The Magic of DonorsChoose — Join Me and Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian for Dinner

62 Comments is the first charity named to Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World.

I dislike most non-profits because — good intentions aside — they get little or no results.

DonorsChoose, on the other hand, is incredibly effective. In this month’s Vanity Fair, Melinda Gates describes them as “Kickstarter for classrooms.” Here’s her short article, which includes a photo spread by Annie Leibovitz. I make a guest appearance, which was a dream come true.

Here’s why I’m on their advisory board: To me, poor education is the root cause of most of our problems. DonorsChoose (DC) is helping to fix education.

This post launches a competition. If you’ve ever benefited from anything I’ve written, I’d kindly ask you to participate.

The four winners will get flown to dinner with me, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and DonorsChoose’s founder, Charles Best. Roundtrip economy airfare to/from NYC is covered for all four winners.

Ready? Here are the details…

· TIMING: Monday, May 13 through June 3. This is a three-week campaign of goodness.

· PRIZES: The top two “fundraisers,” as well as two randomly chosen “donors,” will win dinner in NYC (or San Francisco) with Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, founder Charles Best, and me. Roundtrip economy airfare is covered.

· HOW TO WIN: There are two ways to win — roll the dice, or be master of your own fate.

Random shot:

Step 1: Donate to a classroom on my Giving Page here. For bonus points and good karma, share the link far and wide:

Step 2: Cross your fingers! Once the campaign ends, will select and announce two random winner(s) who donated to my page.

Master your own fate — make dinner happen:

Step 1: Create your own “Giving Page,” by choosing the “4-Hour Chef” category from this page.

Step 2: Add a picture, description, and classroom projects to your page. Choose whichever projects you like. This will automatically add your Giving Page to my Leaderboard.

Step 3: If you like, add the 4-Hour Chef widget (on the “Create a Giving Page”) to your website, etc.

Step 4: Fundraise! Do your best to get the most donors and/or the most money into classrooms. There will be two “master of fate” winners: 1) most money raised, and 2) most donors on your page.


Please note: This competition is about being resourceful… and not about how many resources you personally have. So, don’t be intimidated.

I’ve run online fundraisers in the past, and the McGyvers win more often than the Donald Trumps. Be bold and get creative.

Hope to raise a glass of wine to you soon :)

Go get it!


(532) Tim Ferriss

Posted on: May 13, 2013.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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62 comments on “The Magic of DonorsChoose — Join Me and Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian for Dinner

  1. I love this challenge. Our education system is still stuck in the industrial age, but soon due to groups like, Duolingo, CourseEra, and Imagination Foundation a big reformation in our education system is coming. I’m IN


    • DuoLingo ist spitze! I also love .. Saved my ass in Vector Calculus and Differential Equations 4 years ago


  2. Great contest. I share your thoughts on non-profits and their effectiveness. You nailed it when saying this is both direct and accountable, wonderful recipe! Excited to check it out.


  3. Good stuff! So are you guys doing another “random” episode or do 2 random winners provide for enough randomness? :)



  4. Tim,
    Although I agree that many nonprofits do not get “results”, I wanted to mention that there has been a positive shift towards implementing evidence-based education reforms. Social and Emotional Learning curriculum are a perfect example,

    DonorsChoose is a fantastic method for providing teachers with resources. However, resources are only one of many tools that is needed, in order to “fix” our education. I bring this up not to knock on the organization, rather to pose a challenge to you.

    Resources are great, but great teachers are even better. Teaching, behavior management, and engaging with youth is a skill-set just like cooking, tango, and jiu jitsu. I think it’d be something worth trying for you. It’d further prove your meta-learning model and if it worked, could be turned into an evidence-based intervention. Especially considering that you think poor education plays such a vital role in the world’s social problems.


    • Danny,

      I agree great teachers are the answer to a lot of the problems in education. However, teaching is also a talent and when combined with skills and knowledge form the foundation for truly outstanding teaching. I do like your challenge for Tim. However, I doubt the time commitment would work for him.


      • Dave,
        I agree that some people seem to just be born with an innate energy, empathy, and clarity in their communication that is perfect for teaching young people. However, those are the outliers. I’m referring to the 90% of average and bad teachers out there.

        I work at an organization that trains teachers from underperforming schools as well as facilitates outdoor education for many schools in NYC. After you observe enough teachers and administrators you can almost immediately differentiate the good from the bad. It has nothing to do with their comprehensive knowledge of the subject, the true measure of a teacher’s overall impact on their students derives from the strong relationships they build with them, setting and maintaining high expectations, and structuring events appropriately. These are all skills that can be chunked into specific behaviors and any teacher can develop them if they have the right mindset.


  5. Ran across your blog for the first time today, and I do have to say good stuff. Just wanted to offer a bit of constructive criticism, and note that the title of your post is grammatically incorrect; “Join Me and Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian for Dinner” should say “Join Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian and Me for Dinner.” Grammatically-speaking, you should always put yourself second (it’s the polite thing to do). And you seem like a polite man.


  6. You are working for a great cause! Donors Choose is taking great initiative for helping to fix education and inducing fantastic method for providing teachers with resources. Looking foward for the contest result!


  7. What do you mean exactly by “little or no results”? I agree that many nonprofits are a bit inefficient. But I think in today’s world the word “results” is used very casually. A large corporation gets “results” when it sells more plastic things to people. A person gets “results” if he convinces someone to buy a product he doesn’t need. I think the world needs real results, and some nonprofits are at least trying for the right kind of results. I think two problems however are that a) some are inefficient and b) they mostly depend on money that originates in the business world, making them ultimately dependent on that world. I’m not trying to be a pest here, just curious what you meant by that brief comment.


  8. Good stuff, sounds like a great plan.

    “I dislike most non-profits because — good intentions aside — they get little or no results.”

    Same here. That’s why I’m a big fan of the “social entrpreneurship” movement – for-profit companies with real passion behind them and goal to work and build up impoverished communities have the power to change the world.


  9. Hope it’s not inappropriate for me to mention this here, but if it is okay, I wanted to mention that I created a Collection on Medium where I will be writing about my experiences with this contest. If anyone wants to contribute, too, please feel free to join me here:

    Also, is there a good short hashtag to use for this contest? I was thinking that #DonorsChooseHealth could work but might be too long? Suggestions? Also, I’m open to any collective McGyver-ish activities that anyone might like to try, and having a common hashtag to use might be a good way to help us find each other? Thoughts? Thanks! :)


  10. “I dislike most non-profits because — good intentions aside — they get little or no results.”

    Tim – I’ve benefitted from your books and generally agree with you on most issues, but wow! – that’s a shitty, snobby (except for the non-profit whose BOD I happen to be on!) and quite uneducated thing to say. As someone who has worked for environmental non-profits for the past two decades, I can honestly say that my dedicated, hard-working and under-compensated colleagues are the only answer we have towards thwarting unfettered corporate greed dominating every aspect of our society. I’m quite sure you have not thoroughly analyzed the track records of “most” of the non-profits doing great work out there, so let’s try and take it easy on the sweeping generalities and be positive towards those who are trying to make a difference in their respective careers.


    • David,
      I don’t know Tim… never heard of him. Like you, I’ve been involved with NPO’s for more than 25 years. I wasn’t offended in the slightest. The difference may be that my involvement has always been pro bono.
      I believe that everyone understands that NPO’s are businesses, and they do the very best they can with what they have.
      I read it… and interpreted it as a rally cry to incite people to participate.
      Individuals take BOD positions because we are passionate about the goal of the NPO. Again, I don’t know Tim, but it sounds like he’s passionate about the goal of Donor’s Choose. Personally, I’d like to give this young man a hug for stepping up. With a few more like him, you and I could retire knowing that the next generation is there to carry on where we left off.
      Yes, I know what you do in our community and I sincerely appreciate it. Read it again from the view of the NextGen and see if it might give it a different perspective of intent.
      I believe there was no malice here.


  11. When I saw this email, I was really keen to give it a try, but as I am travelling through Thailand at the moment, and not sure when the dinner is, I am concerned that even if I was able to win, I wouldn’t be in the USA at the time (I’m actually Australian to make it more complicated!)

    When will the dinner be? Where will the dinner be?