Charles Best: ‘Push intelligence out to the edge’
Charles Best shared how his frustrations as a New York City teacher led him to launch DonorsChoose.
Every year at Big Omaha there seems to be one speaker that unites the hearts of every person in the room at KANEKO. This year at Big Omaha 2012, I have a feeling that Charles Best was that speaker. Best is the founder of DonorsChoose, a nonprofit organization that provides a simple, personal and accountable way for people to address educational inequity.
Best crafted the story of the origin of his non-profit while also inspiring and motivating the Big Omaha community to get involved. Here were a few insights and snippets from Best's talk:
Know your audience
The classic lesson in public speaking is to know your audience. Best began his talk by highlighting a few of the projects and products coming out of Nebraska on platforms like Kickstarter, Etsy and his own site, DonorsChoose.org. In fact, he said that DonorsChoose has funded over 500 projects for teachers in the state of Nebraksa.
Not only did Best's intro set the stage for what DonorsChoose does, but it also created an immediate connection and legitimacy for Big Omaha and the Nebraska region. Best took the time to research the region and it paid off in respect from the audience.
Changing the game
DonorsChoose has been recognized as a non-profit that is changing the face of philanthropy. As Best explained, "There is a big change on the way in how long you have to wait and what you have to know to get to the marketplace." DonorsChoose is creating a marketplace where teachers can see their students' dreams come true.
Today, more than 800,000 people have donated more than $100 million on DonorsChoose, so the game is changing.
Users become coworkers
A big part of what has allowed DonorsChoose.org to grow so large and make an impact is because of their choice to allow users to help improve the community. Initially this decision was to help DonorsChoose affordably scale, but they discovered how much value their users could add. "When you push intelligence out to the edge, your users start to see themselves as coworkers," Best explained.
As DonorsChoose grew, Best explained it started to take 10 days on average to vet and post teacher's project request. What DonorsChoose began to do was allow power users who had gotten at least 20 projects funded on the site to help vet and filter. "We weren't just getting free labor. We got better labor from teacher volunteers," Best explained. Today there are over 20,000 projects live at any time and the site encourages donors to filter and fund based on their passions.
Big Omaha supports schools
A highlight of Best's talk was at the end he announced that, thanks to the board of DonorsChoose, every person attending Big Omaha was going to be given a $10 gift card to spend on a project on DonorsChoose. Best instructed the crowd, "See what a difference you can make with no gatekeepers standing in your way."
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