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School Year in Review


Last school year, you helped us bring to life more than 120,000 projects in classrooms across the country.

Thanks to you, students now have underwater robots for exploring deep water, and tablets for exploring beyond textbooks. Thanks to you, desks, backpacks, and playgrounds are full and opportunities for learning are wide open.

My colleagues and I are exhilarated about what lies ahead, and hope you enjoy this yearbook of our favorite moments from the past year.

On behalf of the students and teachers we serve, thank you.

Charles Best

Founder and CEO

In The Office

Celebrated our 15th Anniversary as an organization

Named the 2015 NonProfit Times' #1 Best Place to Work in our category

Ordered the materials for the 500,000th project to reach full funding

Delivered 1,000 thank-you packages in one day, our record to date

By The Numbers

$79,153,422 dollars raised
3,143,156 students helped
123,705 projects funded
420,217 supporters
83% projects funded from high need schools

Throughout this school year, our team kept a close watch on one specific metric: the number of projects funded from highest-povery schools (65%+ free or reduced lunch).

Over the last 5 years, donors have funded at least one project at 68% of the country's highest poverty schools. In the next two years, we hope to activate 20,000 additional highest poverty schools in order to reach 100% of the schools with the greatest need.

We're especially grateful for our many partners who have committed to supporting requests from classrooms that have never before received funding, inching us closer to our most ambitious goal.

In The Spotlight

We had some huge headlining moments to top off our year of little victories.

The Broadway Debut

Google shared space on their holiday season billboard in Times Square—the largest digital screen in North America

Our Best Three Days Yet

With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we launched our first‐ever 72‐hour flash sale, offering 50% off every single classroom project request on our site. Over the next three record-shattering days, their matching gift inspired 26,000 people to give over $3 million to provide materials for 903,000 students.

Colbert's Surprise for SC

During our annual Partner Summit, Board Member Stephen Colbert took the stage to make a surprise announcement for the teachers of his home state: every project in South Carolina had just been fully funded simultaneously, using the proceeds from the sale of his Colbert Report set (with help from ScanSource and Morgridge Family Foundation)!

A Big Story on the Small Screen

CBS This Morning cast a spotlight on our organization with a segment highlighting our model and recent successes for Chicago classrooms in the face of budget cuts. The story featured interviews with local teachers, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and our founder and CEO Charles Best.

What's in a Name?

The One Word that Opens Wallets

Adam Alter, a marketing and psychology professor at NYU, recently spoke to our team about people's subconscious responses to seeing their names and even their initials:

Psychologist Jesse Chandler and his colleagues found that people donate significantly more money to hurricanes that share their initials. So Roberts, Ralphs and Roses donated on average 260% more to the Hurricane Rita relief fund than did people without R initials. Also in 2005, people with K initials donated 150% more to the Katrina relief fund, and in 2004 people with I initials donated 100% more to the Ivan relief fund. (Source: The Monkey Cage)

Inspired by this finding, we tested whether name matching could inspire more generosity to the classroom requests listed on DonorsChoose. Over Valentine's Day weekend, we emailed 500,000 donors with this poem:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Give to a teacher,
With the same name as you.

And then we showed the recipient a classroom request created by a teacher with the same last name. For our control group, we ended the poem with “Give to a teacher, in a classroom near you” and showed the recipient a classroom request in their home state.

Some of our colleagues were skeptical, but the results eliminated any doubts: name-matched donors were nearly three times more likely to give to a classroom project! Name-matched donors also gave more generously—nearly three times as much as donors referred to a geo-targeted teacher. Best of all, many of these donors had lapsed (not made any donation in years) before the name-matching campaign re-activated them.

Projects We Love

We have some all-star teachers who do amazing things. Check out a couple of projects that wowed us this year.

Bringing Identity to the Classroom

Mrs. BienvenuTennessee

Request: Books featuring characters of their own race

14 donors • $578 given

Mrs. Bienvenu on the need for new books in her classroom:

Children's books invite children to use their imaginations, expand their vocabularies, and gain a better understanding of themselves and others. Unfortunately, not all children's literature sends the messages that we want students to learn. My students need access to children's literature featuring characters who represent their race and empower their sense of self.

Mrs. Bienvenu on the impact of her project fulfillment:

Many of our scholars have formed special connections with the books you helped bring our classroom. Please know that your gift will keep on giving for many more classes to come!

Redesign and Reinvent

Ms. CrocettiCalifornia

Request: Venue rental for up–cycled fashion show

57 donors • $4,812 given

From Ms. Crocetti, before her students' fashion show:

Students use recycled materials or landfill diverted trash to create unique fashion statements. The project begins with a trip to the Goodwill store where each student is allowed to take one item of clothing for free. Students collect trash specific to their design plan and add it to the recycled clothing item they acquired. Many students will choose recycled shoes and make their outfits completely from trash. In addition to up-cycling, students learn about design and clothing construction. Up to 20 volunteers come in and help students with sewing skills. Once they are finished, we put on a teen fashion show for the community.

From Ms. Crocetti, after her students walked the runway:

Thank you so much for supporting fashionTEENS. The day after (the) show I had students emailing me on the weekend to tell me what they have in mind to make for next year's show.

From a donor:

This year's great success was a testimony to ‘It takes a Village’. Your terrific organizational leadership, inspirational curriculum, talented and motivated students, dedicated volunteers, and supportive community make this innovative event a model for what education and enrichment programs can look like. Inspirational! The possibilities are endless. Thanks for leading the way!

Board of Directors

  • Jonathan Alter
  • Peter Bloom
  • Stephen Colbert
  • Carolyn Everson
  • Theresia Gouw
  • Genein Letford
  • Richard Lovett
  • Desirée Rogers
  • Trabian Shorters
  • Jeff Weiner
  • Fred Wilson
  • Anthony Yoseloff

With special thanks to our most generous sponsors