Charles Best Profile

  • Charles Best is the pioneer of crowdfunding and the founder of DonorsChoose, a nonprofit organization that has inspired 5 million people to give $1.3 billion to fund 2 million classroom requests created by public school teachers

  • Former Bronx teacher and social entrepreneur

  • Charles Best is a gripping storyteller and nationally recognized innovator

  • Living proof that one man can, if he is passionate enough, make a difference, Charles Best combines education, philanthropy and technology in all that he does; how many speakers do you know who allow the audience to choose how his fee is spent? From high school students to top-level businessmen, nobody can fail to be inspired by Charles’ endeavors.

    Working as a teacher at a Bronx public high school, Charles decided to address educational inequity by launching DonorsChoose.all, a non-profit organization which allows teachers to request funding for classroom projects. To date, more than 50% of America’s public schools have created at least one classroom project request, leading to over a million people donating $200 million. This money has helped 10 million students, mainly in low-income communities, to access books, art supplies, information technology and other resources.

    Fast Company nominated as one of its “50 Most Innovative Companies in the World,” making it the first charitable organization to do so. Oprah Winfrey described the organization as one of her “Ultimate Favorite Things.” On a personal level, Charles has been included in Fortune magazine’s “40 under 40 hottest rising stars in business.”

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      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, 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, 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. 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.”

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    Charles Best's Speech Descriptions

    Charles tells the inspiring story of how, as a 24 year old public school teacher in the Bronx, he came up with the model of giving which The New York Times has described as “the future of philanthropy.” He tells of his mistakes, his inspirations and the many poignant stories he has encountered along the way.

    Charles outlines how organizations such as his,, along with others such as Kickstarter and Etsy, have changed the paradigms for those who have good ideas they wish to bring to life. He demonstrates how the “gatekeepers” can no longer stand in your way if you wish to innovate. An innovator himself, Charles gives every member of his audience a DonorsChoose gift card (paid for by his speaker’s fee) that allows them to become involved in helping students in need themselves.

    Although is a charitable organization, the lessons Charles has to teach concerning crowd funding, crowd sourcing, integrity insurance and data management are applicable to any company who is interested in tapping the immense resources of the Internet community.

    The Birth of Crowdfunding and The Wisdom of the Front Lines

    When Charles Best launched DonorsChoose out of a Bronx high school back in 2000, “crowdfunding” wasn’t even a word. Today, DonorsChoose is the most trusted way to give to public school classrooms, and crowdfunding has become the go-to vehicle for people to finance ideas, to kickstart creative projects, and to fund individual needs.

    Charles shares how it all began at a Bronx public high school where he taught history, and how his fledgling nonprofit—still operating out of his classroom and staffed by his students--was catapulted by Oprah Winfrey.

    He explains how he built DonorsChoose into a nonprofit platform that has inspired 5 million people—and companies of all sizes--to give $1.3 billion to fund 2 million classroom requests from teachers across America, and he shares the organization’s explicit focus on equity in American education.

    Charles believes that the frontline wisdom of teachers enables them to come up with the most effective solutions for their students, and he argues that there are many more arenas—not just public schools--where the closer someone is to the front lines, the smarter their ideas will be. He shares new research from the University of Michigan showing that funding teachers’ classroom requests is a hugely effective way to lift student learning, research which indicates that organizations in all sectors can tap the wisdom of the front lines and thereby accelerate innovation.

    Charles puts that credo into practice by giving DonorsChoose gift cards (underwritten by his speaker’s fee) to audience members, inviting them to choose classroom requests to support and to hear back directly from the teachers and students they choose to help.

    The Art of the Ask

    In 2000, Charles Best was a high school history teacher when he launched DonorsChoose as a simple way for anyone to help a classroom in need. Since then, he and his team have inspired 5 million people and partners to give $1.3 billion to fund 2 million classroom requests from teachers across America, turning DonorsChoose into the most trusted platform for giving to public schools.

    To get to that scale, Charles made bold asks:

    -Inspiring Oprah Winfrey to name DonorsChoose as one of her “ultimate favorite things.”
    -Working with Stephen Colbert to fund all the classroom requests in his home state of South Carolina, and using that gift to inspire 50 more celebrities—from Serena Williams to Elon Musk—to fund all the classroom requests in their home towns.
    –Sending a cold email to a blockchain entrepreneur asking for $29 million to fund every single classroom request on DonorsChoose, which worked.
    -Unlocking millions of small donations by developing algorithms that would recommend just the right classroom request to each donor—for example, by matching donors with teachers who share the same last name (which turns out to be even more powerful than geo-targeting).
    -Showing companies how they could engage customers, earn media coverage, and build brand equity by supporting public school classrooms through DonorsChoose.

    Before telling the stories behind each of those asks, Charles shares how he made one ask that went horribly awry. He goes on to share the principles that have enabled him to get to “yes” and how those principles can be applied by product, marketing, branding, communications, business development, and sales teams.

    Finally, Charles gives DonorsChoose gift cards (underwritten by his speaker’s fee) to audience members and makes an ask of them: to choose a classroom dream to bring to life.

    What People are Saying about Seeing Charles Speak

    Rating Entries

    “Charles joined us for our Spring Customer Advisory Board meeting where he partnered with our Chief Research Officer for a discussion around Generation Alpha. Charles provided real-life experience to a conversation underpinned by our audience data and it was a truly wonderful pairing. We were blown away by Charles’ understanding of our needs, his charisma in the room and his insight into this extremely interesting and unique topic. Charles was great to work with, generous and extremely thoughtful in his presentation – I wish he could speak with us at every event we have coming up throughout the year!”
    — GWI

    “Charles Best represents all that you hope for in a keynote speaker. His work through 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

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