Donors Choose Blogger Challenge: Something's Wrong

Eight days into the blogger's challenge, we have contributed a total of $856, including a contribution by me of $100. That's roughly $100/day and at that rate we'll contribute a total of $3000 which is way less than the past two years when we raised roughly $18,000 each time.

I'm not sure what is wrong but something sure is. I'm going to make another $100 donation this morning and I hope you will all take a few minutes to do the same.

Here are a few reasons why you should consider it:

1) You can use PayPal and do the whole thing in less than one minute from clicking this link.

2) If you've never contributed to Donors Choose, you should give it a try because the experience is so awesome, especially the thank yous you get. Click this link and see what I mean.

3) This is one of the ways I get "paid" for showing up here every day and sharing my thoughts and experiences. I don't think the quality has gone down by 6x this year.

4) Everyone who contributes gets an invite to a meetup I am doing in NYC in November. Given the number of contributors so far (ten not including me), it will be an intimate affair. Click on this link if you want to come to that.

I'm done begging and cajoling. Let's see if this changes anything.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. bryanburkhart

    Fred – thanks for the wake-up call. These are all great causes. With kids of our own at 4 yrs old and 18 months, my wife and I are in the thick of the private-school-admissions-gauntlet. It serves as a reminder of how lucky some children are, and also provides a certain responsibility to help children who aren’t given the same advantages. Further, this is certainly an easy way to “pay you back” for sage comments over the year. Thanks again for the reminder.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s exactly how i feel bryan

    2. Fred

      Wouldn’t you be making a more meaningful contribution to public school kids’ education if you sent your own kids to public school? That way the school community could benefit from you and your wife participating as involved parents in the PTA, and as advocates for a quality education. At the same time, you’d save tens of thousands of dollars a year in private school tuition. A win-win, right?

      1. Aaron Klein

        A parent’s decision on their own child’s education should never be second guessed by anyone else. Every child is different, and parents know their kids best. Just my opinion.

        1. Fred

          Also, if you want your kids to grow up to be good liberals, you can’t let them get mugged by the reality of a public school. If that deepens the de facto segregation between white and black, rich and poor, so be it. Better to buy absolution by sending a few bucks to a public school teacher than risk having your kid get his ass kicked every day.

          1. kidmercury

            lol, i agree with your point, i just wish all those absolution-seeking folks would stop flushing their money down the toilet with stuff like this and instead choose to invest in businesses that make private education more affordable. that way everyone gets to make bank and get a good education at the same time. enabling the public school system, even if it is through well-intentioned things like donors choose, still has the end result of perpetuating a massively poor system — the public indoctrination system.

          2. ShanaC

            Private is equally an indoctrination system from experience, having went through a lot of parochial school (from nursery to a year after high school, pre-college, so close to 15 years). These are social choices. One of the reasons I tend to think the way I do, I would say, is that I had the kinds of schooling I did. And there are statistical bodies of evidence that would agree with this conclusion.As a rule, we want our children at a minimum to do the three Rs, possibly a bit more- to think critically, and to be able to pick up new, necessary skills more easily. From there, different communities choose to educate in a variety of topics because they feel they are moral and true topics that are necessary to pass on to their children. Some communities are fabulous at choosing topics you feel are revelant, some are not. Some communities seem to pick up on the fact that we have a changing economy, some are not. It is really up to people here to decide.

          3. fredwilson

            The three Rs are important. But more important is curiosity, empathy, and other critical social skills. We tend to look for that more than anything else when choosing a school for our kids.If I have to, I can teach my kids caculus and have done it and am doing so again right now

          4. kidmercury

            i agree private is an indoctrination system as well; with kids, everything is indoctrination, that is the whole idea about being a kid. but public school centralizes the indoctrination process and makes everyone pay for it. this leads to generations of kids all being indoctrinated into the same line of thinking. the end result is a world in which people know nothing about the military, intelligence agencies, banking regulators, or other critical knowledge. everything is too standardized, diversity is lost. fortunately, the internet is here to bring it back.

          5. Morgan Warstler

            We need to Napsterize Education immediately.

          6. fredwilson

            #hackedu for more on that

          7. Dave Pinsen

            What does that mean, exactly? File sharing of lecture videos? There’s already at least one company that sells videotaped college level courses, The Teaching Company (got their latest catalog in the mail yesterday), but I don’t see how that would help K-12 students. Heck, I’m not sure how much it helps adults.After taking an NY Institute of Finance class that covered statistics and probability, and was taught by a phenomenal instructor, I figured I’d buy the Teaching Company’s video lectures on the same subjects. After struggling to resist the soporific effect of their videos, I was underwhelmed by them. The professor just totally skipped over the parts that look like magic to the uninitiated and spent more time on the minutia. Having attended inner-city public schools myself, I can’t imagine my former classmates having a better reaction.Maybe you’re referring to something else entirely though.

          8. kidmercury

            my business, which i view as a learning business, is about creating niche schools (example). after all these niche schools are created, we’ll create an application that lets you select which niche schools you want to attend, and manage your own online education. i sort of view that as napsterizing education.

          9. Dave Pinsen

            I can’t see how that sort of thing is applicable to the plight of K-12 students. Look, as long as we’ve had public libraries, there have been opportunities for smart, motivated young people to educate themselves. The playwright August Wilson famously stopped going to high school and started going to the library instead every day. The autodidacts aren’t really the problem in education though, are they?Sometimes I think a lot of the misguided thinking on this subject stems from elites who didn’t go to public schools growing up, so they assume most kids are like the ones they went to school with. Most kids don’t have the aptitude or motivation to seek out a rigorous education on their own, and the ones that do are going to do fine without any charitable support anyway.

          10. kidmercury

            the plight of the K-12 students is really the plight of the parents. once you need two workers to get by financially, you have to find somewhere to put the kids. in comes government to offer the “solution” to the problem they created (two working parents are needed because moentary policy ensures perpetual devaluation of the currency).in reality kids just need to learn a few core things and then can learn the rest on their own. society simply needs to give them the resources to find what they want to learn and the people they can learn from and with.

          11. Morgan Warstler

            I want to see $99 a month college: blended with high end video lectures: all student questions posted twitter like along the time-line of the video. So that overtime the professor knows where his lecture fails, and he can begin to refine the video lectures 1,10,100,1000x – never again teaching live, never again answering the same question twice. Until there are only perhaps 3 lectures taught worldwide in Game Theory – those professors are millionaires, and all the other teachers have been fired.That’s what I mean by Napsterizing Education.

          12. Dave Pinsen

            Again, that’s going to have no impact on K-12 education. And it ignores the reason people are willing to pay so much in tuition at prestigious universities: for the signaling function. What you’re advocating is similar to what Thomas Koch called for a few months ago in the Atlantic. As I pointed out at the time, he ignored the signaling function as well. In the real world, people don’t hire Harvard alumni because they think Harvard is so great at educating undergrads; they hire Harvard alumni because they know Harvard only lets in the most intelligent students in the first place (with a few legacy, athletic, or affirmative action exceptions).Decades ago, companies would just cut to the chase and give pencil & paper IQ tests to applicants, but Griggs v. Duke Power clamped down on that (some companies, e.g., Microsoft, have been known to turn their interviews into de facto oral IQ tests).

          13. Morgan Warstler

            K-8 needs to be public money and private schooling. Each student in needs to be worth the same dollar amount. Any and all institutions need to be able to compete for that student. After 8, we need to be training workers and corporations that will hire them need to be involved in that process.But here’s what I’m after: at 6 months old the kid gets his first TV remote control, a ball with different colors that light up. The colored clowns on the screen jump when he presses their color. Soon he sees only a blue clown and if he presses the blue on the ball the clown jumps. For the 10% who don’t figure that out, a video is shown of a kid with the remote doing it correctly. We have now identified the “visual learners” and for the rest of the learners life, he will taught differently than say the TK learner.Every toy sold needs an internal wifi remote that interacts with video lessons. We have barely begun the long transition to video based knowledge transfer. Two way video (backchannel video) will knock down most all walls, even the K-8.

          14. Dave Pinsen

            OK, that makes more sense. I’m on board with your first paragraph. The other stuff sounds interesting, at least.

          15. Morgan Warstler

            BTW, I get signalling, but there’s more coming. Imagine getting a Goldman MBA and earning $30k a year while you do it.

          16. Dave Pinsen

            I can imagine the first lesson one learns in a Goldman MBA: Make sure your alumni are ubiquitous in government. Maybe Goldman ought to offer an MPA instead.There is another angle with MBAs, but no one has stumbled on it yet.

          17. fredwilson

            That’s the hacking education movement. I’m with you but you gotta keep educating kids best you can while we make the transition

          18. fredwilson

            that’s not what the public schools are like in lower manhattan. my kids hang out with a ton of friends who go to the public schools. it’s not much different than the schools my kids go to except that they get less attention from the teachers in public school.

      2. bryanburkhart

        fred, your question is one we wrestled with for a while. ultimately, we made a decision on time vs quality (what’s the current quality of the local public school education, versus how long will it take, with our participation, to get those schools to the quality level that we want for our children now). as a result of this equation, we chose to send our son to a private school. I think, however, that the essence of your question is right: what, in addition to giving money, can we do to increase the quality of public education? There are some great books on the subject, including Daniel Greenberg’s “Turning Learning Right Side Up” and Christensen’s “Disrupting Class.” It’s important to this country’s long-term competitiveness to figure this out. Paul Krugman opens his column today with, “If you had to explain America’s economic success with one word, that word would be “education.””

        1. fredwilson

          I think its time for us to do a second hacking education event. This issue is so important

      3. fredwilson

        class sizes are 30-35 in many of the public schools in manhattan with one teacher per class. you get class sizes of 15-20 with one teacher and one teacher’s assistant in private schools.

    3. Jeff O'Hara

      We are lucky enough to live in the Chicago Suburbs where public schools are very good. Public schools are not all created equal which is sad. There is a huge disparity between public schools unfortunately and is largely based on local taxes, at least here in Illinois. More affluent areas have amazing public schools and poorer areas not so much. My wife is a public school teacher and our family is very committed to the making Education whether it be my wife’s teaching in public schools or my startup which is focused on bringing social tools to Educators. We fight the good fight every day as it’s all for a good cause…. Our children’s future!!! I’ve donated and recommend everyone to help out as every child deserves a better education and tools to do it with.

  2. ErikSchwartz

    Life gets chaotic. I’m in for $100.

    1. Farhan Lalji

      I’m with Erik, funded a couple of projects. Sorry Fred.How bout doing a meetup for non new york donors – Paris for LeWeb? London next time?

      1. fredwilson

        i’ll be in paris for leweb. let’s connect then.

    2. fredwilson

      thanks erik

  3. andyswan

    Did you find out why private school teachers and pupils are excluded?

    1. Charles Best

      Hey Andy, Charles from here. Our focus on public schools is not a political position. It’s that we want to nail our model before thinking about expansion, and with over 100,000 public schools in America (and 108,000 teacher users of to date), we’ve got plenty to work with. For what it’s worth, we define public schools broadly, so as to includes charter schools, state boarding schools, Indian reservation schools, etc.

      1. andyswan

        Good answer, not great. I never really thought of it as a politicaldecision…just a bad one :)I understand that government schools are where most of the poor kids arestuck…I just question the “let’s go to them” mentality….instead of the”let’s get them out” mentality.In any event, I sincerely applaud what you’re doing, will donate (I like tobe late in the contests…for the ego) and would LOVE to participate in anyvoluntary capacity that your organization could tolerate from a libertarianasshole :)Keep it up and let me know….

  4. andyswan

    It makes me sad to see all these posts that simply “give in” to the concept that poor kids must go to government schools. It has nothing to do with money. We spend more per pupil in government schools than the vast majority of private schools do.Vouchers work. Let parents decide where to take that government school money.If parents suck, very little will change no matter what money is tossed in the pot. Everyone continues to ignore the giant pink elephant in the room: Urban single-motherhood and the dismantling of the black family is crushing our society and creating a feedback loop of tragedy.Organizations like Donors Choose would be more effective if we could chip in directly to send one child with a supportive and ambitious parent to a quality private school.My donation will be sizable in any event, because the cause is worthy and Fred is asking….but it would be a lot higher if it went directly to getting one child out of the vicious cycle.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      You could donate to the scholarship fund of a charter school or a KIPP school, if you want, but those aren’t panaceas either. They do help some kids who wouldn’t be helped otherwise, but I think we need to ditch the idea that every kid should be in a college prep curriculum. We should instead think about how to provide meaningful opportunities to the majority of American kids who do not have the aptitude for college.For starters, we could stop importing unskilled workers to compete with these kids for jobs and drive down their wages. We could also enact policies that would encourage more manufacturing companies to set up shop in the U.S. Those policies might include lower corporate income taxes, increased domestic energy production (to ensure adequate supply and put downward pressure on energy prices for energy-intensive businesses), relief of regulatory and legal disincentives, and a renewed emphasis on vocational education in high schools to produce more skilled workers.

    2. kidmercury

      yes. well said. good job andy!

    3. ShanaC

      I really don’t think it’s a money issue either. It’s a throw time at it issue. Most people don’t have the time. Or the time isn’t well spent.

  5. David Fano

    I put a $100 (last week) in to close off this cause (… I’ll look for another. Also can we help in other ways than just giving money? I would love to collaborate with teachers to figure out new ways to use technology in the classroom. Thank Fred!

    1. fredwilson

      that is why i am doing the meetup. we’ll have all the teachers we are contributing to attending.

      1. David Fano

        Perfect! Thanks again.

  6. Adrian Bye

    Maybe too many noisy ad units on the right side?

  7. CH

    Fred, there’s this weird phenomenon going on right now among us normal folk who don’t make millions of dollars in management fees every year — this thing called a recession. It stops us from being able to contribute. I think there’s a wikipedia article for it somewhere, check it out.

    1. David Fano

      I’m a broke architect and in for a 100 bucks. (seen any new buildings lately…)

    2. andyswan

      Implying that Fred is out of touch because of his wealth is really lame. This is a cause that means something to him, and he’s created his own soapbox to stand on. If you’ve decided to fully participate in the recession, that’s fine….but please don’t go out of your way to attack those that refuse to.

      1. CH

        Yes, I made the conscious decision to fully participate in the recession. Sorry about that, I’ll try to work harder next time so I can refuse to be poor like you guys. I also apologize for implying Fred was out of touch. It’s just that he wrote “I’m not sure what is wrong but something sure is”. I just figured it was that recession thing that’s been affecting all the people who don’t live in massive race-track style apartments.

        1. kidmercury

          the ironic thing is that fred probably donates to all these charities because he is probably grateful for what he has earned, although in my opinion he would make more money for himself and do more to help everyone else if he invested the money into a private education business. the government is just going to take his money and waste it. donors choice tries to bypass the broken system, but they will never get that far. the public school system is committed to not educating people, they are not going to let a little charity get in the way of that. the real education revolution will come completely outside of the established public school system.

    3. fredwilson

      i know that. lots of $5 contributions this year.

  8. Jamie Lin

    In for $100 and wondering if there’s an open bar for #4.

    1. andyswan

      Excellent question. My contribution doubles if #4 includes an open bar, stocked with mediocre bourbon

    2. fredwilson

      we’re doing the meetup in the cafeteria of a public school in downtown manhattan

  9. awaldstein

    I’ve closed out one project and will find another. This process just makes me feel in touch with those working the classrooms, with kids–it’s personal, easy and makes me feel good. And most everyone can afford something to help out in my opinion.

  10. derrinyet

    $100 is a bit outside my means, but I hope that $50 helps too.Meager payment, but thank you for continuing to write and share your experiences!

    1. fredwilson

      $5 would be fine too. I appreciate your support derrinyet

  11. Ivan Kirigin

    The constant asking for donations (not just on this site, but everywhere) is so fatiguing. People really hate it. At Tipjoy, we wanted to remove the friction from the transactions (and a big part of that is asking for a large amount), but had a lot more to do.Why don’t we see more subscriptions that are directed at non-profits? That seems like it could really help remove some of the thought from the process.It would be great if you could just “connect” to some system in a widget, set the amount and period, and say “go”. Then you would maybe be subscribed to first hand accounts of what the money went to. I really like the way Charity: Water did this, with live streams of well drilling but also a twitter stream of pictures should also try to give something back to those who donate. It would be great if they could see a post early, get an early RSS feed, or something like that.This is related to the recent thoughts I’ve had that blogs should be more like web apps. You should have a single sign on, subscriptions, and features built into each post that only subscribers can see.

    1. daryn

      FYI, DonorsChoose does offer a subscription plan, if you make a donation today, you can see the upsell at the end!Or, you can click this link…https://secure.donorschoose

    2. fredwilson

      good points Ivani give all the ad revenue from this blog to charity. that’s about $30k/year. so there are other ways to generate money to charity from blogs.and i am giving back something by doing an invite only meetup for donors. i realize that is not very attractive to out of towners.

      1. Ivan Kirigin

        Yeah, I missed the meeetup first time through. You should record itand give access to donors. That might be kind of hard. The long tailof donor management should be easy though – not hard.

  12. Dave Pinsen

    Fred,You remind me of Matt Damon on Entourage last Sunday.

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t watch entourage so i don’t get the comment. what did he do or say?

      1. Dave Pinsen

        He was soliciting donations for a charity from the show’s protagonist and he was doggedly persistent about it. Below, Jarid posts a YouTube clip of his final bonus scene, that appeared after the show’s end credits.

        1. fredwilson

          Got it. I’ll check it out

  13. Matt

    A ‘payment’ to Fred AND a donation to a worthy cause? No brainer.Sidenote: UX on donating without an account is a bit wonky. I wasn’t able to add a message without an account, but had to make the donation before creating any account. Thus, one donation, one message, equals two entries for one transaction.Anyways, thanks for hosting this.

    1. fredwilson

      great point on UX. they have been making it better and better. but they can still do more.

      1. Oliver

        Matt – I’m’s CTO and wanted to first off, thank you for answering Fred’s challenge and helping these students!Could you drop me a note at oliver (at) donorschoose (dot) org and let me know how best to reach you? I’d like to better understand the scenario you encountered so we can improve the donor experience.In short, every donor should be able to leave a msg for the classroom, regardless of whether they create an acct at our site, during the donation “check-out” flow. We do believe this is working smoothly in most circumstances.So in connecting with you, I’m hoping to learn whether we have a bug in our check-out flow OR perhaps you were trying to leave a classroom msg in an interaction with our site that was distinct from your donation check-out.If it was the latter, which is what I suspect, then your feedback will help us work the kinks out of that process.Thanks for your assistance and thanks again for your generous donation!Oliver Hurst-HillerCTO,

    2. Oliver

      Matt – Wanted to make sure you saw my reply to your note…I’m new to Disqus and not sure if you were notified since I replied to Fred’s comment in this thread. Thx – Oliver

  14. Gerardo Capiel

    Fred, great job supporting DonorsChoose. Teachers at my daughter’s public school have been using the site with much success. Lately, we have had more momentum since I integrated their RSS feed into the Notes App on the school’s FB Page and the school website,, with AddThis buttons that enables parents to bring awareness to their family and friends. Yesterday, my eight grade teacher who found me on FB donated.Of course, I’ll end this comment with a link to one of my school projects that needs funding:

  15. RacerRick

    I think your birthday is too close to the blogger challenge.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. but the good news is after October, no more begging until August

  16. Matthew Tendler

    Fred,”Donors” could be a good addition to our Curing Diabetes through iPhones campaign.…We’ve had good success thus far, raising approximately $3,000 in 2.5 weeks. A lot of the money was from family and friends who were linked to the page, however utilizing the iPhone for fundraising makes perfect sense.Your number one selling point is how fast you can give to Donors using Payal…imagine if donations were accepted via iTunes/App Store?We’re creating a workaround for the 30% Apple fee…it’s reasonable to believe that you don’t want 30 bucks from your $100 going to the crew in Cupertino.

    1. fredwilson

      Yeah. Giving via the iphone is an interesting oppty if apple would give up their tax on charitable giving

  17. Bernardo Rodriguez

    Fred, thanks for introducing me to DonorsChoose. Great initiative. I will enjoy supporting it.

  18. kidmercury

    do you know when the meetup in november will be? i might be in nyc in late november, i would buy access to the meetup if i can.

    1. fredwilson

      don’t worry about it. just email me when you are in NYC. i have got to meet you Kid.

      1. kidmercury

        lol, sounds great! i will let you know

  19. Nick Giglia

    I’m in – and I redeemed a giving card I had lying around to support a second project.I went to private school myself, and it’s so easy to forget how different a world that was. A friend of mine teaches in the DC school system, in a poor area, and routinely digs into her own pocket to purchase supplies for her students.There are so many opportunities for efficiency in the educational system, but until that happens we should do what we can.Thanks, Fred, for doing this – I tried to get some blogging friends of mine to participate, but they were too consumed by the charity fatigue that some other people have mentioned here.

    1. fredwilson

      We all face charity fatigue. I face work fatigue and blogging fatigue too. Giving in to it is not an option for me

  20. Fred

    “I just question the “let’s go to them” mentality….instead of the”let’s get them out” mentality.”Once you scale it, what’s the difference? If enough poor kids end up in a fancy private school, that school will start to resemble an under-performing public school. Smart kids make good schools, not the other way around, and poor kids tend not to be smart. There are exceptions of course, but think about it: smart parents generally have smart kids; smart parents generally aren’t poor; therefore there aren’t many smart poor kids.

  21. Philip Baddeley

    How do you make a donation from the UK? Good cause but also to thank you for all your posts.The site did not like a non-USA address and then crashed!

    1. fredwilson


      1. Philip Baddeley

        Looks like a donation has been taken but not sure! Well done to all. But I was not able to input my address in the UK – well, I don’t think I did but see if I receive any post. Same debate about private and state schools in the UK and I guess all over the world. A good start in life makes all the difference. Has anyone else donated from outside the USA or have they not been able to? I presume that I am not the only reader from outside the USA!

        1. fredwilson

          I’ll find out

  22. JenC

    Books. They got me with books. My parents gave me access to everything I could get my hands on to read growing up – I am so incredibly thankful for that. Every kid should have the same chance. Friday is looking better now. Thanks!

    1. fredwilson

      That’s great to hear. Thanks!!

  23. Mark Essel

    this might sound cliche but how about a meme to spread the word for the donors choose fundraiser?Things are tight for me and Michelle, but we can scratch together some coins and I could definitely do some local “marketing” of the charity.

    1. fredwilson

      Do you mean we need a word or a phrase to market this?

      1. Mark Essel

        A catchy hashtag, yeah. Something that could spark widespread recognition. It’s not always about dollars. Getting a few more folks to recognize the good stuff that Donor’s choose changes how we collectively feel about giving. Start the flood of generosity and all that. Fundraiser parties can get people showing up. Speaking of which time to visit the site 🙂

  24. Morgan Warstler
  25. fredwilson

    They key to navigating the us public school system is to live in a community that values its schools and supports them

  26. fredwilson

    it really worked. i am stunned.

  27. Dave Pinsen

    You can generally tell which communities those are by their average home prices. 😉