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Last year my business partner and I gave to a teacher through Donorschoose.org. We found a teacher in a NYC public school whom was trying to facilitate a graphic design related curriculum and needed some materials to support the effort. With my education experience, our shared interest in education and social service work, and the design focus of our company it was something that we connected to on a number of levels. Like the description above, we did a little research checking into Donorchoose.org further than we had prior as well as the individual teacher to the extent we could. The driving factors for us deciding to donate was we shared a connection to the cause and the there was a clear impact and "deliverable" if you will that our contribution was going towards. Have not yet decided on what we would support this year.
Nice post, thank you. Wanted to respond on twitter but couldn't get my thoughts down to 140 characters. Really reminds me of some thoughts on learning theory and pedagogy (my career began as a elementary school teacher). In particular 1 and 3 as noted above regarding authentically owning and living the role of life-long learners. The combination of risk taking and exposure to something new with continual reflection do strike me as key ingredients to be able to take risks, fail, and see that as a process and positive rather than a discouragement. Also, the idea of scaffolding your risk taking also comes to mind. Setting up risks/learning experiences that are just beyond your comfort level to establish what may be a more manageable and less overwhelming initial risk. As knowledge is gained the scaffold changes to accommodate the growth and learning over time.