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

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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63 Replies to “The Magic of DonorsChoose — Join Me and Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian for Dinner”

  1. Always looking for good causes to donate to and DonorsChoose is a great way to do it. Love the chance of winning a dinner, too!

  2. 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

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

  3. 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.

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



  5. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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! 🙂

  11. I donated as a way to pay you back for all of your writings, Tim! 🙂 Keep up the great work! I hope i win.

  12. “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.

    1. 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.


  13. Books ARE for reading … LOL, that was great …. great inspirational contest … thinking … thinking …

  14. 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?

  15. This is terrific!! have already Tweeted, FBd etc.

    I so agree that improving education improves the world.

    Just FYI, a highly effective arts education fund endorsed by Sir Ken Robinson, international advisor on non-profits in arts and education–is the Lily Grace Sarah Fund.

    I have no affiliation with this fund whatsoever, just very much admire what a single father, Matthew Badger, created in honor of his three daughters, and only children, lost in the Christmas Eve fire in Stamford, Conn. along with their grandparents. And what’s been achieved in such a short time.

    Here’s their site for any with a specific interest in arts in schools:

    This is great to know about. Thank you!

  16. Tim: I was pretty excited to hear about this. Kickstarter fan. However, I was dismayed to see the lack of imagination displayed in the classroom projects.

    Let’s just give everybody an iPad and get on with it. (I do like the iTable project). Most Kickstarter projects are trivial and raise little $$. Some are genius and raise the big bucks. Still looking for the genius Donors Choose project.

      1. Scott!

        A heartfelt thank you for not only taking a look, but for investing in this amazing project!

        These children are blown away because strangers are helping them. So many teachers tell me how the kids cheer when their project receives a donation. Many of them place a push pin on the map to show where the donation came from.

        I have a feeling that one day, these kids will pay it forward.


      2. Scott,

        Thank you for being one of the 151 donors that met on this playground in Hawaii. I’m sure that by now you realize what can happen when teachers dream for our kids. Over $111,000 raised to build a playground that will inspire kids for generations.


    1. Scott, I am a teacher and have 94 classroom projects funded. I have traveled around the U,S. helping teachers rebuild their classroom after natural disasters with I have helped raise over a million dollars for schools affected by tornados, hurricanes, floods etc. You don’t have to ask for a lot of money to make a difference. Take a look at one of my recent projects – I consistently take kids who are non-verbal to verbal in the course of a school year and reading by kindergarten. I could not do that without the help I get from donors. By the way…I have two iPads, Touch Screen Computers, and an Interactive Board. Technology is essential in every classroom and school districts don’t have the money to fix leaks in roofs let alone technology, Did you know that most third graders are required to take Standards of Learning Tests for their State on a computer. If the kids are not computer literate by kindergarten we are in trouble. Take a look at this project…it is one of many that has introduced STEM to my preschoolers.

  17. Dear Tim, Thanks for everything you do. You’ve certainly made my life richer. That said, I’m curious is there is any evidence that is efficient or effective at making lasting changes in students lives? I’ve read the DC “about” and “impact” pages which only seems to demonstrate that donors find the idea of donating things to class-rooms compelling. It does not contain any information that such donations affect things like graduation rates, test scores, incarceration rates, life satisfaction scores, employment rates, income rates, etc., etc.

    What makes for a productive and satisfying life and the role that eduction plays in guiding our young people there is complicated, I’m sure. Still, I would have more confidence in DonorsChoose if they were attempting to illuminate such things. In the mean time, I’m not sure that sifting through DC projects is a great use of laypeople’s time and actually making donations is a productive use of limited funds.

    Paul Tough’s book, “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” seems like it might provide some answers.

    Sincere regards,


    1. Hi Ben,

      I am an Early Childhood Special Education teacher. I have 94 funded projects through The amazing resources provided by generous donors has allowed me to create a state of the art preschool in a public school system. These resources help me bring 2-5 year old children with special needs from non-verbal to verbal with a school year and most are reading by the time they enter kindergarten.I have data showing how specific interventions – using DonorsChoose,org projects helped my student achieve mastery on annual goals and objectives. I believe in this organization so much that I have traveled around the U,S, to natural disaster areas (Joplin, Louisa County, VA, Rockaway, Queens, Staten Island etc, and have helped raise over a million dollars to help teachers replace classroom resources destroyed in natural disasters. If you search my name you can find a lot of media on my involvement with (Debby Guardino) By the way you don’t have to look through tons of projects. There is an excellent search engine that allows you to sort by state, city, poverty level, subject etc. Super easy to find projects that appeal to you or you could help a teacher in Joplin, NY, or NJ rebuild their classroom.

  18. Just as another POV for folks…….. my wife is an art teacher in a “disadvantaged” school, and she has used DonorsChoose several times for things in her classroom. The administration is judged on the 3R’s…… so even though there is a fair amount of data on the arts helping people to learn other subjects better, admin will always cut art and music, and emphasize that which they are judged on. Social darwinism at play in education, if you will….. So even if you don’t really care about DonorsChoose or education, care about the arts. Even if it isn’t for Tim’s page, or the dinner, or any of that- find an art teacher and donate for music, or drawing, or weaving. Those are not “easy” classes to get you to graduation- they help to develop ALL of your brain. We need creative people coming out of the schools, and this is an easy way to help that skill be developed.

  19. I love DonorsChoose. My company has been working with them for years, and they do a great job of supporting new ideas in education. Think I’ll pass on this one though; other people need this more than I do.

  20. Is there anyway to see the “master your own fate” leaderboard for this specific donation competition?

  21. What about including a third category?

    1) Most members

    2) Most raised

    3) Most students impacted

    The more the merrier. 🙂

  22. If you’re looking at Tim’s post and thinking “I can’t do this” or “I’ll never win this contest,” stop for a minute and recognize that you can make a difference for these students. I’ve been reading Tim’s articles, books, interviews and I never really knew what in this world would gave me internal motivation to take action at something – anything. Well this post helped me find it!

    You will “win” this contest by simply spreading the word about helping schools in need and DonorsChoose is the easiest way (I’ve come across). My motivation for this contest is my wife who is an elementary teacher. I’m helping my home state of Indiana and getting as many people involved as possible. Start small and you will feel great knowing that you helped someone 🙂

    Side Note: Helping others is a great confidence booster! I’ve gotten over my shyness, laziness, and passivity by asking for donations. The point of this exercise, in my opinion, is not just getting donations, but getting over your fear to try something new. Thanks again Tim!

  23. Question for Tim or the masses,

    I trust the credibility of Tim from the 3 books I own and advice which I have followed to great success.

    Mold is bugging me.

    So many conflicting reports on the web with seemingly no quantitative data or credible metrics.

    Who can realistically say why/what mold is bad in your house? How to fix it? If it is in fact bad at all? What is the frickin deal with this?

    Also, it is common knowledge (multiple non-related primary sources) that you acquire allergies in Austin in 3-5 years. Based on pubmed, this makes no sense and all the blogish explanations make so sense.

    It’s up to the people I trust – Tim and us the readers – to at least address this topic which so so badly deserves the attention. I’m a serious journalist/scientist/actual person. Hit me up


    1. Dan,

      Thanks for your post on mold. I am living in Taiwan with similar concerns about allergies, effects on health, and most importantly: what actions to take.

      Have you found anything useful since posting this comment? Not sure that Tim is going to address such a specific problem and I’ve found little else on it from him (though I was hoping to find more). Let’s put our minds together and see what other conclusions we can draw. feel free to contact me: @kingpreface or just reply to this comment. Thanks.

  24. Tim, Just wanted to say I read (well read part of 4 HB) last week. I started on the new eating regimen ( I don’t see this as a diet) on Monday. I didn’t have access to a body fat measurement but I can tell you that at 47 and 5’10” I have weighed 190 lbs for the past 8 months and nothing was working and I run 3 – 5 times a week and regularly workout 3 other days a week. I am active and I watch what I eat, so I thought. So stating on Monday I followed the new regimen and today, Saturday morning I checked my weight. 184.6. I have lost 1″ off my waist and on Friday I ran 3 miles faster than I have in years. I have incorporated the kettle bell workout but no other workouts.

    While on my run I got to thinking, There should be an IPAD app to incorporate the 4HB activities and track them.

    Oh yeah, I have been stuffing my face nightly with grass fed lamb and beef. Helps to have a family member who owns a farm raising organic grass fed lamb and beef.

  25. Tim

    2 quick questions:

    1) Have you seen the documentary “Waiting for Superman?” It focuses on the plight of the american school system.

    2) Have you read Super Freakononomics? They make a great point about how learning rates between wealthy and un-wealthy children did not alter during the school year; the sticking point was how much their parents engaged them during their summer holidays. While addressing the school system is absolutely vital (see the documentary above), should we also be focusing on where it starts; at home?

    1. Excellent questions Graham!

      First, I need to say that I am not employed in the education field, nor am I employed as a lobbyist for any corporation that has an interest in increasing the bottom line for shareholders. I’m employed in the retail food industry. (Tim… I hope that covers disclosure.)

      I attended public schools, as did my wife, my children, and my grandchildren. I support because I believe our schools need to remain public. Sure, we could choose to wash our hands of an ever increasing shortfall in public schools and move to charter schools, but is that really the answer? I think that you and I both know that when we invest, we expect a return on that investment. Do you want to transfer the responsibility of the education of your great grandchildren to a corporation? I don’t. If you do, then stop reading here.

      When we grew up, we didn’t have the technology that is available today. We also had a parent at home. Today, in the vast majority of households, both parents are employed outside of the home just to make ends meet.

      My children always had the support of two parents while they were in school. We supported the school, the teachers, and most of all, we supported our kids. Yes, I believe parental interaction plays an integral role in how our children absorb what we feed them but as outsiders we will never be able to draw today’s parent to the table to buy in for the future of our children.

      Graham, that is why it is critically important that you and I support our teachers today, We can give them what they need to make learning fun, interesting and exciting.

      Teachers today have become in essence surrogate parents. They teach morals, values, and manners, as well as STEM and the arts. I’m not here to find fault or place blame. We created the problem, and we are the only ones that can fix it.

      Over the last few years I have interacted with classrooms and teachers across the country. It didn’t start out that way. I was just a donor sprinkling a couple dollars to help classrooms get what they needed to survive. With the Internet, I researched until I found some of these teachers. …and Now… The Rest of The Story… for those that remember one of our generations greatest radio personalities. Paul Harvey inspired me to listen to the story, then interact, engage, ask questions, and find the rest of the story.

      For the fact checkers, I don’t have statistics… I don’t need them to know how my investment is doing. My goal was to invest in the future… our children. The constant feedback from teachers reassures me that my dollar was wisely invested.

      There have been a few negative comments in this feed and I am deeply saddened to see the real voice of the public. Our perception is swayed by corporations and their lobbyist’s. I have two questions… Are you willing you turn the education of our children over to a corporation? Are You The One to change the path of our children? As one, each of us hold the future in our hands. We have no one to blame but ourselves in the decision we make.


      1. Graham. being from the generation facing extinction, I have no idea what h.a.m. is. Again, I’m not placing blame, I’m only accepting the consequences of our collective society. I played a part in where we are today. This is not a personal attack. I am by no means a warrior capable of striking and moving forward. Your questions were genuine, and I appreciate that. I do believe that if each of us shared our background and motive, everyone would benefit.

  26. That Quarterly box gave me an option for $20 to Donors- so I used it on Tims page. Already did $100 to my wifes art projects, so……..

    Hope this puts someone or something over the top!

  27. This is just another great example of how the majority of great ideas and solutions are cultivated outside of government.

  28. This is for the 36 years young birthday/charity water program.

    I have heard about charity water for some years now and I constantly post about it to thousands of LinkedIn connections in addition to Facebook and other social media outlets. Often, people don’t really appreciate what they have until they lose it. However, with charity water, they are helping people who have never had. The business model is exemplary since most charity’s are not able to give 100 percent of the donations to charity.

    I recently used some credit card points to donate to another such organization, I would have preferred charity water but it wasn’t an option.

    If I were to win a trip anywhere in the world I would choose a place where I can both gain knowledge and idea’s and be able to reciprocate as well. (The law of reciprocity) Giving the place I visit a way to benefit from my going there. Although having dinner and meeting with Tim is very tempting! To expand upon my entrepreneurial spirit.

    A person is a accumulation of they have done until now. All experiences, knowledge, relationships etc.

    It is important to live and leave a positive impact wherever one chooses to be in life. In this instance, the positive impact can last for generations.

  29. To me, education means . . . That it (academic or life) provides an individual with experience and knowledge that help in lateral and critical thinking. This can be used for a career focus or reaching other personal goals and aspirations. But most importantly it will widen ones horizon to posibilities and openmindedness. Hopefully it will also make one realize how much there is to learn and that could have a rather humbeling effect making one a more collected and positive person.

    With out education I could not have done the following to promote the


    I created a Blog post How do you feel when you are thirsty?

    This Blog is backlinked to a wide network of social media and serve as my “keep current” site to stay on first page on Google.

    I then used my Windows phone that is tying in all my online presence and posted a request to visit my blog post. This request was sent to LinkedIn, Twitter and FaceBook.

    I also added the link to the charity on my Email signature on my Live account and also on my Windows phone account.

    I have screenshoots from my blog showing traffic saved from today that can be compared with later dates to see if my emarketing worked or not. (I have 30 hits in 40 min so far)

    Hope this project works out well.

    All the best Jimi

  30. Donors choose is awesome! Because of people like you my students have been a greater chance to succeed! For a closer look, here is a project that still could use a little help.

    To have your donation matched dollar for dollar, enter the match code INSPIRE on the payment screen. This awesome match offer lasts through August 12, 2013.

    My students and I greatly appreciate your support.

  31. A little late to the party, but I just came across this article. What a beautiful idea! I definitely agree that poor education plays an incredibly significant role when it comes to a lot of today’s problems, which is why I respect what DC is doing so much. Just checked out their site – the current stats are impressive!

    Looks like something similar was launched in Canada called “MyClassNeeds” but was met with controversy a couple of years ago as “critics say it’s also furthering inequality in the public school system, and opening the door to letting private money replace government dollars.” Was quite an interesting read. Don’t want to link here but it’s a CBC article, easily found through Google!