What do Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, Stephen Colbert, television personality and heir apparent to David Letterman on CBS’ “Late Show,” Desirée Rogers, CEO of Johnson Publishing and former White House Social Secretary, Richard Lovett, President, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and Carolyn Everson, Vice President, Global Marketing Solutions for Facebook have in common? They are just six members of an illustrious group of individuals comprising the national corporate advisory team that exists to support DonorsChoose.org. This innovative nonprofit was founded by Charles Best, a high school history teacher from the Bronx, who asked and answered his own question: “What can just one person do to help a classroom in need?”
The question is daunting, and most people would discuss that problem, perhaps gather a few friends to think about it over coffee, maybe meet with a few public school administrators at their local campus and walk away with the impression that really, one person might not be able to do anything.
Why is Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, involved as a board member of DonorsChoose.org? The accompanying video, from the LinkedIn Speaker Series, explains the way that one man, Charles Best, would forever change the way individuals could make a difference in their local schools and communities.
For fourteen years now, this nonprofit has caught on across the country, and Charles Best’s initiative, drive, and motivation to help students where they live and learn has touched the hearts of some of the most important and prestigious business and education leaders in the country, and they’ve joined in as advisors to help promote the organization’s goals.
A February, 2014, National Report Card on school funding reveals disturbing trends:
School funding in 2011 was largely stagnant or declining in many states. About half of the states cut funding from 2010 levels, and in fourteen states per-pupil spending in 2011 was below 2007 levels, even without adjusting for inflation…New Jersey, for example lowered the funding boost for poor districts from 42% in 2009 to a mere 7% in 2011…All but three states lowered their fiscal effort on education between 2010 and 2011.”
The video accompanying this story is one hour long, and if you will listen and hear, it will be one of the most rewarding hours you’ve spent in years. Listen to the path Best took using his own resources as the first funding. Now ask yourself, how many teachers do you know who spend hundreds of dollars each year out of their own pockets, living on minimal teaching salaries, simply to try and give their students a better chance at learning? Until this national 501(c)3 was created, individual gifts were not able to make the substantive impact in directed focus that they can today, thanks to the solid advice and guidance from Best, his administrative executives and his stellar advisory team.
From DonorsChoose.org’s web site, the following facts are important. First, refreshingly, the minimum donation is $1.00. The program includes K-12 schools in all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C. Public charter schools are also covered. Check out the web site to see what’s happening in your home town, consider making an important tax-deductible gift, and know that not every project will meet its funding needs in the designated time allotted for fund-raising.
Currently, statistic show a very respectable 70% of projects are funded; if the project you’re supporting doesn’t reach goal, you can then have access to that same amount in ‘credits’ where you can either send your teacher a DonorsChoose.org gift card or let the organization select a new worthwhile project and direct your funding there.
You will only be hearing more about DonorsChoose.org in days to come. The nonprofit has been selected by Oprah Winfrey as one of the “50 Most Innovative Companies in the World.” More students, more teachers, and more generous community members are learning of DonorsChoose.org. It’s a reasonably fair assessment to say that DonorsChoose.org is the “Kickstarter” of educational philanthropy.
It’s hip, it’s cool, it’s current and it is the thing to do when you specifically want to help make a teacher’s dream come true, so their students can learn, explore, create and be inspired. It’s one reason that Jeff Weiner and his LinkedIn associates are all fired up about DonorsChoose.org. One person acting unselfishly, thinking creatively, working on inspiration can impact millions. Just ask Charles Best.