We'll have folks stopping by throughout the day to answer questions - our CEO, CTO, COO, etc. We'll let you know who's here via this fancy box. Also: in case you missed it, here's where reddit raised $270,000+ for public schools in order to get Stephen Colbert's attention. It worked. See you in DC!

Who's here from DonorsChoose.org?

10:30AM: CTO; Vendor Relations Dude; Donor Relations Guy

2:15PM: COO; Donor Relations Guy

3:00PM: CEO

3:45PM: Analytics & Digital Marketing Guy; Donor Relations Guy

EDIT: Feel free to keep the q's coming, we'll be checking in tonight and tomw. This has been a lot of fun and a true pleasure. Thanks, reddit!

Comments: 872 • Responses: 46  • Date: 

sajnikanth1005 karma

I did not donate.

Are we cool?

DonorsChooseDOTorg1181 karma

Depends. What's your favorite band?

sajnikanth1035 karma

Pink Floyd

DonorsChooseDOTorg1404 karma

We cool.

MikeSD34473 karma

I just want to say thank you for you as an organization stepping up and communicating with us as people, instead of just popping out a news post on your website saying thank you. Interacting with us as a community makes you guys top notch fellows in my book!

DonorsChooseDOTorg148 karma

Did we really not reply to this yet? Thanks so much for the kind words. It's been a complete pleasure, I assure you. We like you guys too.

DonorsChooseDOTorg115 karma

A lot a lot a lot.

dhnaranjo218 karma

Do teachers go through any kind of vetting process for legitimacy? Because I uh run a small day-care or whatever and my kids could really use a ride to the uh museum.

Buy me a car.

DonorsChooseDOTorg255 karma

Buy us a car!

Every project request gets screened twice, once by volunteers and once by staff. We check the essay, the shopping cart teachers create, and the pricing of the resources. Teachers also have to sign up to the schools in our database, and we only ship funded materials to the school. We also make sure multiple teachers and administrators at each school are aware of impending shipments, to help keep additional eyes on the materials and their recipients.

While we haven’t posted a request for a vehicle yet, last year we auctioned off the '67 Firebird Jada Pinkett Smith drove in The Matrix Reloaded.

NinjaHighfive118 karma

or whatever

Dude sounds legit.

DonorsChooseDOTorg139 karma

You're right. Ok. Where should we send this car we just bought?

NinjaHighfive116 karma

Send it to me first, I'll inspect- then drive it to dhnaranjo.

DonorsChooseDOTorg175 karma

Ok sweet. We'll put our monthly bank deposit in the glovebox. Drop it off for us on your way?

BlackRaspberries197 karma

When we dropped the first $50,000 in a few hours, did you all run around desperately trying to figure out who was messing with you?

DonorsChooseDOTorg332 karma

We first noticed something was up thanks to the donation comments we feature on the right side of our homepage. We saw reddit, Colbert, and Truthiness being mentioned repeatedly and our ears perked up.

We soon read about the goal to raise $101,010 by 10/10/2010, and found it ambitious but exciting. Then y'all blew past it within 24 hours and we were indeed running around the office tripping over our dropped jaws.

squackmire171 karma

I am not a good person. I just want to see Colbert do this god damn rally.

DonorsChooseDOTorg304 karma

Your second sentence negates the first.

[deleted]165 karma

Had you guys heard of this "Reddit" thing before all this? Will you have a big presence at the rally?

DonorsChooseDOTorg260 karma

We'd definitely heard of reddit - we'd be chumps if we hadn't, right? But we had no idea the kind of generosity and enthusiasm you guys would bring to a cause like this. You 'sploded our minds, and we thank you for it!

If every DC.org employee showed up at the rally we'd still have a pretty tiny presence (we're about 50 ppl strong). But many of us are indeed planning to attend. Our CEO is going for sure, bringing his wife and 2 toddlers too!

tehc0w136 karma

do you meet and follow up with the teachers that your site support? do you have any great stories?

have you ever had a situation where you wished you didn't fund a teacher/activity?

DonorsChooseDOTorg204 karma

do you meet and follow up with the teachers that your site support?

While we don't meet each teacher in person, 3-6 weeks after materials are shipped to a classroom, the teachers follow up not just with us, but with each donor to their project - sending them photos & letters proving the impact of their gift.

do you have any great stories?

So many good stories! Last year, a 3rd grade teacher in upstate NY used DonorsChoose.org to get resources for a project to send ”pay-it-forward coupons” to 20 other classrooms across the country. The project snowballed, generating 1000+ other acts of student kindness.

have you ever had a situation where you wished you didn't fund a teacher/activity?

When screening projects posted by teachers, we don't editorialize, comment on the pedagogy, etc of the project. We want teachers to get their best ideas up on the site and then donors decide. So there are no teachers/projects that we regret from that perspective...since if the project was funded it means it resonated with donors.

We do require that all teachers who have their project funded followup promptly with donors to deliver thoughtful thank-you's and quality photos. Infrequently, teachers don't follow up promptly or provide sub-par feedback to their project's supporters. That's kind of lame so in the rare cases when it does happen, it's fair to say that we regret having helped to connect those donors to the teacher/project they supported.

jotate128 karma

Have you ever met Stephen Colbert?

And as a followup, what does he smell like?

DonorsChooseDOTorg358 karma

Yes, we’ve met Stephen a few times. We don’t want to ruin his rep, but he is a total sweetheart when he’s out of character! He’s super friendly, attentive, generous, and down to earth.

We’re glad you asked about Stephen’s smell. We’ve often remarked that he emits a heady musk of truth and freedom.

DonorsChooseDOTorg429 karma

with a dash of bacon.

makanguru107 karma

How did your servers hold up throughout our deluge? Did you have to take any measures to keep up with the increase in site visits + donations?

DonorsChooseDOTorg163 karma

All things considered I think we faired OK with the blitz of generosity, but you guys did succeed in breaking the mechanism that calculates the sum donation stats the first night and then knocked the whole site offline the next morning! I wrote up the gory details a few days ago.

Fun fact: our site's been brought down by traffic spikes maybe 4 times. Once by Oprah, but all other outages came courtesy of Colbert and his Nation. While outages always suck - we learn from them every time, and they prepare us better for any future onslaughts.

makanguru54 karma

So what did you learn from this most recent outage?

DonorsChooseDOTorg135 karma

We learned a tough lesson about making sure we have all our cache-control headers set right, and also found an obscure bug with our "impact stat" calculation that only happens when a lot of donations happen in a very short period of time. :)

tbarlow1387 karma

Good, now don't make us teach you another lesson!

DonorsChooseDOTorg154 karma

By all means, please teach us another $270K lesson!

Spidertop51 karma

Yeah, CTO. Give us your specs.

DonorsChooseDOTorg87 karma

We’re able to handle a decent amount of traffic thanks to our Akamai and Squid caches. So hits to the Restore Truthiness giving page, are mostly cache hits. However, if the caching isn’t setup right and we get pounded by traffic, things can go downhill quickly. And that’s what happened when the site got knocked over: a bot started hammering a page that wasn’t caching right. Our servers do have to process the actual donations so that’s always a potential bottleneck. However, our servers seemed to have held up well for the Restore Truthiness donations. Phew!

punkgeek95 karma

Your site is obviously influenced by kiva.org. Do you ever talk with those folks?

DonorsChooseDOTorg183 karma

We have an amazing relationship with Kiva.org, and could not be happier about it. Love them.

Someone from our org speaks with someone over there in some form probably once a week - sharing ideas, findings, or just brainstorming. We both freely admit to ripping each other's ideas off from time to time - but it's cool, we're tight like that.

witterbug76 karma


DonorsChooseDOTorg160 karma

We encourage donors to dedicate at least 13% of each donation to support the work we do to engage teachers, acquire donors, and generally run DonorsChoose.org. But it’s not required. About 3/4 of all dollars donated via the website include the optional donation, which is great. We’re super grateful to those donors for helping us pay rent!

Nobody working at DonorsChoose.org is in it for the money, that’s for sure! We’re a small ~50-person org and our efficiency has earned us the top 4-star rating from Charity Navigator each year we've been rated.

PandaWrestler72 karma

Can you name a school after Reddit, and serve nothing but bacon in the cafeteria.

DonorsChooseDOTorg75 karma

If there was a reddit push to support all the projects at a school that raised a significant amount of dough, we could surely ask!

kickme44466 karma

I live in alameda, California and we are in a really bad crisis regarding our schools. It came out last week that half of our schools might be closing. I have two small children in school and am trying to figure out how I could help the schools in a way bigger than just a personal donation.

I have 2 questions:

  1. Do you have any suggestions for what I could do to help.

  2. I run a big community here on reddit where we do the worlds biggest secret Santa (over 4000 people in 54 countries last year). Could you somehow set something special up that our community of do-gooders could help out a select number of alameda classrooms or something along these lines?

Maybe I'm grasping at straws here but I feel I'm right around the corner from needing to move to a different state.

DonorsChooseDOTorg53 karma

You can certainly speak to teachers/administrators at your school about DonorsChoose.org - to make sure they know that we are available as a resource to them. We spoke with a principal in Bklyn last week who says 100% of his budget is going to salaries this year - so their entire school is counting on us to fill the gap. If teachers there get projects posted on our site you can then create your own Giving Page, just like the Restoring Truthiness one, and fill it with Alameda projects. You can start that process right here.

pavs66 karma

1) Your project page says 65% of all project reached completion, for as long as I can remember. Is it still true or you guys forgot to update it?

2) Whats your largest single donation from an individual?

3) Whats your largest "group donation" like Restoring Truthiness Giving drive?

I think it will be nice to have a "All time leader board" of donations, it might drive more people to try even harder to reach a bigger donation goal.

DonorsChooseDOTorg121 karma

1) Your project page says 65% of all project reached completion, for as long as I can remember. Is it still true or you guys forgot to update it? That stat is not updated automatically, we probably only update it twice a year on the site. But we have colleagues watching that stat very closely day-to-day so we do know that it remains accurate and we would certainly notice if it dipped. We do have an up-to-date number that shows so far this year 72% of teachers have been successful in having a project funded. Not the same stat, but a good indicator that the number is in the right ballpark.

2) Whats your largest single donation from an individual? A few wks ago we received our largest ever gift from an individual: $1.3MM to complete every project in California! Amazing.

We also have some extremely generous individuals who donate every week without fail, and end up donating thousands of dollars every year.

However, our average donation is ~$80 and we love it when dozens of strangers make lots of small donations to bring a great project to life!

3) Whats your largest "group donation" like Restoring Truthiness Giving drive? No group has ever donated so much money so quickly to classroom projects on DonorsChoose.org as the Restore Truthiness campaign!

It’s a little bit apples-to-oranges, but the generous readers of the Tomato Nation blog donated almost $400K last year! Interestingly, they had ~1,100 donors give and you guys have rallied >6,500 which is also a record-breaker.

We also have some good men with mustaches who together donated ~$345K last year. But that’s also a a bit apples-to-oranges since they’re effectively running dozens of small fundraising campaigns, one for each mustache.

Hrodrik57 karma

Don't you think it's sad that an educational system in America has to rely on charity to have the resources required to captivate and educate the children?

DonorsChooseDOTorg88 karma

Yes. We do.

Spidertop56 karma

What was your largest request? And the most unusual?

DonorsChooseDOTorg123 karma

The average project cost is about $500, but lots of large requests come to mind.

A $30K playground for an elementary school without one. What’s recess without a slide? An $80K project for a new computer lab that tons of folks rallied around. A $20K request to help one child with special needs receive equipment necessary for them to attend school.

Loads of unique ones. Last year a classroom received a complete horse skeleton. We found that one pretty crazy/awesome.

TrentonRommy41 karma

What has been the most rewarding classroom you've helped? And what inspired you to get involved with an organization like this?

DonorsChooseDOTorg123 karma

Oliver, CTO: spent my career prior to DonorsChoose.org working on commercial Internet/software stuff. So I was looking for a way to apply the same technical skills and passion while having a social impact! DonorsChoose.org attracted me most of all because the model is so powerful, technology is central to the org's success or failure, and the team is talented and super committed. (Hope this doesn't sound too corny...but it's the truth. :)

Zach, Donor Relations Guy: I was in the music industry for a few years, but quit when I had to help market and sell a Paris Hilton record. Was looking for a less soul-feasting employer. Found one!

DonorsChooseDOTorg83 karma

A few months after Hurricane Katrina, we were able to expand our operations to service schools in the gulf coast region. Being able to help those schools - many struggling mightily before the hurricane - to re-open their doors and get back on their feet was incredibly rewarding. We were able to do this by winning a $1M grant from Amazon.com as a Non-profit Innovator of the Year.

DonorsChooseDOTorg61 karma

Jonathan, Vendor Relations Dude: I’ve been into innovative organizations since college. I ran an independent replica of DonorsChoose.org in DC, and after merging it with the mother ship, joined the team here before national expansion. Best career move I’ve made.

sleepygoldenstorm39 karma

I don't know if this has been suggested yet, since I spent an hour reading and only got through 1/4 of the comments, but what about making this kind of drive an annual reddit thing? I had so much fun picking out projects that would have inspired/excited me as a kid. I think that if it was a yearly fundraiser, I'd do it each time, with the hopes of outdoing the last one.

As a PS, my sister worked in PG County Maryland for years, and I know first hand how she struggled to get basic supplies for her classroom. Keep up the sharing and caring guys!

DonorsChooseDOTorg25 karma

Not sure if that question is for us, or for Reddit, but we'd certainly love to see it as an annual event, and would do whatever we could to support it.

Thanks for the kind words!

[deleted]36 karma

How did Colbert and DonorsChoose get connected?

bostonvaulter32 karma

Have any administrators ever blocked your path?

DonorsChooseDOTorg57 karma

Sadly, yeah. In most cases it's been someone in the district thinking it would reflect poorly on their management to have teachers going "around the system" to get things they need.

On the contrary, though, when administrators embrace us as an org they benefit immensely. One school in Brooklyn makes an announcement over their intercom each time a teacher has a new project funded. There isn't a teacher there who isn't aware of us, and most of them have classrooms filled with things they've received thanks to our kind donors.

roland19d29 karma

The project I initially selected for my donation did not reach its funding goal before the deadline. The follow-up email I received indicated this happens in one out of every ten projects and that I would need to either select and second project or your organization would choose one for me. I guess my question boils down to: What happens to projects that don't meet their goals by their specified target date? Are they resubmitted or is that end of them?

DonorsChooseDOTorg50 karma

If a project expires without being fully funded, it is removed from the site and its supporters are asked to choose how they’d like their donations to be spent (as you describe). The teacher can post new requests to the site and if they want, they can request the same resources a second time. However, we do gently discourage teachers from doing so because “the market has spoken” and the project won’t be any more likely to succeed the second time around, especially if it was challenged by a very high price tag. We do give teachers advice on what sorts of projects are most likely to be fully funded…for example, if they keep their project price tag <$400 then there’s a 75% chance it’ll be completed.

wildncrazyguy29 karma

I donated by credit card for the convenience factor, but it somewhat bothers me that some CC company may have profited from my donation. Is there a preferred method to donate? Which method gives the most bang for our bucks?

DonorsChooseDOTorg43 karma

Everyone charges a little bit. That's what we get for not being a bank, I guess. The differences via payment method aren't huge - but giving by CC is actually probably the lowest cost to us. Sorry if that makes you feel dirty.

Pyar2318 karma

I'm surprised that these companies don't make an exception for non-profits/charities.

DonorsChooseDOTorg69 karma

Are you that surprised??

joeyconrad29 karma

Just wanted to say fantastic work (and pimp my wife's project that predated all this since she could not figure out how to get it to fall under the "Restore Truthiness" page)


40percent76 karma

If you add the parameter challengeid=39361 to any project, it seems to associate it with thruthiness i.e.:


However, you'll have to do this to another project because I just funded this one.

Can DC confirm this will work?

DonorsChooseDOTorg33 karma

Yes, this will work.

Another way: Start on the Restore Truthiness page, click on our logo in the upper left, click on search projects, and then find a project that speaks to you.

scurvy_pirate4327 karma

What kinds of things would you like to see happen with the eduction system to make a great organization like yours unnecessary?

DonorsChooseDOTorg38 karma

We like to say that our mission is to “improve public education by empowering every teacher to be a change-maker and enabling any citizen to be a philanthropist.” And our vision is “a nation where students in every community have the resources they need to learn.”

If there was a large systemic change that enabled every teacher to be an innovator and that ensured all students got the necessary learning resources, we would happily shut our doors and go play in the park. :) But that amount of change isn’t on the horizon, though many people are working on it. Until then we’ll keep doing what we can.

Deadly_Fruit_Medley20 karma

Thoughts on a .npo (instead of .org) to help folks easily find legitimate non-profits...

DonorsChooseDOTorg26 karma

It's an interesting idea, but a new TLD wouldn't really go toooo far towards helping people sort through all the NFPs out there. We think sites like Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and BBB's Give.org do a pretty good job of helping folks out in that dept.

Spidertop20 karma

How do you prioritize the requests? And what is the geographic breakdown of your recipients?

DonorsChooseDOTorg38 karma

There are ~15,000 worthy requests on the site at any moment, so it’s difficult to prioritize. We let the public decide what gets funded, but our project search functionality gives an edge to projects from high-poverty schools.

Here are some sweet and nerdy stats showing our impact. You can use the dropdown menu in the upper left to take a look at our impact in every state, year by year. We’ve served 1 in 3 public schools, all across the country. This page will also show you where our donors are from; we’ve gotten tons of new ones thanks to you folks.

And if you want to see where classroom projects in need of funding are from, head to our search page and click on location to see counts of where projects originate.

archanoid17 karma


DonorsChooseDOTorg17 karma

In general, the best way to help is to spread the word so that more folks learn about DonorsChoose.org. In the Do More section of our site you’ll see specific suggestions to help out by sending email, speaking up on Facebook and Twitter, giving DonorsChoose.org gift cards to friends/family, getting your employer involved, telling more teachers, etc, etc.

Kayge17 karma

Any chance of expanding to Canada?

If not, why not?
If so, can we help?

DonorsChooseDOTorg23 karma

We have no plans to grow internationally right now, as we're focused on maximizing our efforts here - and we've got a ways to go still.

But we are committed to sharing best practices and lessons learned with folks that are interested in starting up nonprofits of a similar ilk or in other fields/countries. If you or someone you know falls into this category feel free to get in touch.

fswmacguy17 karma

If you could estimate, about how many teachers do you help each year?

DonorsChooseDOTorg27 karma

Some estimates: About 139,989 teachers have posted projects. This school year, 16,438 new teachers have posted projects (it’s early yet). Last school year, 34,613 new teachers submitted requests.

IRageAlot15 karma

Are you ever concerned that administrative departments will pick up on what you are doing and intentionally not supply a particular item to their teachers in hopes that you will foot the bill?

Are there safeguards lined up to stop people from this kind of abusive behavior? It would seem the me that the only bargaining chip would be the children not getting what they need, and who would want to bargain with that. Would they have you buy the balls if they abused this?

DonorsChooseDOTorg18 karma

We're not really concerned about that, no.

But, you know, we see about 65% of projects reach full funding on our site. So if an administrator is willing to gamble their students' success on that ratio, chances are that is a horribly run school or district that could really use some help. That's Donor Relations Guy's opinion, at least.

notBornInTheUSA13 karma

We'll have folks stopping by throughout the day to answer questions

what are you talking about? it's like 19:16....

DonorsChooseDOTorg15 karma

Are we invited over for dinner?

[deleted]13 karma

How does one get involved in the 'giving money away' business? Are most of you guys career nonprofit people, or are some of you trying to make up for years of bilking people for all they're worth, etc.?

DonorsChooseDOTorg24 karma

One way is to get super rich and start doling it out as you see fit. Try that first, maybe.

At our org, we have several people who banked some decent money in the for-profit world, then decided they could comfortably take a paycut in order to do some social good. Others came here straight from college, knowing they wanted to dedicate their lives to serving others. A few of us are somewhere in the middle.

itsnotlupus12 karma

How easy is it for a teacher to put a request for materials provided by a vendor you don't currently work with?

DonorsChooseDOTorg21 karma

Teachers new to DonorsChoose.org can request resources from our 19 partner vendors (such as Best Buy, Lakeshore Learning, or Barnes & Noble), which offer a big range of products so teachers’ imaginations can run wild with project ideas.

After teachers have gotten two projects funded and become familiar with our process, they can request items from nearly any company or store.

We set up things this way because we have some really unique operational needs and this allows us to be scalable as we grow (we’d otherwise have to manage relationships with hundreds and hundreds of companies). But we also want teachers to get as creative as they want with the projects they want to bring to life with their students.

cheez0r10 karma

Thanks to your entire staff for the hard work you do for such a good cause. You've probably got better karma than 99+% of other redditors- and I don't mean comment karma. :)

How gratifying is it to be engaged in a business you know directly benefits the needy?

DonorsChooseDOTorg16 karma

It’s very gratifying. Most of us went to public schools and had lots of resources and opportunities. It’s fun knowing you’re helping other students get what they need to learn. When we get old, we’ll be depending on the next generation, anyway.

We can't thank reddit enough for what you've done, either. It has excited and energized our entire staff this past week - and shows no sign of stopping!

beeeees10 karma

i too am in awe of the generousity of us redditors, even though i participated in the donating! i hope we inspire others to do the same.

when donating, i was clicking around the site, and i did notice that some of the projects were centered around more of a "want" than a "need." for example, teachers asking for donations of a smartboard or other expensive and i would definitely say superfluous technology - do you have any kind of system to weed out projects like this when another teacher is asking for paper towels?

or do you really just let the "donors choose"?

someone mentioned their project didn't reach their goal in the amount of time - what percentage of projects fall into that category?

thanks for doing this AMA :)

DonorsChooseDOTorg13 karma

Well, we do just let the "donors choose," but we try to help folks like you by tagging every classroom project as either "essential" or "enrichment." You'll find that distinction on our "Projects" search page by accessing "More Criteria." Sounds like you'll want to apply the "essentials" filter.

Last time we ran the numbers ~35% of projects expire without full funding.