"Two decades ago, as a 23-year-old history and English teacher at Wings Academy in the Bronx, Charles Best noticed he was spending a lot of his $30,000 salary on school supplies. The public high school was a bright place in a newish building, but copy paper was often rationed and teachers with ideas for science experiments or art projects usually had to fund them themselves. During his 5 a.m. excursions to Staples to photocopy pages of 'Little House on the Prairie' for his class, Mr. Best began dreaming of a website that would invite donors to help pay for the books and field trips that he and his colleagues wanted for their students. In 2000, he founded the nonprofit DonorsChoose, initially running it out of his classroom.Since then, DonorsChoose has raised over $1.1 billion to support 2 million projects in public schools across the country. Because the organization vets requests and purchases the materials or services itself, it has become a rare 'force for equity in crowdfunding,' says Mr. Best, 45, over the phone from his home in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife, Bridget, and their two children. 'A teacher does not have to have friends with money or students with money to get a classroom dream funded,' he explains, noting that most of the projects serve students from low-income communities and around three-quarters of the funds raised on the site come from sources teachers don’t know personally. Four out of five public schools in America have a teacher who has posted a request on DonorsChoose."
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