All by Himself, 145 Projects

Tim Ferriss, who grew up in Springs, is funding school projects across Long Island as part of a philanthropic effort dubbed #BestSchoolDay. Courtesey Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss credits his schoolteachers for helping him to love reading and writing, recalling in particular his first-grade teacher at the Springs School. Kathleen Vinski, who explained to him “why the alphabet was important.”

Mr. Ferriss, now the best-selling author of “The 4-Hour Work Week” and other titles, jumped on board a March 10 philanthropic campaign for the crowd-funding website DonorsChoose. org, funding, all by himself, no fewer than 145 school projects across Long Island that teachers had posted over the past four months. In an interview this week, Mr. Ferriss said he felt it was his “karmic duty” to support educational causes, and supporting teachers was key.

“When you put them all together it helped to steer the ship of my life in a positive direction, where it could have easily gone in a different direction,” he said. “I want to try to facilitate that happening for more kids. It’s very easy to go down the wrong path. I had the right teachers at the right time.”

The “flash funding” campaign, dubbed #BestSchoolDay, was started last spring by the TV personality Stephen Colbert, a board member of DonorsChoose.org, who funded all the projects in his home state of South Carolina. This time around, more than 50 celebrities, athletes, and entrepreneurs, including Ashton Kutcher, Elon Musk, Serena Williams, and Bill and Melinda Gates, took part. Mr. Ferriss funded not only all of Long Island’s projects, but all of them in New Hampshire and in Sacramento, Calif., the three places he considers “home.”

Their combined efforts totaled more than $14 million in donations to fund about 12,000 educational projects. Since then, according to Katie Bisbee, DonorsChoose.org’s chief marketing officer, others have stepped up to fund 8,000 more, totaling about $2 million. The projects themselves vary widely in scope, from classroom supplies to field trips to science lab equipment.

Mr. Ferriss encouraged people to follow his lead. “If you want to fix several dozen or several hundred problems at once, including cycles of poverty, investing in teachers and education is where you get the most disproportionate return on investment,” he said. “The heroes are the teachers themselves. What they do with students is truly life and world changing.”