Innovative Social Entrepreneurship: DonorsChoose.org (Lessons Learned, plus a Contest!)

social entrepreneurship
DonorsChoose.org allows you to fund a classroom project
If you enjoy non-profit works or even involve in social entrepreneurship yourself, you gotta love what DonorsChoose.org does in creating social capital, instead of money: DonorsChoose.org has funded over 200,000 classroom projects in the US that benefit more than 5 million students.

What is DonorsChoose?

DonorsChoose.org is an online charity that was founded by Charles Best – a former social studies teacher – in 2000 with one, focused goal: To help public school teachers fund school projects to help students in need. This week alone, DonorsChoose.org has completed more than 1,000 projects with the support from over 8,000 donors. The social impact: More than 50,000 students reached.

DonorsChoose.org’s laser-targeted goal has earned them recognition, such as from Fast Company magazine that tag DonorsChoose.org as one of the world’s most innovative companies. The non-profit has also been featured on Oprah.

Read DonorsChoose.org story on MSN Business on Main

How things work

On DonorChoose.org website, you can either find projects to support or post project requests.

To support as a donor, here is how it works:

  1. You give to a classroom project of your choice – as little as $1 or as much as you wish
  2. Once the project is funded, DonorChoose.org will deliver materials to the class
  3. Kids learn from the materials and show it in photos and thank-you notes.

Crowd-funding in action – simple, yet powerful and innovative; pretty much like Kiva (fund micropreneurs) and Kickstarter (fund startup projects), but with different cause.

How DonorsChoose.org tagged as “innovative”

From this interview with Charles Best (DonorsChoose.org founder) we can learn that although innovation and non-profits are not the typical traits that go along well together, DonorsChoose.org can find a common ground.

1. Hire creative people and encourage them to share ideas
DonorsChoose.org hires creative people and encourages them to share ideas. There is an email distribution list where staff can regularly contribute ideas, feedback and trends.

2. Fail more, fail fast
DonorsChoose.org promotes idea testing and aim to increase failure rate – something they consider as an indication that they have tested so many ideas.

3. Be analytical
DonorsChoose.org invites developers and researches to mine 10-year worth of data from their e-commerce-based platform to come up with discoveries and build apps based on them – all in all focusing on educational improvement.

Tips on running a successful organisation

DonorsChoose.org has grown 30 percent annually every year since it was founded on 2000 – strong growth. If you run a for-profit organisation, Charles Best can offer you this tip:

You should align your business brand with a social mission. Doing so will build loyalty with both your customers and employees. One example: Crate and Barrel, a designer furnishing company, partnered with DonorsChoose.org to mail out DonorsChoose.org gift cards in 2007. The gift cards redeemers spent 16 percent more than those who didn’t receive any gift cards.

Read a complete DonorsChoose.org coverage here

Contest: Win a DonorsChoose.org Gift Card and a business review!

Here’s a little contest for you – win a DonorsChoose.org $50 gift card and a Noobpreneur.com business review!

I will choose one winner that will get a DonorsChoose.org $50 gift card you can use to support any classroom projects you are interested in AND get a review on your business or about you winning the gift card; the review will be published on Noobpreneur.com and I will personally buzz around your review on my social network on Twitter, Facebook, Chime.in, etc.

How to be eligible:

It’s really simple – you can choose one of 3 options:

  1. Leave a comment on MSN Business on Main’s coverage on DonorsChoose.org AND let me know via email – or…
  2. Leave a comment on this article AND let me know via email – or…
  3. Write a post on your blog or social media account with a link to this article – AND let me know via email.

The contest will end on November 30th, 2011 at 21:00 EST.

Good luck!

Ivan Widjaya
Innovation ideas for non-profits

Disclaimer: I receive incentives to share my views on this particular blog post, but all of the opinions are my own. My blog is a part of an online influencer network for Business on Main.

Ivan Widjaya

Ivan Widjaya is the Owner/Editor of Noobpreneur.com, as well as several other blogs. He is a business blogger, web publisher and content marketer for SMEs.