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Case Study

Timely Support for Public School Educators

If re-opening schools during a pandemic and reduced budgets weren’t challenging enough, school administrators and teachers are under added pressure to help students cope with and understand the issues of social injustice and racial tension that have drawn national headlines for the better part of 2020. Educators are challenged to better inform their students about the roots of racism in this country, how it is reflected in modern society, and help them gain the perspective and communication skills needed to advance institutionalized norms that strengthen social equity.

The need for funding and relevant materials to support these educational efforts is evidenced by the 2,600 diverse books-related projects currently seeking funding on the Donor’s Choose website, donorschoose.org. DonorsChoose is a non-profit organization that facilitates crowdfunding for public school teachers’ classroom needs, resource acquisition, and delivery. Since its founding 20 years ago, DonorsChoose has enabled almost $1 billion of funding for over 1.7 million projects on behalf of teachers in 85% of our public K-12 schools.

On August 7, Donor’s Choose welcomed their newest supplier, MahoganyBooks, an award-winning, Washington, D.C.-based independent retailer specializing in books written for, by, or about people of the African Diaspora. The announcement could not come at a better time.

Ramunda Young, co-owner and co-founder of MahoganyBooks, describes their offerings as imperative for any student expanding their worldview and perception of other cultures. We’re thrilled to partner with DonorsChoose to ensure books with rich cultural content are accessible to teachers nationwide.

The announcement noted that teachers can immediately choose from a curated list of books that are ideal for middle and high school students. More titles including options for elementary students will be added later this fall.

In less than a week following the announcement, 124 projects specifically seeking support for MahoganyBooks’ resources were posted to a dedicated funding page on DonorsChoose. Thirteen of those requests have received combined funding totaling $1,534 through individual donations and the matching donations made by the Equal Justice Initiative in support of requests for a select list of books, including Just Mercy.

All of this was made possible through an introduction made by DonorsChoose procurement enablement partner, EqualLevel. EqualLevel and MahoganyBooks are both in the Washington, D.C., metro area. When DonorsChoose expressed their desire to enhance the diversity of their supplier base, EqualLevel’s CEO, Orville Bailey, recognized a win-win opportunity for his customer and the small, family-owned, mission-focused specialty book retailer that he knew.

The connection made would be more than the sharing of business contact information between the two potential partners. As the DonorsChoose-Mahogany Books relationship developed and was ultimately formalized, EqualLevel’s GO e-commerce platform provided Mahogany Books with a seamless connection with the DonorsChoose Marketplace.

In their August 7 announcement, DonorsChoose CFO and EVP of fulfillment, Geoff Hill said, Our procurement partners at EqualLevel introduced us to Ramunda and Derrick Young and helped us launch MahoganyBooks as a vendor in record time this summer. We’re so proud to be able to offer our teachers the opportunity to request valuable classroom materials from MahoganyBooks, while at the same time supporting a Black-owned independent bookstore that gives back to the Washington, D.C. community. We can’t wait to see all of the teachers and students who will benefit during this back-to-school season.


  • To learn more about DonorsChoose and support teachers’ educational resources needs, visit donorschoose.org.
  • Review the entire MahoganyBooks catalog at mahaganbooks.com.
  • To learn more about EqualLevel’s GO platform for suppliers and PunchOut enabled e-commerce functionality, email info@equallevel.com or call (301)560-1492.


Why School Districts Need a Procure-to-Pay Marketplace

Many schools continue to struggle with and adapt to the education budget crisis created by the pandemic. Districts can no longer afford the inefficient costs of manual, paper-based requisitioning, ordering, invoice reconciliation, and payment processes. Digitizing the procure-to-pay process is now a necessity if school districts are to pursue every opportunity for savings and efficiency.

What is a Procure-to-Pay Marketplace?

Procure-to-Pay refers to an organization’s operational procurement process, from requisition all the way through to payment. A procure-to-pay marketplace offers a single, seamless platform that facilitates all of the processes associated with the shop-order-pay transaction.

Organizations that have implemented an end-to-end procure-to-pay marketplace derive many benefits from their systems. To highlight just a few:

One-stop-shop. A single site that teachers and staff can access to easily requisition all the goods and services they require from approved supplier contracts

Optimize savings. Ability to identify savings opportunities in real-time to eliminate over-spending

On-contract, compliant spending. Automated tracking of expenditures per contract to ensure budget, contract, and policy compliance

Reduced overhead. Lower transaction costs by eliminating manual, paper-based procurement and payables processing

Business insight. Increased visibility and control across the entire procure-to-pay process informs and elevates management decisions

Further, a procure-to-pay marketplace eliminates the wall between procurement and accounts payable by automating the reconciliation of invoices and creating easy access to historical records that support audit requirements.

Understanding the Procure-to-Pay S-O-P

SHOP.  Shopping/requisitioning is the first step in the procure-to-pay process. In this stage, buyers find the right product or utilize a three-bid process to determine product price, select the supplier, and create a requisition or shopping cart for approval.

The most efficient way to shop and create a purchase requisition is to implement a one-stop multi-vendor punchout marketplace of all district-approved suppliers and contracts.  Teachers and staff can then shop across these suppliers’ catalogs to access real-time product information, and to conduct side-by-side comparisons.  EqualLevel’s marketplace includes real-time search across punchout sites and an AI-powered savings advisor that checks items in the cart to suggest lower-cost identical or substitute goods.

Once a cart/purchase requisition is created, a requisition workflow is initiated. These workflows are automated and flexible, allowing them to vary between schools, departments, and in monetary value. Approvers can either accept or reject a purchase requisition after evaluating the need, verifying the available budget, and validating the purchase requisition form. Incomplete purchase requisitions are rejected back to the initiator for correction and resubmission.  Approved purchase requisitions are converted into a purchase order and transmitted to the supplier.

ORDER. The next step in the procurement cycle, Order, involves processing, receiving, and distributing the product.

While leveraging a supplier punchout catalog creates efficiencies, these productivity gains can increase exponentially with the integration of purchase orders. With integrated purchase orders, districts can eliminate employees’ time spent placing orders over the phone or sending a pdf via email or fax. Also eliminated is the possibility of data entry and re-keying errors by the supplier. Data is seamlessly transferred and required fields are automatically populated during PO creation.

One of the biggest benefits of integrated POs is the reduction in order processing time. The POs are submitted directly to the supplier’s fulfillment system via XML (Extensible Markup Language) or EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) where orders are then picked, packed, and shipped.

PAY.  This last phase of the procurement process, Pay, lets organizations maximize the benefits of procure-to-pay automation. Suppliers are able to submit invoices electronically, which boosts financial accuracy and processing efficiencies.

Once a goods receipt is approved, a three-way match between the purchase order, the vendor invoice, and the receipt of the good is performed. If no discrepancies exist, the invoice is automatically approved and an okay-to-pay notification is sent to the finance team for payment disbursement. A common frustration for districts processing invoices is missing or incorrect information that often requires valuable time spent hunting down the correct data. If inaccuracies are present, the invoice can be automatically rejected back to the supplier along with the reason for rejection.

Finance and Accounts Payable Departments want to ensure vendors are billing properly and every order contains the necessary data to reconcile. Integrated invoicing via XML facilitates information accuracy, consistency, and completion. As a result, payments go out the door more quickly.

More dollars for instruction.

School administrators need all the resources available to ensure their students are successful. Spending more than necessary on transactions or inefficient systems eats away hard dollars that could have been focused on expanding mission-centric educational programs.

With a proven ROI for school districts ranging from 2,000 to 200,000 students, the EqualLevel Marketplace will help your schools extend their budgets and make the most of every instructional dollar.

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