Entrepreneurship at its best

Channeling dollars to our public schools

While attending a conference in Texas last winter, I heard Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose, speak about the trajectory of this influential crowdfunding platform that has been operating since 2000 as a means to help public school teachers fund classroom projects. For the 500 attendees at the conference, Best presented each with a $50 coupon to try the site and allocate the dollars to a project that inspired them.

Given that I am passionate about helping students develop their problem solving skills and build the entrepreneurial mindset, I applied my dollars to a teacher’s project in Parma where she has been raising funds to create a modest makerspace for 250 grades 3-5 students utilizing 3-D printing technology. Once I had deployed my gift card, I was hooked. A couple days later, I made a personal donation to bring the project that much closer to fruition. Happily, Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers matched both of my donations. In nine days, this Parma teacher raised $720 from nine donors. By the end of May, she had reached her goal (with a little more help from me) and the project was off and running. Once the project is in operation in the fall, I will hear from students in the classroom about how things are going in their makerspace and what cool things they are creating.

Creating connections

Since DonorsChoose was founded, this nonprofit has engaged more than 2.5 million donors, funded more than 900,000 public school classroom projects and reached nearly 23 million students. DonorsChoose operates with a mission focused on, “connecting the public to public schools.” This organization facilitates donations for, “anyone to help a classroom in need, moving us closer to a nation where students in every community have the tools and experiences they need for a great education.”

DonorsChoose provides a dynamic platform through which individuals can fund all sorts of classroom projects that advance learning objectives, including those that introduce young people to the maker culture, innovation and entrepreneurship. A Burton D. Morgan Foundation grant will support Charles Best as a speaker at Northeast Ohio’s ENSPIRE Entrepreneurship Educators Conference (youngentrepreneurinstitute.org) scheduled for November 3-4, where he will share his changemaker story about the evolution of DonorsChoose.

Inspiring our next generation

As a funder of entrepreneurship initiatives across the Northeast Ohio region, Burton D. Morgan Foundation is working to bring about systemic changes so that all students can have an introduction to the entrepreneurial way of thinking and begin to chart their paths to the future. While we are addressing this challenge on a macro level, individual donors can step up on a micro level to see that classrooms have the equipment and supplies they need to make a difference. DonorsChoose (donorschoose.org) is an ideal vehicle through which we can all play a role inspiring our next generation of entrepreneurs.

I now feel a sense of ownership of the mini-makerspace in Parma that I helped to establish and can’t wait to see what these budding innovators design!

Deborah D. Hoover, president and CEO of The Burton D. Morgan Foundation, is committed to building the capacity of Northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.