Rewriting the ABCs of Classroom Funding

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Charles Best leads DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit organization that directly connects classrooms in need with potential donors. Through this simple model, Best has rewritten the rules of fixing education inequality.

A is for Ask

Nonprofit professionals know all about asking – for grant funds, donations and volunteers. They also know that the average citizen is much more likely to give when they see exactly where their money is going. Donors Choose allows teachers to ask for specific items – from microscope slides to colored pencils – they will use in their classroom. This gives donors the power to select the age level, school and subject their money supports.

B is for Business

Once Best got his idea off the ground by engaging his fellow teachers, landing an initial $100,000 grant and vaulting into the limelight with the help of Newsweek and Oprah Winfrey, he had a full-fledged business on his hands. Fast Company magazine to named DonorsChoose.org as one of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies” in 2011. Best maintains the innovative culture by encouraging staff to share their ideas and embracing failure as an indicator of how many ideas are being tested. Staying focused on the right organizational metrics has led to sustained organizational growth.

C is for Crowd

The simplicity of the Donors Choose model also makes it scalable. By leveraging the power of crowd funding to mobilize large-scale citizen philanthropy, Donors Choose has been able to help more than nine million school children.

“Our goal is to see a million people give $100 million to projects from 100% of our country’s high poverty [schools],” said Best in an interview with Forbes magazine. “We think that would put the ‘public’ back in ‘public schools.’”

Find out more about Best’s new rules of philanthropy on Friday, October 4, 2013 at the Columbia Business School Social Enterprise Conference in New York City.

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