Getting Your Money's Worth At The Movies

Waiting for superman Waiting For Superman opened yesterday in NYC and LA and will roll out to additional cities next weekend. I blogged about this film a few weeks ago after I saw it in a screening. I encourage everyone to go see this film.

If you do go see it, please purchase your tickets at Fandango or Because if you buy a ticket to the movie via those two services, you will get a $15 gift card to make a donation to the classroom of your choice via Think about that. You buy a ticket for less than $15 and you get the ticket plus $15 to give away back. As Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose puts it,

the first movie where every dollar you spend on a ticket will be handed right back to you to go do something about what you’ve just seen

Donors Choose raised millions of dollars in a special campaign to fund these gift cards. They know that people will walk out of this film and they will be upset and they will want to do something about it. A Donors Choose gift card will let them do something positive right away.

The Gotham Gal told me that she always "tops up" the Donors Choose gift cards she gets. I do that too. So it is likely that the $15 of gift capital will be matched by much more as hundreds of thousands of new Donors Choose backers arrive at the site in the coming weeks.

As a Board member of Donors Choose, I am so proud of what they are doing here. Next month, we will do the annual AVC campaign for Donors Choose. I have something special planned for that. I think you all are going to really like it.

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#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. Matt A. Myers

    I like that idea a lot.Anyone know of service to be able to be notified when a movie comes out in a certain area? That would be great.Maybe a good tool for IMDB to develop.

    1. Sean Saulsbury

      The showtimes on Box Office Mojo ( allow this; if showtimes aren’t available in your area, you can sign up to be notified via e-mail when/if the movie comes to your area.

  2. reece

    pure awesome right there. nice work.

  3. awaldstein

    I’m in! Great idea and an important cause.Fred…one of the things i really liked about last years AVC Donor’s Choice was that I could choose what I was buying with the money, got a note from the teacher and then met some of the people at the Meet-Up. Really liked the personal connection between giving and seeing results and meeting the recipients.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      The notes were a nice touch.

  4. ErikSchwartz

    I’m up in Maine this weekend and it does not seem to be playing anywhere nearby. I’ll try to catch it when I am down in Cambridge next week.

  5. Dave W Baldwin

    The Donor’s Choose is great! Need to see about continuing the funding via the release at the rental places.I am still taking in the concept of the Newark, NJ concept where all the attention (and $$$$$) is given to one school system. Curious if that will back fire a little for FB.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      I doubt Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the Newark public schools will “backfire” in any way for FB; he’s already gotten great PR from it. I also doubt it will produce much in the way of tangible positive improvements though. Newark already spends plenty of money per pupil on education, as education spending in wealthy parts of NJ is yoked to that of Newark and other urban areas by law.Also (and I mentioned this last time this documentary came up), the Kansas City experiment demonstrated the limits of even huge amounts of money in improving urban educational outcomes. See “Money And School Performance: Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment”. Excerpt:For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.

      1. Dave W Baldwin

        You are so right. I live in Cape (please do not associate me with some of the folks from my town) and we had to go thru the open wallet KC had…and it made no sense.And to think…they have had to shut down however many Elementary Schools going into this year due to population shifts.Regarding FB, if you are a single mom who gets roughed up with two kids in elementary living in Detroit….aren’t you going to be thrilled over Newark? Just think the precedent is dangerous..The best plug for Zuckerberg was his house…he doesn’t have to have the trappings.Speaking of Cape, we are part of the FIRST program related to robots…love working with ’em ;D

        1. Alex Murphy

          Completely agree about the house. Very humble interview. I was very impressed.

  6. HowieG

    I will be taking you up on this challenge! Thank ye Mr. Fred!

  7. Kelley Boyd @msksboyd

    I am grateful to have a trusted source of insight and “smart” that is this blog. The things I learn here are useful and in some ways really meaningful. This movie and your heads up on the book Where Good Ideas Come From are just two examples of things I have exposure to early, so I can think about them and know why that matters to me and so when my friends tell me about them…I can contribute to the conversation!Thanks much for the heads up on the “best” way to get a ticket to this movie. I would have been really bugged if I had just stopped and bought a ticket and missed the opportunity to do something smarter and better. I don’t think there are many people who are more in touch with the challenge of making a difference for yourself or for anyone else (in this economy, in this society) than I am. If I can contribute to and feel grateful for the opportunity to help a marginalized system, or disenfranchised group of people, then it truly is a great day in America.Here is a link to a short video from Steven Johnson about WGICF:

    1. Donna Brewington White

      “I am grateful to have a trusted source of insight and ‘smart’ that is this blog. The things I learn here are useful and in some ways really meaningful.”Good words, Kelly. I’m with you on this. The amount I have learned and been exposed to during the year or so of following AVC is stunning. I am a different person than I was when I first clicked over to this community and can bring so much more to conversations.

  8. brmore

    We need this film (and program) in wide release. Turnout in “select” cities may get big distributors to see as financially viable, so GET CRACKIN’ in NY and LA.

  9. SR

    That’s such a smart idea. I first heard about Donors Choose this summer when some friends who were getting married gave guests the option of making a donation rather buying something off the registry. I’m looking forward to the AVC campign.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      You have some good friends!

  10. Nikhil Nirmel

    Let’s say donating $3k gets one kid in the inner city to go to college and that donating $3k to an org fighting Malaria in Burkina Faso gets 20 kids who would have died at age <5 to live to adulthood. Which is a better use of funds? (malaria) Which makes you feel better? (education) Where do the funds go? Education.The difference is that global poverty is presented as “global poverty” (daunting and unsolvable), and donors choose has presented American education failure as “classroom supplies” (I can provide that!). Props to DC. I’m going to create a donors choose for third world poverty in four years. We need to broaden the geographic scope of philanthropy, and present the opportunity to help the third world in more bite-sized chunks.

    1. fredwilson

      Kiva and acumen fund are efforts I am fans of that might be more to yourliking

      1. Mark Essel

        I love my Kiva fund, it’s the loan that keeps on giving.

      2. Nikhil Nirmel

        I like those. I don’t think that any web project has successfully brought the concept of micro-donations to the developing world though. I want to feature lots of very small projects that say, for example: $200 will deliver food and water to the small village Kazongo in Malawi. That gives a sense of tangibility and urgency. Or maybe it could be a groupon for donations, where we pick one very narrow cause per day and get the resources and attention we need to solve the problem, and then move on to the next.This is a space that is ripe for innovation on the web. Donors Choose is a leap in the right direction, and I think we in the tech/startup community can continue to make initiatives like it happen in other areas that truly need our help.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      “Which makes you feel better about yourself?”In your case, that would be aid intended to ameliorate malaria. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best form of aid.Before you spend time trying to reinvent the wheel, you might want to read some of the work of William Easterly, Dambisa Moyo, and others who argue (convincingly) that a lot of aid to Africa has done more harm than good.

      1. Aviah Laor

        at least for the last 300 years

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Dave, I just have to say that sometimes the scope of things you seem to know about amazes me! How do you know all this?

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Dambisa Moyo was profiled in the Financial Times and the New York Times last year when her book came out; I saw those articles and wrote about them on my old blog at the time. I forget where I first came across Easterly — I think in a review he wrote of one of Jeffrey Sachs’s books.

    3. Alex Murphy

      Philanthropy through success.Look at Zuckerburg. He could have gone to Public High School, then to a state college, and his parents could have donated $100,000 or more to various charities. But instead, they sent him to boarding school, where he learned how to program and where he got into Harvard, where he created a platform that was exclusive and desired by many that became Facebook and he donated $100,000,000 to help fix education in Newark and to help create a new paradigm in education. $100 Million!With more educated people, more problems will be solved, and the world will be a better place.

      1. Dan

        OK, but.. he is one of millions that failed. Years ago there were no social websites coming up in a rate 2 per day. Saying that Zuckerberg did a change is like telling that a guy who won 10 million in lottery made a change.

  11. Keenan


  12. Mark Essel

    Sweet, will grab tickets through Fandango. Thanks for the heads up, looking forward to DonorsChoose. Feels like Kiva in our backyard with enthusiastic teachers and kids as the payoff.

  13. daryn

    Very cool. I found out about Donors Choose through your blog, and I’m a big fan. Didn’t realize you were a board member. The GivingCards are such a great idea, and I love to use them and “top them off” whenever they arrive.Looking forward to seeing Waiting for Superman when it comes to town, and being part of your annual campaign again this year.

  14. Mike

    I absolutely love what has done for the classroom, and have done all that I can to get the word out about the site over the past 2 years (first heard about it through your 2008 fundraiser).I also love the partnership w/ Fandango and I personally never buy tickets through either site, but I just bought 2 tickets just for the $30 gift certificates. What can I say, I have a thing for embedded philanthropy!Case in point, I’m looking to incorporate this type of partnership with my own business. At a high level, we help our clients find a place to live and then pay them up to $2.5k to move. In the near future, we are looking to add an option that allows them to donate a portion of their proceeds (matched by our firm) to charities like Or receive a set amount for referring their friends.Thanks for the heads up Fred!

  15. ShanaC

    Aiming for tomorrow or monday showing-I love this. I love how media is driving each other to make something better. Wish it would happen more often…

  16. Tereza

    Unfortunately with getting a babysitter, a simple night at the movies these days is a ~$150 affair.We’ll be waiting it out for Netflix.Can Donors Choose extend their reach to the aftermarket of the film?I think a lot of parents I know wait for Netflix. Just a thought.

    1. fredwilson

      such a great pointi believe that studios should release to the home at the same time theyrelease to the theatersbecause there are so many potential viewers in your situation who would loveto see films at release but may forget about them by the time they get toDVD/streaming

      1. Tereza

        ….especially if the core audience of the film is parents.I probably see one film a year at most, and that’s only if I’m guaranteed a rip-roaring awesome time.Depressing films…straight to Netflix.I think it took about 3 years for An Inconvenient Truth to make it to the top of our Netflix queue.

    2. Alex Murphy

      Here’s an idea. Find another couple that has kids about the same age. Once a month, you watch their kids and leave your partner at home to watch your kids. Then, have one of them come over and watch your kids with the other partner staying with their kids. With laptops etc, its an easy and Free way to get one date night a month without the hassle of lining up and paying for a babysitter.

  17. Donna Brewington White

    Thanks for this heads up.I loved that tonight at dinner one of my kids said, “Mom, that movie that you want to see is out now, the one about kids not getting a good education.” (A few weeks back, I had shown them the film clip that you shared.)The comments that followed showed me that they have been thinking about this problem as a result of seeing that film clip and our discussion about it.You make a difference, Fred.

    1. Alex Murphy

      Donna – The fact that you pulled your kids in to watch the clip, that you are engaged, that they are engaged in what you are doing and what you care about means that YOU make a difference.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Thank you, Alex.

  18. Sean Saulsbury

    I’m not sure I quite grasp the purpose of the free $15 donation that just go to buy gizmos for classrooms (in the public schools that are failing the most, presumably). This whole scheme seems antithetical to the movie’s message.What we learned from the documentary is that the problem isn’t money per se, but the fact that good schools require good teachers, and that it is nearly impossible to get rid of bad teachers in the system due to union contracts and the absurd notion of tenure.Frankly, I believe we should be advocating abolishing public education entirely. The movie well demonstrated that to the extent government coercion is removed (i.e., via charter schools where unions cannot force schools to dictate hiring and firing practices), the quality of education improves dramatically. Imagine a fully free market in education where companies compete to educate students at the best possible price, and that schools that fail to produce results will naturally and justly go out of business.We’ve seen how a relatively free market in technology and on the Internet has produced phenomenal results in delivering information and services to the masses at lower and lower prices (and often free!). Let’s take what we’ve learned in this arena and apply it to education.

    1. markslater

      great comment – completely agree.

  19. TanyaMonteiro

    Genius, I really believe we ultimately all want to help, what a fantastic idea! Thank you for so often shedding light on subjects I’d probably take allot longer to come across! Now my fingers are crossed the same project makes it to the UK

  20. Patrick Sullivan

    I just watched a public school teacher from NYC and the leader of charter school parents organization comment on this movie on Fox this morning. They debunked the simplistic claims the film makes that teachers unions are the problem and charter schools are the magic bullet solution. The teacher explained how Virginia has no unions and terrible educational outcomes while the country held up as a model for education, Finland, is heavily unionized. The charter school parents spoke about how smaller class sizes are one of the advantages of charters typically denied to traditional schools.I think people are starting to wonder why those heavily promoting this film, people like Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the very wealthy VC and hedge fund communities send their own kids to private schools yet are so intent on telling us public school parents how our children should be educated.

    1. Max

      There you go you said the magic word FOX!!! Now we have to swing over to your POV because everybody knows that it’s “fair and balanced”, am I right? Oh no maybe you are… 😉

  21. Dave W Baldwin

    In reading some of the comments, I think it is important to remind everyone that there is no simple, one size fits all solution.As far as teachers, those looking at the 2-3 years toward retirement are a little different compared to the naive newcomer 2-3 yrs. in. Yes, some are better than others and there are just as many who realize corralling a bunch of kids with no support from home is… just not for them.We can develop tools that increase the productivity for the teacher related to one on one time we all want. Trust me, we can.You can line up the straw men to blame for the problems, but that will not solve anything.If you have a 5th-7th grader struggling through those endless worksheets proving he/she will flunk the next one too, you end up with a child doing the countdown to age 16.The 7th-9th graders living in a community with no growth conclude school is a waste of time. Unfortunately, those thoughts are backed by their parent(s).The issue of knowledge (hopefully useful) and its importance to our society is important. And we had better get started.Volunteer at your local school. Be willing to guest lecture in the classroom showing what you do and its importance to the community/region. Present your lesson using a ‘thinking forward’ scenario.Trust me, you will probably be surprized just how smart most of those kids are.

  22. Spencer Fry

    Thanks for blogging about. Just ordered my two tickets for today’s screening through otherwise I woulda just got them at the box office.

  23. Alex Murphy

    Waiting on it to come to the DC area on the VA side of the river. Great to hear about Donors choose’s involvement with this film and movement.

  24. Jonathan

    Thank you for the Charitable tip Fred. Can’t wait to see Waiting for Superman.

  25. LRico

    Thanks for sharing this information about As a part-time teacher I definitely know how meaningful donations are to a classroom.

  26. intent letter

    I appreciate your work of posting this here. Adding this with some entertainment is a very good idea. It will double the fun. This is a very noble cost and anyone who knows it should be contributing. I also encourage everyone to go see this film.

  27. Aviah Laor

    Great comment. Education is like any other field: it’s easy to spend big money with small results. In a TED talk (can’t remember who) the man said: people with large budgets seek expensive solutions. Problem with charity: it reminds us that something is broken. Taxes are wasted.But if we wait until things are fixed without charity, we can wait forever and loose the people.Truth is somewhere in the middle: charity helps, less than we would like to, and much less than a real change in the way the government works (expected in 2091 🙂 )

  28. Dave Pinsen

    Charlie,If you’ve got poor people speaking 27 different languages in your community, might our immigration policy (de facto and de jure) be part of the problem? Does it make sense to import more poor people and cultures of poverty given the challenges you sketch out here?

  29. Dave W Baldwin

    CharlieI feel for you guys. That is a big hurdle.A few innovative things going on recently. In Kindergarten, they are starting to write letters and numbers. For the most part, a few 5 yr. olds may write a letter or two mirror image, but they get it. It is impressive to see the room change as you move over to the latter part of Fall Semester.

  30. JLM

    People with large budgets seek expensive solutions = mouse made to Corps of Engineers specs is an elephant.Very true.

  31. Aviah Laor


  32. Dave Pinsen

    Again, does it make sense to import more poor people and cultures of poverty given the challenges you already face in your community? If your local church community feels compelled to provide charitable aid to the Bhutanese, it can probably do so more cost-effectively — and without burdening the rest of Lancaster — if it does so in Bhutan (or, if local instability precludes that, a neighboring country).

  33. Dave Pinsen

    The morality here isn’t as clear cut as you suggest. Many refugees fail to assimilate in this country and lower the quality of life for those already here — often poorer Americans, who have to deal with fewer resources, worse schools, more crime, etc. than they would otherwise.The morality of immigration extends beyond refugees. You mentioned you had students speaking 27 different languages in your community, which suggests you have a lot of recent immigrants (refugees or otherwise). It goes back to the question of what’s fair to those already here, as it’s often those on the bottom of the economic totem pole who are most impacted by the arrival of poor immigrants.Economics ties in here too. A hundred years ago, this country was in a better position to absorb unskilled immigrants, as there were plenty of manufacturing jobs for them.

  34. Dave W Baldwin

    The only thing I see is the pushing of language to achieve the ability to do both school and home school in this case. Puts a lot of pressure on the immigrants that are further along, needing to be of more help to those who are newer. But they are needed to act as both tutor/mentor and cheerleader to get involved in their new country.Good luck.

  35. Alex Murphy

    I agree! Sounds like a good idea and passion have found each other.

  36. Alex Murphy

    Where did we lose our sense of open arms and a welcoming culture? 400 years ago, 300 years ago, 200 years ago, 100 years ago, and today people came/come here to escape.”Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”Kudos to your community Charlie.

  37. Dave W Baldwin

    From the other David…Alex, Mr. Pinsen is probably giving the ‘straight up’ regarding the full menu Charlie’s organization has undertaken.To me it is thought provoking, to have strong story line and opinion like this.