Monday, April 27, 2009

Greetings from San Francisco and an Opportunity to Do Good

Hello from beautiful San Francisco! It really is beautiful, too...the weather is gorgeous, the city vibrant and fun. I'm grateful to be here and wanted to share some photos with you from my touristy trip through town yesterday. I'll share those a little further down in this post, but first, something more important...

Have you heard about I am so totally pumped about this organization that is providing much-needed support for public and charter schools in the United States, one classroom, one teacher, one project at a time. By visiting the DonorsChoose website, anyone can view project requests from teachers all over the United States and donate any amount, large or small, to helping teachers reach those goals. You can search for projects by geographic area or by keywords so you can support your local area or a project that is dear to your heart. For your generosity, you get real thank you letters from teachers and students and photos of the students enjoying what you helped to support.

DonorsChoose is the brainchild of Charles Best, a former Bronx high school teacher. Charles kept having and hearing the same conversations among his fellow teachers. There simply wasn't any money available for the projects, library items, field trips, and equipment teachers wanted for their classrooms. Charles started simply with a low-tech approach; he used free desserts to bribe fellow teachers to visit a simple website he built and type in their most cherished projects, the ones they most wished they could do. He then anonymously funded the projects himself.

Word got out that the website worked, and requests spread. Charles enlisted his students for a volunteer letter writing campaign and raised the first $30,000 to fund DonorsChoose.

Now,'s website houses requests from teachers all over the United States. The requests are all checked out by a volunteer corps of teachers who have successfully used the program themselves and who make sure each project is legitimate and meets the criteria. Donors can read about projects and see how much money it will take to fund it, how much has been given, and how much is still needed.

DonorsChoose is funded in part by an optional 15% administrative fee that is included in each donation. Donors can leave the fee in place or opt out at their discretion. Some costs are still met by private donors, but the company expects to be self-funded in a few years.

Cooler still are some of the ways is working with corporations and companies. Imagine receiving a gift card from a company you do business with giving you the opportunity to make a donation to any project you choose, spending the company's money? Crate and Barrell did it, and it was a huge success. Other companies have done the same. What a great alternative to sending flowers or a box of chocolates or a tin of popcorn! believes in staying true to its original mission. When they recently received a million dollar award, they didn't think it was right to let the staff allocate the money. Instead, the put the money on gift cards and distribute them to allow others to make the choices. Here at the SNCR Forum, we each received $50 cards to go onto the site and pick any project we wanted to support. I love it! It was so much fun reading all the project requests and so hard to make a decision. In the end, though, I made my choice, a Tennessee classroom that needs a digital camera for projects. You can read about it here, and make a donation of your own if you like.

I hope you will choose to visit and to give, and I hope my company, Unum, will consider including DonorsChoose in their giving programs. I'm certainly going to make a case for it.

Now, as promised, photos. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. San Fran is as beautiful as ever. I was there in the 80s and loved it. Have a great trip.


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