It’s fun to read of a far-flung friend’s interest in all things green on Facebook. Pinterest is great for sharing recipes and craft ideas with my grown daughters. And I’m silently pleased when my son sends a Vine of my cookie baking, and soon the neighbor “boy” (now 18 and well over 200 pounds) is knocking on the door.
I’ve never really given much thought to why I like these social media applications so much more than the software on my computer and websites and apps that allow me to simply get information. It took the second annual DonorsChoose.org Partners Summit to make me think about that. Providing the “thought momentum” were two of today’s titans of industry, Caterina Fake and Jeff Weiner. Both say they found a passion for helping schools through DonorsChoose.org. And both are passionate about technology that brings people together.
Caterina Fake is the Founder and CEO of Findery, a website enabling users to post and find notes tied to locations all over the world. She is also chairman of the board of Etsy and co-found several other companies including Flickr. She says her job has always been, “to make tech human.” DonorsChoose.org gave her a sense of connection with the school around the corner from her home that she didn’t have before discovering the website. Through the site, she learned what the students studied, what they were missing in their classrooms, and she formed relationships with the kids and teachers. She’s now a regular benefactor. In other words, the technology behind DonorsChoose.org pulled her in like the websites she helps develop in her everyday work life.
Jeff Weiner says he always wanted to be involved in education. Life took him to business school, and he became the CEO of LinkedIn, where he’s earned a 100 percent approval rating from his employees. While he says you’d “have to ask the employees” why they gave him the rating, he does believe in “compassionate leadership. You need to walk in your employees shoes,” but then be able to do something with what you learn from that walk. He also takes the time to be grateful for five things every day. When he was given a gift card to DonorsChoose.org and went to the website to use it, he, like Caterina Fake, was hooked. He recalls almost crying when he got his first thank you package. “I knew I had to meet the guy behind the website. Once I met Charles (Best), I offered to help however I could.” And now Weiner serves on the DonorsChoose.org board of directors. While Weiner didn’t specifically speak of using technology to create human interactions, he definitely lives the concept that Fake addressed head on.
Technology bringing people together. Interestingly, DonorsChoose.org founder Charles Best figured that out in 1999, before Flickr or LinkedIn were household names. DonorsChoose.org brings many people together, but helps each individual donor make a unique connection with a school, teacher and students. No wonder Fake and Weiner are such fans.
For our teacher-readers and DonorsChoose.org users, the message here is simple: write a compelling story when explaining why your students need specific school supplies or experiences. While you don’t want to write fiction, you do want to write in a way that touches the heart and soul of potential donors.
Marilyn Titone-Schaefer is a marketing account manager for Horace Mann and regularly works with DonorsChoose.org on corporate funding opportunities.