Spring 2006 Social Entrepreneur in Residence

Charles Best
Founder and CEOCharles Best, DonorsChoose

As the Social Entrepreneur in Residence, Charles Best, the founder and CEO of  DonorsChoose, will meet with students and faculty to explore this Web-based nonprofit organization that enables individual donors to fulfill needs and foster innovation in public school classrooms. DonorsChoose offers a simple way to provide students in need with resources that public schools often lack. At the site, teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals, called "Citizen Philanthropists," choose projects to fund.

DonorsChoose has the mission to improve public education by engaging citizens in an online marketplace where teachers describe and individuals can fund specific student projects. It envisions a nation where students in every community have the resources they need to learn.

Since its inception, the organization's achievements include:

  • 7,000 teacher users with 10,000 projects funded by donors in all 50 states.    
  • $5 million worth of resources delivered to 300,000 students in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, North and South Carolina.
  • Highlighted by New York Times as "the future of philanthropy," by Oprah Winfrey as "revolutionary," and by Barron's as one of 5 nonprofits "changing the face of charity."
  • Recipient of 2004 Technology Laureate bestowed by Tech Museum of Innovation.
  • Winner, 2005 Amazon Nonprofit Innovation Award.  Selected as "America's most innovative charity" from 1,000 applicant organizations.
  • Replicated in China and South Korea.

Since 2000, DonorsChoose has grown from an experiment at a Bronx public school to a thriving organization serving 2,998 public schools. Fueled at first by word of mouth, DonorsChoose has achieved exponential growth, quadrupling the resources delivered to classrooms for each of the last four years.

Project proposals at DonorsChoose range from "Where Did All the Pencils Go?" ($60), to "Dictionaries for At-Home Use" ($259), to "Geological Field Trip" ($2,000). Most proposals are not simply requests for materials but fantastic ideas for helping students learn. Thanks to the participation of dedicated and imaginative teachers, DonorsChoose has become a showcase of original and successful student projects.

Best founded DonorsChoose in the spring of 2000 at Wings Academy, an alternative public high school in the Bronx where he taught social studies for five years. Charles graduated from St. Paul's School with the scholar-athlete award in 1994, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale in 1998. He then spent a year studying wood sculpture at the School of Fine Arts in Guadalajara, Mexico; helping to train Tzotzil Indians as teachers in Chiapas, Mexico and teaching Spanish literacy at a farm/orphanage in the Nicaraguan highlands.

Helene & Grant Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship
163 William St, 21st Floor
New York, NY 10038
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