In an earlier post, I talked about how succesful “social” entrepreneurs share many of the same traits as for-profit entrepreneurs. And I also separately posted about a particular social entrepreneur, Geoffrey Canada, who is one the most inspiring examples of being entrepreneurial I have ever come across.
Well, I wanted to write today about another inspiring social entrepreneur, Charles Best, and the organization he started – DonorsChoose.org. I have had the pleasure of meeting Charles. He’s smart, humble, authentic and is every bit the successful entrepreneur.
As Charles tells the story of how and why he started DonorsChoose.org (and you can see this story on their site), it grew out of a Bronx high school where Charles and his fellow teachers experienced first-hand the scarcity of learning materials in our public schools. Charles, then a social studies teacher, sensed that many people would like to help distressed public schools, but were frustrated by a lack of influence over their donations. He created DonorsChoose.org in 2000 so that individuals could connect directly with classrooms in need.
Charles, his team and DonorsChoose.org has been a phenomenal success already. They have raised over $70 million to date, made the list of Oprah’s favorite things this past year and are generally lauded by the media for innovation in education support and micro-philanthropy.
Here’s how it works (right from their site): public school teachers from all over America post classroom project requests on DonorsChoose.org. Requests range from iPads for classrooms, to violins for a school recital, to microscope slides for a biology class. Then, you can browse project requests and give any amount to the one that inspires you. Once a project reaches its funding goal, DonorsChoose.org delivers the materials directly to the school/teacher. As a citizen philanthropist donor on DonorsChoose, you’ll get photos of your project taking place, a thank-you letter from the teacher, and a cost report showing how each dollar was spent. If you give over $100, you’ll also receive hand-written thank-you letters from the students.
In honor of Charles and DonorsChoose, I’ve created my own “giving page” where I selected something that I’m passionate about – iPads for kids – to be the theme of the donation projects that I’ve selected. Now I’ll ask my Twitter followers and Facebook friends to help me support some of the iPad-related classroom projects on my page.