New York, NY
Meet the team (from left to right) Susan, Kimberly, Oliver
The transparency of DonorsChoose.org reflects the internal culture of the organization
The organization’s online platform drives the work they do, and has had to scale from supporting $3 million in donations when Oliver started 11 years ago to $120 million in 2017. Even though DonorsChoose.org is a nonprofit, Oliver likens the organization's agile style of work on Jira to that of a tech company. "Almost every nonprofit has technical needs, but when you think of DonorsChoose.org, the entire operation is enabled by the technical platform," he says. "I feel really fortunate that, back in 2006, I found a nonprofit organization that is singularly enabled by technology. Only in the digital world could you scale the social impact the way we have, with a hundred staff members bringing in $120 million in donations and fulfilling more than 200,000 classroom projects each year."
The platform facilitates connections between teachers, donors, corporate partners, and vendors. Once a project is funded on the site, the DonorsChoose.org back office fulfills it. Rather than provide the donation to the teachers in the form of cash, the team goes a step further, sourcing everything from books to a school bus for a field trip. They want to ensure that donors can trust where their money is going – for every project, there's an itemized manifest with a breakdown of expenses – and it's more convenient for teachers to have materials sent to them, so they can focus on teaching rather than shopping for supplies or worrying about logistics.
The transparency of the platform is a reflection of the open and passionate culture cultivated at DonorsChoose.org and its reflected in the tools they choose, like Jira. There's an undeniable closeness amongst the team because of their shared enthusiasm for the mission. They glow as they talk about their workplace, a rare on-the-job benefit indeed. "For a lot of us, the mission and our own personal stories that relate to the mission are what brought us here," says Kimberly, a partnerships manager. She continues, "I went to public school in NYC and South Florida, and saw how different funding affected various schools. DonorsChoose.org is a way to democratize education." Sue, chimes in, "On most engineering teams, you don't see people tearing up over thank you letters from the students they helped through their work. Being around people who care about the same thing is really great."
"It's the little things that add to the big-picture product."
We asked the team to look back at their proudest moments with DonorsChoose.org. "It's the little things that add to the big-picture product," says Sue, smiling proudly across the table at her teammates. Oliver adds, "We recently celebrated our millionth classroom project funded. It was amazing to think back on all of the work we've put into the product. It's hard to even remember what the site was like when Sue and I started on it over eleven years ago."
As the team looks ahead, they hope to continue finding new ways to bring funding to classrooms and innovate quickly - with the help of Jira - to allow those projects to happen. "Fifty percent of the donations on our site are from corporate partners. So from an engineering standpoint, we're working to support not only teachers and citizen donors, but also our products for corporate partners, as well as the back-office systems on which our colleagues depend." says Oliver. And with Jira, they feel confident they can innovate quickly and continue making a big impact.
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