- Inspiring Lives
- Overcoming Obstacles and Challenges
- U.S. Education
Audience & Industry
- Colleges and Universities
- The Marketing and Advertising Industry
Former Bronx teacher, social entrepreneur and crowdfunding pioneer, Charles Best is a gripping storyteller and nationally recognized innovator.
Charles stands at the intersection of education, philanthropy and technology. His personal story demonstrates that one person can launch a movement, and his insights inspire businesspeople and students alike. Charles even puts his speaker’s fee in the hands of his audience, giving everyone a philanthropic gift card to spend on a classroom request of their choice.
In 2000, while teaching history at a Bronx public high school, Charles launched DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit organization that provides a simple way to address educational inequity. Today, half of all the public schools in America have at least one teacher who has created a classroom project request on DonorsChoose.org, and more than a million people have donated $200 million, providing books, art supplies, technology and other resources to 10 million students, overwhelmingly in low-income communities.
DonorsChoose.org is one of Oprah Winfrey's "Ultimate Favorite Things" and was named by Fast Company as one of the "50 Most Innovative Companies in the World," the first time a charity has received this recognition. For three years, FORTUNE magazine has named Charles to its "40 under 40 hottest rising stars in business."
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 79% of all the public schools in America have created projects on DonorsChoose.org, and more than 3 million people have given $700 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 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 79% of all the public schools in America have created project requests on DonorsChoose.org, and more than 3 million people have donated $700 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.
- Crowdsourced 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.
Charles Best represents all that you hope for in a keynote speaker. His work through DonorsChoose.org touches millions of lives – teachers, students, parents, entire communities. His message for our group of public school principals and superintendents was engaging and inspirational. Charles personalized his time with us through research on the schools in Texas and through his interaction – Q&A became planning for next steps for individuals and our organization. We left the session with a renewed sense of purpose in our work.N2 Learning