As excited children head back to school across the country, teachers are resorting to creative ways to ensure their classes have both the tools and the experiences needed for a great education. DonorsChoose.org makes it easy for anyone to help a classroom in need with their unique platform that has helped teachers across the country fulfill over 600,000 classroom project requests. For Momentum talked to Charles Best, Founder and CEO, and asked him five questions that will help you learn more about why he began DonorsChoose.org, the cause community and Charles.
Charles Best leads DonorsChoose.org, the pioneering crowdfunding nonprofit where anyone can help a classroom in need. At DonorsChoose.org, public school teachers create classroom project requests and donors can choose the projects they want to support. Charles launched the platform in 2000 out of a Bronx public high school where he taught history. Today, more than two thirds of U.S. public schools have at least one teacher who has created a project request on DonorsChoose.org, and 1.8 million people have donated $360 million to classroom projects reaching 16 million students. Let’s Take 5 with Charles!
Look into your crystal ball…what’s the next big thing in corporate philanthropy trends? Online point-of-sale (POS) campaigns are something we’re seeing become more popular as retail traffic shifts online. We’re working with a few different retailers who are experimenting with ways to incorporate an ask, and others who tie donations to an individual product. The best corporate partnerships will find ways to engage all customers, both in-store and online.
What is the most amazing thing people should know about you or your job? We are a self-sustaining charity, in that most donors to classroom projects allocate 15% of their donations to support DonorsChoose.org, and the income thus generated pays all our expenses. So we are liberated from fundraising for our operation. When I speak to a potential partner, the conversation is strictly about that prospect’s objectives and passions, and which classroom projects best match those objectives and passions. That’s the most fun kind of “fundraising” conversation anyone could have.
What do you wish people knew about DonorsChoose.org? Most crowdfunding sites focus on tapping one’s personal network for funding. But at DonorsChoose.org, 75% of giving to classroom projects comes from people and partners who don’t know the teacher they are supporting. If a project on our site is compelling, it will likely be funded, regardless of whether the teacher has friends with money and regardless of whether students’ parents are able to participate. That’s why we’re used overwhelmingly by teachers in low-income communities.
What person has had the most influence on your cause career? In high school, I really looked up to my English teacher and wrestling coach, Mr. Buxton. He made me want to be a teacher, and if not for that experience, DonorsChoose.org would never have launched!
What are the biggest challenges facing schools and their corporate partners as they strive to connect the public to schools and ensure students in every community have the tools and experiences they need for a great education? The biggest challenge is ensuring every classroom in every community is a place that fosters innovation and exploration. A quality education is not a one-size-fits-all product you can assemble in a factory; every student has unique needs, perspectives, and learning styles, and teachers need the resources to reach each of their students on an individual level. At DonorsChoose.org, our philosophy has always been that teachers know best what students need to be successful, which is why we go to great lengths to fulfill every need possible, whether it’s pencils and paper, a therapeutic horseback riding session, or an underwater robot. When our corporate and foundation partners are giving to requests on our site, they know that they’re directly changing the lives of the students and teachers in those classrooms.
Five Fun Facts About Charles:
- Favorite App: Exit Strategy
- Currently Reading: Lucky Jim
- Hobby: Vegetable gardening
- Favorite Place to Unwind: Maine
- Guilty Pleasure: Tea oversweetened with maple syrup