Founder & CEO of Donorschoose.org

Charles Best

At a glance:

Charles Best leads DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit organization that provides a simple way to address educational inequity. At DonorsChoose.org, public school teachers create classroom project requests and donors can pick the projects they want to support.

Charles Best leads DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit organization that provides a simple way to address educational inequity. At DonorsChoose.org, public school teachers create classroom project requests and donors can pick the projects they want to support. Charles launched the organization in 2000 out of a Bronx public high school where he taught history. DonorsChoose.org is one of Oprah Winfrey’s “ultimate favorite things” and was featured on the cover of Fast Company as one of the “50 Most Innovative Companies in the World.” For three years, Fortune Magazine has named Charles to its “40 under 40 hottest rising stars in business.”

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  • No More Gatekeepers

    Charles shares how, as a 24-year-old teacher at a Bronx high school, he created a model of giving hailed as "the future of philanthropy" by The New York Times. His story covers the high school wrestling coach who inspired him to become a teacher, the most humiliating mistake he ever made getting DonorsChoose.org off the ground, and the most poignant moments, such as the projects teachers created to recover from the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Today, teachers at half of all the public schools in America have created projects on DonorsChoose.org, and more than a million people have given $200 million.

    Charles connects this story to the rise of Kickstarter and Etsy, sites that—like DonorsChoose.org—enable anyone to go public with their originality. These sites signal a profound change in how long you have to wait, and who you have to know, and how lucky you have to be, to bring a good idea to life. They represent a new kind of marketplace where gatekeepers no longer stand in your way.

    Charles enables the audience to experience this change by giving everyone a DonorsChoose.org gift card (underwritten by his speaker's fee) to spend on a classroom project of their choice, so they can directly connect with a classroom in need.
  • Pushing Intelligence Out to the Edge

    In launching DonorsChoose.org out of his Bronx classroom, Charles Best pioneered the crowd-funding movement. Today, teachers at half of all the public schools in America have created project requests on DonorsChoose.org, and more than a million people have donated $200 million.

    That scale of growth has spurred Charles and his team to tap the power of both crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, making DonorsChoose.org the first charity ever named to Fast Company's list of the "50 Most Innovative Companies in the World." Charles explains how the DonorsChoose.org team has:

    Opened up a mountain of data so that people can discover what schools most need and which teaching topics are trending, inspiring hundreds of web developers to build apps that engage the public in public schools.

    Crowd sourced many aspects of integrity assurance and quality control, a shift that has delivered huge productivity gains as well as cost savings.
    Turned DonorsChoose.org into a platform that companies like Google, Facebook, Starbucks, and Chevron are using to do cause marketing, to engage their customers and employees in philanthropy, and to "do well by doing good."

    Charles concludes by giving everyone a DonorsChoose.org gift card (underwritten by his speaker's fee) to spend on a classroom project of their choice.
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