Social Capitalists: DonorsChoose.org

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner

DonorsChoose.org

Charles Best, CEO
New York, New York
donorschoose.org

DonorsChoose.org liberates every public school teacher to be a change maker, and enables any citizen to be a philanthropist. At this nonprofit website, public school teachers submit their best ideas for materials and experiences that their students need to learn—everything from a classroom library, to basketballs, to a field trip to the zoo.

Individuals can search by areas of interest, learn about classroom needs, and choose to fund the projects that they find most compelling. All donors then hear back from the classrooms they chose to help. At DonorsChoose.org, someone giving $10 enjoys the same choice, impact, and vivid feedback that—until now—have been reserved for millionaire benefactors.

In Fall 2007, DonorsChoose.org opened its site to all public schools in America.

Mission

DonorsChoose.org improves public education by engaging citizens in an online marketplace where teachers describe specific educational projects for their classrooms and individuals can choose which projects to fund. We envision a country where students in every community have the resources they need to learn.

Beginning

At the Bronx school where DonorsChoose.org was conceived in the spring of 2000, teachers saw that:

  1. School system funding does not evenly distribute resources.
  2. Shortages of learning materials discourage thorough, engaging instruction.
  3. Top-down distribution of materials prevents teachers from developing targeted solutions for their students.

A social studies teacher, Charles Best, sensed that many people would like to help distressed public schools but that they were frustrated by a lack of influence over the use of their charitable donations. He created DonorsChoose.org so that individuals could connect directly with, and give confidently to, classrooms in need.

Innovation

DonorsChoose.org is driven by “citizen philanthropy.” No matter their contribution size, donors are treated to a level of service normally reserved for established philanthropists. This includes:

*Meaningful Choice: Whether interested in pre-K literacy or science field trips, donors can select the specific project that they feel will have the biggest impact.

*Full Accountability: DonorsChoose.org screens each project proposal before posting it online, purchases the materials for the teacher, and compiles vivid feedback for the donor(s). Contributors can choose the project they want to fund, see the impact of their donation, and know that their dollars were spent as designated.

To ensure accountability in its marketplace, DonorsChoose.org has adapted best practices from the business sector. An online workflow streamlines the screening of teacher proposals and the compilation of photos, thank-you letters, and expenditure reports for each donor. Classroom materials are verified and purchased using an e-procurement system, technology that DonorsChoose.org pioneered in the nonprofit sector.

Our Results

Real-time results can be viewed at About Us > Impact.

Impact: Fulfilling Needs and Enriching Learning
Since its inception, citizen philanthropists from all 50 states and 10 countries have funded over 32,000 classroom projects at DonorsChoose.org, channeling over $14 million worth of resources to students in low-income communities. More than 75% of these resources are reusable for future classes.

Impact: Mobilizing Citizens and Informing School Leaders
Proposals at DonorsChoose.org take website visitors directly into the classroom and expose them to a vivid message of need in our public schools. 75% of donors reported that this was their first-ever donation to public schools. 60% of donors reported that their DonorsChoose.org experience has increased their interest in the state of public schools today.

How to Help

Please go to www.DonorsChoose.org to pick a classroom project to bring to life—a reading corner, a field trip, a computer lab, or whatever most inspires you.