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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Adult Education, Education, Elementary & Secondary Schools, Job Training, Literacy

Mission: RAFT (Resource Area For Teaching) believes that hands-on teaching is the best way for students to learn. RAFT transforms surplus materials donated by local businesses into interactive learning experiences for students in math, science, technology and art, providing teachers and community groups with creative tools to enhance education and promote hands-on learning.

Results: RAFT is an innovative nonprofit (501c3) pursuing the advancement of hands-on learning in our schools. It was founded in San Jose, California in 1994 as the creation of Mary Simon, who continues to lead the organization. The RAFT programs serve 10,000 teacher members at the two sites. The organization operates on a $3 million annual budget used to operate programs and subsidize teachers, providing needed tools for teaching, and professional development opportunities. * Hundreds of Innovative Idea Sheets, tied to CA state standards are posted on the RAFT web site, * 50,000 classroom kits (assembled by volunteers) are provided each year for state-standard aligned activities.

Target demographics: Pre-K through 12th grade teachers. Many children learn best through the exercise of tactile and kinesthetic senses. RAFT provides hands-on teaching tools for over 800,000 students throughout the Bay Area.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 7.500 teachers throughout the Bay Area

Geographic areas served: Greater San Francisco Bay Area with affiliates in Sacramento, CA and Denver, CO

Programs: RAFT collects the surplus items from local businesses and transforms them into learning materials in math, science and art. RAFT also offers professional classes for teachers to improve their hands-on teaching skills. 600 teachers come to our facility each week to gather supplies and learn new teaching techniques.

Community Stories

40 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 4

I love Raft .
They have great resources for teachers . I have bought games , crafts for art , and school supplies . I am very grateful for Raft because they are a great supporter of education . They also have Stem projects that are perfect for science .

Volunteer

Rating: 5

hi i would like to say that the website i used was awsome and gave me alot of information, but i didnt even get the website for RAFT. i wish i could...does anyone have RAFTs website?? so desprite...this is a school assingment... i would really appreceate the help!! by the way sorry for anything mis-spelled! i could sometimes swear i am dislexic... i think thats how you spell it...

Review from CharityNavigator

Client Served

Rating: 5

I love this place so much! It’s an excellent resource for affordable hands-on educational activities that I can do with my kids. As a homeschooler with three kids I have a very limited budget and RAFT provides great materials and engaging lessons to work with. If you’re a teacher and haven’t been to RAFT, you must go! They also have an online store that’s good for buying their kits and getting them shipped to anywhere in the world and you don’t even have to be a member! It is also a great place to volunteer and the staff is very friendly.

Review from CharityNavigator

Volunteer

Rating: 5

From the very beginning of RAFT, when it was an idea in Mary Simon's wonderful brain, until today when we're working on ways to make the RAFT magic available to the entire world, I've been an enthusiastic, willing participant in everything RAFT does. I've been on the board almost since the beginning and have led two Capital Campaigns, chaired the board and supported all efforts. RAFT is one of the best nonprofits I've ever seen based on it's mission and exciting vision, plus it's creativity in executing that mission. In addition, it is managed in a fiscally responsible manner, enabling a reserve of at least a year's worth of expenses.

Previous Stories
1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I'm a long-time board member of RAFT, having heard of the idea when Mary Simon first thought of starting a nonprofit that would enable teachers to use materials from community businesses to implement hands-on math, science and art projects in their classrooms. When Mary first came to me, I was running a management support organization called the Nonprofit Development Center, helping nonprofit staff and boards to improve their management and leadership skills. We at the NDC thought Mary's idea was so good that we helped her in every way we could to learn what she needed to know to run a nonprofit (Mary was a math teacher by profession). RAFT is now one of the most successful nonprofits in the San Jose area, having set its sights in expanding to reach all educators in the Bay Area, then California and finally nationally. It will happen because of one person's amazing vision and dedication to supporting and enabling excellent teachers and teaching. The beneficiaries are the children who, as we all know, are the future of the country.

Client Served

Rating: 5

For the last several years I have been involved with setting up craft projects for a Girl Scout camp. We absolutely could not provide the number or the quality of projects that we do without the materials we get from RAFT. Not only do they have great prices on craft supplies, they have unusual materials that are discards from manufacturing and they provide tools such as die-cuts and laminating. RAFT is a valuable asset to the community. They recycle unwanted items and even come up with inventive ways to use them. The employees and volunteers are very dedicated to helping teachers and students. I love RAFT!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

RAFT offers countless affordable-to-free resources for teachers. I found fabulous science and art lesson/experiment packets that are standards-based with materials for 20 kids already included, awesome materials for projects and cheap books. They have a room with discounted stickers and an area for prepping for projects with hundreds of different die cuts. I can spend hours there just browsing and getting ideas for science, art, math and writing projects. There are great workshops offered as well. I love RAFT! When I retire from teaching, I want to volunteer!

Client Served

Rating: 5

RAFT is an amazing resource for educators and I wish every community had an organization like this. They save teachers huge amounts of money in supplies, save the aggravation of trying to find and collect enough cast-offs for a project, and provide businesses an easy way to turn trash into some teachers treasure. Two recent examples: I needed working gears for a classroom of young students to experience hands-on how gears work. Looking online it would have cost hundreds of dollars to outfit the class in any commercially available gears. I attempted making them by hand at home with cardboard, following the instructions found online, and spent many frustrating hours creating TWO clumsy gears. Then I went to RAFT, where they had a die-cut that makes gears and helped me find a bin of foam material that worked in the die-cut to create a working gear...and cost $1 for a large bag. A few hours and a few dollars later, I had several hundred working gears which I can reuse for years in my classes.

Client Served

Rating: 5

RAFT is truly a great resource for people working with children. The idea sheets and prepackaged kits makes it easy to fully engage students in hands-on learning. There are all kinds of treasures for practically nothing... a gently used swivel chair for $10, 33 zippered cases that make nice pencil cases for only $1, colorful stickers for $.25 per sheet, it's endless. My students are fascinated with the silkworms RAFT gives away. The Green Room staff and diecut library are tremendously helpful. And if that isn't enough, there are Milano cookies in the vending machine and free coffee and cookies where you walk it. My teacher friends and I love RAFT!

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am a teacher who is a dreamer, a scientist, an environmentalist, an artist, a sticker collector, a book lover, etc. When I first stepped into RAFT when it was in its infancy, it was like walking into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory! It has since changed the way I have taught all of the grades I have taught...preschool to sixth grade. Their workshops are hands-on, friendly, and a bargain (they give you tons of materials when you leave any workshop). On top of it all, I can't believe Mary Simon is working at the San Jose store-ready to help you understand the materials better. She, to me, is a hero and a celebrity for thinking up such a wonderful way to recycle products from companies. I think RAFT should expand all around the world. I would love to see it happen.

Client Served

Rating: 5

RAFT is not just for great stuff. They also hold terrific workshops for teachers. But my favorite is the wonderful instruction sheets they provide that show exactly how to use the recycled materials in the classroom. On top of that, they also bundle the kits in class size packages. Can't be more friendly to teachers than that. Great science and art stuff, truly great place.