Charles Best started at the age of 24 out of his Bronx, N.Y., classroom. The website connects donors directly to classrooms in need: You give to a particular project—$20 for art supplies, for example—and get back photos and personal thank-you notes so you can see how students use your gift. The model is so touching and inspiring, it’s a wonder it has succeeded.

According to recent research, people tend to perceive organizations as being either warm or competent, not...

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