Blog

We at Jolkona Foundation want to wish all of you very happy holidays and a new year to come! We hope that you and your families have a healthy, wonderful and prosperous 2009!

It has been few weeks since we launched our website. We have been getting a tremendous support since our launch. Since the launch, we have been focusing on improving our website, increasing our partnerships, and increasing our user base. With regards to website improvements, we have started to role out the first set of updates.

One of our new features is the bulk email invitation feature. From the My Jolkona area, you can invite as many friends as you would like. You can use the available form to invite upto 5 friends at a time. If you want to invite more than 5 people, you can upload a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file with name, email address in each line of the file.

We hope you will invite your friends and colleagues to try our website.

It has been 3 weeks since we launced our beta version and it is time for a quick update. We have received tremendous support in these short three weeks. We are excited to see that some of the members of the Jolkona Family have already pledged gifts. We are even more excited to see these gifts get implemented quickly. Our partners have started to upload the first set of proofs against these gifts.

Currently, we are busy recruiting the next set of partner organizations and developing the next set of features for our website. We hope you will continue to support us. If you are not a member yet, please feel free to send us an email.

Have a great weekend!

Over the past 18 months, we have been working very hard to get our non-profit, Jolkona Foundation, off the ground.  Jolkona Foundation aims to support low-overhead, high-impact organizations by building a web-based solution for young individuals, primarily aged 15-35 years old. This web-based solution provides an effective way to channel small scale donations to high-impact projects with tangible results for each donation.

We are excited to announce the Beta launch for Jolkona Foundation’s website.  For now, user accounts will be available on an invitation-only basis. If you would like an invitation, please contact us and tell us how you heard about Jolkona Foundation.

I was referred to this recently published article in Wall Street Journal. The article talks about how a new breed of non-profit organizations is giving the public more control over their small-scale donations. Sounds familiar? 🙂

At Jolkona Foundation, we also believe that it is critical to give individuals (especially the younger generations) more control over their donations. We also believe in the importance of showing proof of impact for these small-scale donations so that individuals feel empowered to do even more in the future. I thought this one statement from the article really shows the power of these organizations- “Of the 73,000 people who’ve made contributions on the site (DonorsChoose.org) thus far, 70% have never donated to a public education charity before…”

Out of curiousity I decided to use Alexa.com to compare the web traffic for the 3 websites mentioned in the article – Kiva.org, GlobalGiving.com, and DonorsChoose.org. From the chart it is easy to see that Kiva.org is more popular than the other two. One reason for this higher popularity is because “micro-credit” seems to be a hot topic these days and Kiva.org is doing a great job allowing the public to get involved with the micro-credit movement with small amounts of money. The second reason is probably less obvious. Unlike the other two websites, Kiva connects the donors with an individual business. This 1-to-1 connection provides a high degree of gratification to the donor, making Kiva.org a popular option. At Jolkona, we believe our emphasis on a 1-to-1 impact will make us another popular option with the public.

I also liked the part of the article which talks about the operation cost for these new breed of organizations. I think it is still very early to say which of these approaches (if any) is the optimal solution. We here at Jolkona Foundation will be trying few of these approaches, but, also will try some new ones. It will be interesting to see if one or more of these methods become a standard for operation cost funding in the future.

Jolkona and other such websites are just the beginning. In the next 5-10 years I expect to see huge leaps in using technology to fundamentally change how philanthropy is done. At Jolkona, we believe that future is now. We believe new standards will be established in the field of philanthropy in the near future.

Our website has reached another milestone. We have launched our Alpha version to a selected group of people. This Alpha has taken longer than we expected, but, we think we have a website that we can build on in the future. We hope to have the next major release in the end of the summer or early fall.

I am sure all of you heard about the earthquake in China. We have been keeping tabs on the relief & recovery efforts in China. At this point, Jolkona Foundation is trying to assess the situation on the ground, before committing ourselves to any undertaking. The needs are wide ranging – from needing immediate relief material to recupertaing from “loss of a generation” as most of those killed are children. If you would like to contribute something at this moment, we encourage you to do that through Red Cross or Mercy Corps.

We are also in touch with one of our partners – Machik – who has operations in the Sichuan province. They are trying to establish how best they can contribute to the relief efforts. As the details emerge from their investigation, we will be sure to post updates on our blog here. You can see the latest update from Machik here.

As Asia faces two very challenging humanitarian crisis, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Myanmar and China. We will continue to diligently monitor the situation. Finally, we encourage you to help out in any way that you can.

A quick update from us is that we are working hard on the first version of our website. We hope to have the private alpha available later this month to selected few followed by a beta later this summer. As we try hard to finish up the website, we have not been able to keep the blog up-to-date. However, I do want to take few minutes to talk about Cyclone Nargis that recently struck Myanmar.

We had a few people ask us whether we will be organizing another fundraising campaign similar to the one we organized after Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh. You can read about that effort here. We are humbled by the trust people have in us to execute small, but effective relief operations. However, at this point we do not think we will be undertaking any relief efforts in Myanmar. The main reasons are:

  • Governments around the world are having a hard time getting into Myanmar. We do not think we will be able to talk our way into Myanmar.
  • Bangladesh presented a unique opportunity for us since we had many connections on the ground, which helped us coordinate and execute the relief operation with low-overhead. Such a personal network does not exist for us in Myanmar.
  • When we carried out our efforts in Bangladesh, we were not yet approved for our tax-exempt status in the USA. Now that we have been approved, we have to be more careful with our actions. At the end of the day, relief efforts do not align perfectly with our mission.
  • We are already spread thin trying to get our v1 website running – which is our main mission. It would not be prudent for us to take on projects that take us away from that immediate goal.

Therefore, we believe this is not the best time for us to initiate relief efforts in Myanmar.

We are delighted to see that people want to help. Here are some suggestions on how you can help out:

  • Firstly, keep abreast of the latest situation. If you can’t provide donations, you can help greatly by spreading the right information.
  • You can give to World Food Programme as they seem to be the ones with the most significant presence at this time in Myanmar. You can do this from here.
  • Here is a list of other organizations that are trying to respond to the disaster.

Please let us know if you have any comments/questions.

Ellison Research, a marketing firm that specializes in non-profits, recently published results from a survey where it found that more than 62% of Americans believe that non-profit organizations are generally spending too much on overhead costs. The survey also shows that there is a big gap between what the public thinks is acceptable as overhead costs and what they think the non-profits actually spend. You can read more about the survey here.

This survey further validates the assumption that Jolkona Foundation is based on: that the public is frustrated by high overhead costs in non-profits. We founded Jolkona Foundation because we are dedicated to making sure that every project-specific donation by our donors go directly to the projects.

While Jolkona Foundation does have some small amounts of overhead costs, such as Paypal fees, website hosting, etc, we plan to cover those expenses from other sponsorships and grants. Additionally, all organizations that we will work with are committed to having low overhead costs so that donors know exactly how their money is being spent.

We have tried talking to PayPal about removing these fees to reduce our costs, but, they have not yet agreed to our requests. However, it is well known that PayPal doesn’t charge fees for Kiva.org so we are hoping that we can engage PayPal to give Jolkona a similar agreement as well. Nevertheless, in the meantime Jolkona Foundation is still committed to delivering on our promise of sending 100% of project-specific donations to the actual projects that will use the donations for a direct, tangible, impact that you can see!

I recently had the opportunity to present the Jolkona message at a Fundraiser that the South Asian Student Association (SASA) at the University of Washington held on Friday, January 11, 2008. The event was coordinated by the efforts of a student at UW, Semonti Hossain who is on the Board of SASA in order to raise money and awareness of the recent tragic cyclone in Bangladesh. She is an amazing leader who took ownership and helped coordinate the event. She also spearheaded fundraising efforts of the Bangladeshi Student Association last year for the cyclone raising almost $800.

The fundraiser was a cultural movie night where all proceeds were donated to Jolkona Foundation for our cyclone relief efforts. Although the event was small, we were able to raise almost $100, but more importantly, we were able to raise awareness, enthusiasm, and support from the students at UW for Jolkona’s vision and for the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr.

Before the start of the movie, I was invited to give a brief presentation about Jolkona Foundation and concluded with a description of our cyclone relief efforts. We got very positive feedback from the students present during the event. We are excited to work with the student community at UW and hopefully, with students at universities around the nation to help spread the word about Jolkona in the grass-roots level!

We truly believe that Jolkona Foundation will only be a success with the help of people around the world that are truly committed to change and college students and young working professionals are at the core of our vision!

GET INVOLVED!