder with recycling certificates students can grab as a sign of participation. I ask them to put their names on donated items so I can keep track of who has earned a turn with the crown.

6. Recognize students who help out.

Although only one student can win the monthly “Best Recycler” award, I make sure to give all my students shoutouts. A kid’s face will light up if you say, “Thanks to our A+ recycler, Shawn, we have all these awesome bottle caps to choose from!”

7. Don’t forget to include your staff!

Put the lists in staff mailboxes and in staff gathering areas. I’ve even given the recycling crown to teachers who have been super contributors. Smart art teachers use all available resources to get what they need.

After you’ve done this for a year, you can simply reuse the lists for the next year. Just keep a copy saved so you can edit it if needed. If you generally do similar projects at similar times of the year, you may not even need to edit them.

Another bonus is that you don’t have to store all of the items all year long; you can ask for what you need when you need it, and use it up as it comes in.

If you’re looking for even more ways to collect free supplies, check out these other two great ideas from our archives:

Do you collect recyclables for classroom use?

If so, how do you ask for them?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Lee Ten Hoeve

Lee Ten Hoeve, an elementary and middle school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She is passionate about making art a core subject and employing curiosity to engage learners.

More from Lee