Cryptocurrency Converts To $29 Million For DonorsChoose.org

As founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org, Charles Best rarely finds himself pitching donors. But in January he shot off an email to executives at Ripple, a fast-growing cryptocurrency.

“I figured it was a once in a really long time ask so I should shoot for the moon, and the cosmos smiled on us,” Best said. “I read about the growth of Ripple and dared myself to send the pitch. I gave myself a 1 in 10,000 chance that I’d get a response,” he said.

It’s not like he just made a generic ask either. He pitched the idea of funding all 35,000 projects on DonorsChoose.org – a $29 million tab. Two weeks after sending his email, Best had a meeting with Ripple, and two days later, they agreed.

Best’s email wasn’t an absolute cold call. Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse has been a supporter of DonorsChoose.org for years thanks to the involvement of his sister, Meg Garlinghouse, who has worked with the charity since it was still operating out of Best’s classroom in the Bronx.

It’s by far the largest gift to the 18-year-old organization and not only the first cryptocurrecncy donation for DonorsChoose.org but likely the largest donation of cryptocurrency to any charity, Best said. The Manhattan-based crowdfunding pioneer that raises money for public school classroom projects reported total revenue of $121 million for the year ending June 2017, roughly twice what it reported three years earlier.

DonorsChoose.org received the XRP, Ripple’s digital coin, and it took about two weeks to convert it given the large amount. “We needed to do it over a period of time rather than all at once,” Best said.

Ripple uses blockchain technology to send money globally. Its XRP is among the largest digital coins by market capitalization. Bitcoin is perhaps the best known form of cryptocurrency, the value of which has exploded in recent years. In January, CNBC reported that Chris Larsen, the co-founder and executive chairman, was worth about $60 billion when the company’s XRP digital coin hit a high of $3.84. Not even two weeks later, CNBC estimated he was down $44 billion when the digital coin was treading near $1.

Ripple considered the idea appealing because it wanted to make a mark and have a major impact, according to Best, and saw this as a way to reach a huge number of people.

One in six of all public schools in the U.S. – impacting one million students — will receive something as a result of this gift. Fulfillment of the requests will take place over the next few weeks, Best said.

Earlier this week, the DonorsChoose.org website displayed a message that it was down for scheduled changes but when it became active again yesterday, it announced that all current projects have been funded. Already, DonorsChoose.org has received some 5,000 requests for new projects, Best said.

The previous largest gift to DonorsChoose.org was from a program called Fuel Your School, by Chevron, which funded $8 million classroom projects related to STEM over the course of one month.