Donors Choose: An Analysis

Posted on 23rd June 2011

EDIT: This analysis made it to the DonorsChoose Top 25 Showcase 

This is an analysis of the projects on DonorsChoose, a fabulous online charity which enables individuals to donate to classrooms in need. I used the project data, and tried to analyze the effect of various variables such as location, poverty level of classroom, resource use, type of resource and so on, to try to ascertain what people are looking for when they donate. In other words, what motivates them to donate to a particular project over another particular project on the website/what kinds of projects perform better and have a better chance of raising the required funds. I only used projects listed in the last year. Since the datasets were till May 2011, this meant projects listed between May 2010 – May2011. There were 83,309 such projects.

General Project Completion

About 78% of the projects were completed. This number sets the benchmark as an indicator of things which affect peoples decisions. If a variable results in a much lower project completion rate, then users are probably put off by that variable. Similarly, if a variable results in a much higher completion rate, then users are motivated by such a variable when they donate.


The distribution of projects by category are shown below.

As the pie chart above shows, a majority of the projects were in the Books, Supplies and Technology category.

The project completion rates by category  are shown above. A high percentage  (86%) of books  projects were completed, much higher than the general number of 78%. Also, the percentage of Technology projects completed was quite low, only 71%.


  • Users prefer to donate to projects in the Books category, as visible by a much higher project completion rate for that category
  • Users don’t like to donate to projects in the Technology category, as visible by its much lower than the normal project completion rate (nearly 8% lower). A possible reason for this is that maybe users prefer to donate to projects which fulfill more basic needs first, rather than donating to projects in classrooms where all the basic needs are available, but some technological needs aren’t.

School Type Location

The distribution is shown below. A majority of the projects listed were urban, as shown below.

Below is shown the project completion rates for the various school types. Urban projects had about a 4% completion rate higher than the normal. More significantly, rural projects had an 8% lower completion rate than normal.


  • Users preferred to donate to Urban projects, and seemed a bit averse to donating to rural projects
  • A possible reason for this could be that a higher percentage of users were from Urban areas, and preferred to donate to projects in their own areas.

School Grade

The distributon of projects by school grade is shown below. An interesting point to note is that the percentage of projects of a school grade decreases as the grade increases. i.e. more projects of lower grades are listed.

The project completion rate is shown below. Not much variance in the completion for the different grades suggests that this is not an important factor when picking which project to donate to. However, there was a slightly higher percentage of projects completed for the lower grades (PreK-2) compared to Grade 9-12, which suggests that users are more concerned with projects aimed at the grassroots levels. However, the difference in the percentage is minor, so not much should be made of this.

Focus Area

The projects were distributed as below. As can be seen, a majority of the projects were focused on  Literacy and Language, and Math and Science.

The project completion rates by Focus Area(resource type) are shown above. A couple of conclusions arising from this are:


  • Math and Science and Music and Arts projects had a very slightly higher completion rate than the normal
  • Much more significantly, Applied Learning projects had a whole 10% lower completion rate. This seems to suggest that users prefer to donate to projects which focus on more conventional areas, and seem a bit averse to donating to applied learning projects.

Poverty Level

The percentage completion by poverty level is displayed above. As is reasonably expected, high poverty level projects had a slightly higher than normal completion rate, which implies that users tend to favor such projects slightly more. But more telling was the fact that low poverty project places had a much lower (6%) project completion rate, which suggests that did indeed at least partly consider poverty level as a factor when making donations.

Future Use

The percentage completion depending on whether the projects can be used/is useful to the future is shown above. Since the differences between the two are so small, not much can be made from this data. What this data suggests is that this isn’t much of a factor in choosing a project to donate to.

Resource Purpose

The above chart shows the project completion rate for projects depending on whether they are essential or enrichment. Unexpectedly, the percentage completion of the projects in which the resource is essential is higher than that for which the resource is enrichment. However, as above with future use, the small difference between the two suggest that it isn’t an important factor in picking a project to donate to.


This variable plays an important factor in project completion as illustrated by the chart below.

As seen in the chart above, the project completion rate is widely different for different states

The five states with the lowest and highest project completion rates are shown below.

The large differences in percentage completion for the different states suggest that this is one of the foremost factors a user considers when choosing a project to donate to.


Below is summarized some of the conclusions I arrived at:

  • State is probably the most important factor a user considers when picking a project to donate to. This does make sense, since most users would prefer to donate to projects in their region/state, hence states where donors choose gets lot of visitors from seems to
  • Technology and Applied Learning Projects don’t seem to do too well, probably because users would rather donate to projects that fulfill the basic needs of a classroom first.
  • Urban Projects do much better than rural projects. This is a slight problem and needs changing. This probably stems from the fact that visitors come from urban areas and like to donate to schools around them. However, rural classrooms tend to lack the basic needs more, and users should be made aware of this.
  • Books, Math and Science, Music and the Arts are favored by the users and have a higher chance of being completed.
  • Future Use and Resource Purpose don’t tend to have much of an effect in the decision making process
  • Although a high poverty level does not increase project completion chances by much, a low poverty level hinders it by a lot.