DonorsChoose and a Private Donor Fulfill 100% of Requests from California Teachers

This feel-good story from the San Francisco Chronicle underscores the internet’s power for good, the generosity that surrounds us, and how one person can touch and improve the lives of many.

The story highlights the work of one of my all-time favorite education charities This online charity makes it easy for anyone to help students in need, and has gone above and beyond in their quest to ensure the safety, privacy and security of every donor, teacher recipient, and student they serve.

Excerpt from the story:

Out of the blue, in the middle of a recession, the phone rang. What would it cost, the caller asked the founder of, to fund every California teacher’s wish list posted on the Web site?

The founder, Charles Best, thought perhaps the female caller would hang up when he tossed out his best guess: “Something over $1 million,” he told her.

Twelve hours later, the woman, Hilda Yao, executive director of the Claire Giannini Fund, sent Best an e-mail. It said, in short, OK.

A day later, Yao mailed a check of more than $1.3 million to cover the entire California wish list, 2,233 projects in all, with an extra $100,000 tossed in to help pay for other teacher needs across the country.

“Use of the word ‘miracle’ is not an overstatement,” Best said Tuesday, a day after 1,000 California teachers were notified that their needs were funded. “I think it’s fair to say it’s the best first day of school they’ve ever had.”

With budget cuts hitting schools hard, teachers and parents are often covering the costs of basic material like pencils or even textbooks as well as things now considered optional in public education such as field trips and art supplies.

DonorsChoose stepped in to help fill those needs 10 years ago to give K-12 teachers an easily accessible site to post what they need. Contributors can pay for part or all of each “project” requested, focusing on a specific school or subject area or even the type of gift.

The $1.3 million donation is among the largest gifts given by the San Francisco fund and one of the largest received by DonorsChoose. History: grew out of a Bronx high school where teachers experienced first-hand the scarcity of learning materials in our public schools.

Charles Best, then a social studies teacher, sensed that many people would like to help distressed public schools, but were frustrated by a lack of influence over their donations. He created in 2000 so that individuals could connect directly with classrooms in need.

He rallied a team to build the online service around the mission to improve public education by empowering every teacher to be a change-maker and enabling any citizen to be a philanthropist.

Here’s how it works, told in their own words:

Public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on Requests range from pencils for a poetry writing unit, to violins for a school recital, to microscope slides for a biology class.

Then, you can browse project requests and give any amount to the one that inspires you. Once a project reaches its funding goal, we deliver the materials to the school.

You’ll get photos of your project taking place, a thank-you letter from the teacher, and a cost report showing how each dollar was spent. If you give over $100, you’ll also receive hand-written thank-you letters from the students.

At, you can give as little as $1 and get the same level of choice, transparency, and feedback that is traditionally reserved for someone who gives millions. We call it citizen philanthropy.

Moved by Hilda’s generosity? Take a look at the most urgent project requests on, and help give one classroom the best return to school they’ve ever had.



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