In 2000, Charles Best was a history teacher in a New York City public high school, spending his own money buying supplies for his students that the school couldn't provide. Then he had an idea.
"My students and I just wanted a way for teachers, like myself and my colleagues, to be able to tell the world about the books we wanted, and the art supplies," Best told CNBC's "On The Money" in an interview.
In one of the earliest examples of crowdfunding, he founded a website, called DonorsChoose.org. Public school teachers from across the country can post their classroom needs, and donors can fund any of those projects directly. Fast forward 15 years, and $334 million dollars has been raised from 1.7 million donors.
As CEO of DonorsChoose.org, Best says the site also lets people "support a classroom and see exactly where their dollars went." That money has helped nearly 15 million students and funded nearly 600,000 projects.
"About half the projects on our site request really basic materials. It could be copy paper and pencils, paint brushes," Best explained, while the other half are requests are for "field trips or butterfly cocoons for students to see the life cycle of a butterfly."