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Happy holidays everyone! It’s been a few months since I’ve written and my silence in the blogosphere is conversely proportional to how busy I’ve been working for RDF in Hyderabad. As the Public Relations and Development Manager, I’ve been editing and designing our annual report, spearheading the Sponsor a Child program, project managing a documentary on RDF, giving fundraising presentations, and all sorts of other exciting but time-consuming projects. When trying to decide what to write about in this blog post, I initially wanted to focus on the challenges of raising funds in India—yet the more I dug around and reflected upon the challenges I have had, I realized these challenges are much more systemic and complex than I initially thought.

It comes down to the circle of giving. Giving not just money, but time, energy, and other resources. The more that I reflect on my fundraising challenges in India, I realize they aren’t unique to money but all elements of giving. Not only does RDF have challenges fundraising in India, but also trouble recruiting local volunteers and gaining in-kind donations.

Giving money

It is clear that this is reflected globally with the recession and budget cuts, but looking further, it is more than that. Giving is really a societal value, one that is reflected in the types of widespread programs and opportunities available to those who give their time and resources. And being here, it has become clear that the ways people give in India are quite different than the ways in which they give in the West.

For example, when fundraising for dollars, a major struggle has been routing money from individuals to causes rather than to religious institutions. Although I realize that this is a gross generalization and that of course many Indians donate to social causes and human development, it seems at least from the trends I’ve personally encountered that people here seem much more willing to give to their temples, mosques, and churches rather than to the local nonprofit. Of course with 40% of the population living under the poverty line, it’s no wonder that giving in general is an issue. It’s clear though, that even out of those who are living financially abundant lives in India, many have strong beliefs about where to allot dispensable money and RDF, at least, isn’t at the top of their list.

Giving time

Another challenge is that of giving time. Many of RDF’s volunteers come from all corners of the world to give their time in Hyderabad as well as the village schools, often wonder, why aren’t there more locals doing this same work?

The answer from the CEO was multifaceted: part of it clearly is the lack of effort put in so far to FIND viable candidates locally, part of it is the work ethic and global perspective RDF enjoys from foreign volunteers, and part of it is the lack of a volunteer culture in India. Many of us were asked, ‘Why do we volunteer?’ ‘Well, because we are fortunate to have the resources to take some time off and gain international experience and because it adds value to our work history moving forward in our careers.’ Programs like the Peace Corps and hundreds of volunteer programs in the U.S. make it clear that our society is garnered to reward volunteering, whether it is through better jobs in the future or better admission into grad school. In India, on the other hand, I’ve gotten reactions like ‘Why are you wasting your time??’ and ‘Why don’t you get a real job?’ Again, gross generalizations, but there is something to the consistent reactions in this manner here that has me thinking.

Changing the circle

How do we embed the values of giving in our day-to-day lives such that more people are rewarded for their giving habits? Grad school admissions and tax cuts for donations are great, but I strongly believe it’s up to us as an upcoming generation to mold the way for a new paradigm of giving. That we encourage each other to give on a regular basis, that we teach our children the values of giving during the holidays, that we emphasize the different methods of giving—that it’s always possible to give, even when money is tight.

In particular, I love Jolkona’s Social Portfolio – a way to share how you give with your network. This holiday season, I encourage all of you to discuss with friends and family how you plan to contribute to the circle of giving. The more we are rewarded for our giving habits, the more we will give, and the more we are all contributing to the greater good.

How have you experienced or changed the circle of giving?

P.S. As a shameless plug, if you need an idea for a particular place to give, Day 5 of Jolkona’s 12 Days of Giving is a great place to start. Happy giving everyone!

Photo Credit: Mindful One

Kick it with Kenya (KWIK) – a Jolkona project partner – is a community soccer tournament that leverages community gathering for sports to promote public health awareness. What is so innovative about this tournament is that it harnesses the power of the community in a fun way (who isn’t passionate about soccer?) to rally around their villages and also improve access to medical care and prevention. The tournament was hosted in Dago, and the Dago village team took home first place! It was amazing to see the spirit of the community and be a part of the talk of the town. Needless to say, the entire village was partying all night long at the orphanage center and will have another celebration to officially welcome home the trophy on Sunday evening.

The tournament brought together over 500 participants and even more spectators to show their support for each village and to receive medical treatment and counseling.

We had a chance to observe the clinics in action during the tournament and interview the medical team, which we will share with you in future posts. While the soccer games were  going on at the school field, the classrooms were converted to temporary health clinics. There was an optometrist, a nurse who diagnosed conditions and dispensed medications, and an HIV testing counselor. The community had access to free vaccinations and health mentors and advocates. This year, over 500 people were tested for HIV screening and over 250 patients received medical care and medications during the tournament.

It was such a privilege to see this project in action and experience how the donations from Jolkona are leveraged because of the triage of support from the dedicated community volunteers, the government, and generous in-kind donations secured by the tournament’s organizers.

Thank you to past donors who helped make the annual Kick it with Kenya soccer tournament possible! This tournament only happens once a year, and we welcome your support of this project throughout the year so that it can continue to grow and improve the lives and building of community in this rural part of Kenya.

Happy holidays from Dago, Kenya!

As part of Jolkona’s 12 Days of Giving, Team Africa is launching a campaign to sponsor 20 students to participate in the next KWIK soccer tournament. For $27, you can help promote public health awareness through a fun community event. Want to help make an impact for the holidays? Check out Team Africa’s campaign page.

After spending the day seeing Nairobi, this morning we packed our bags and headed to Dago, a small rural village about 4 hours west of Nairobi. Of course we wake up early with the plan to leave at 8am, only to be reminded of “African standard time.” We didn’t leave the house until 8:45am and although we reached the shuttle stand without much delay, once we got there we again were faced with the reality of how slow things move in Africa. Our goal was to get on the 9am shuttle, which ended up being full. So with much convincing from our hosts, we were able to get booked on the 10am shuttle, only it didn’t actually arrive until 11am! Finally we loaded up our stuff with our local guide named Eric and were off.

Outside of Nairobi, the Kenyan countryside is just amazing! We passed through the Great Rift Valley and descended into the land of the Masaai, traditional Kenyan nomadic warriors.

The road through this part of town was quite smooth and very beautiful. After what felt like hours-and-hours of driving through the northern plains of Kenya, we ended up in Kissi. Here we were picked up by a car and then transported to Dago, about 30 minutes away.

The roads were bumpy, made mostly of dirt. We finally arrived in Dago at 5pm, just in time for us to catch the last quarter of the “Kick it With Kenya Soccer Tournament” semi-final round. Dago Dera Hera puts on this tournament with the financial support of one of our partners, Village Volunteers. The tournament brings together over 500 youth from neighboring villages for a 4-day soccer tournament that includes free HIV/AIDS testing, medications, check-ups, and public health education. It’s a great way to bring together so many youth and to promote public health awareness at the same time.

Great energy, great music, and a crowd of kids like I’ve never seen before…what more can you ask for? How about an amazing home cooked meal and great conversations with the organizers of the tournament and our host family for our stay in Dago.

This family is incredible! The mom and dad and all of their children have dedicated their lives to helping their community, one that suffers from a large orphaned population due to an epidemic of HIV/AIDS in the area. Needless to say, it was an amazing night of learning about how they got started in this work and everything that their community center and this tournament achieves.

One of the things that inspired me about this family is the extreme compassion they have to help others. Although they are fairly privileged in their village standards, they are by no means what any one of us would consider “wealthy” or even “well-off” in the U.S. However, without taking any compensation, they volunteer their time, energy, and whatever extra resources they have to help these orphans and their community. I’m just amazed at what they’ve accomplished and at their generosity.

After dinner we headed to our room for the night. It was such a humbling experience to sleep in a hut without running water and plumbing using a community bathroom/latrine. Although it was a huge adjustment from the city life in Nairobi, it’s actually quite peaceful once you get used to it. I mean, who needs electricity and running water when you have a tube, well, buckets, and flashlights anyway?

I’m really excited to be helping out with the health clinics on the last day tomorrow as well as presenting trophies and prizes to the winners of the final round tomorrow.

By coming here I am seeing first hand what an impact this tournament is making and how cost-effective it is. For just $27, you can sponsor one of the participants in the tournament and give them access to free health screenings, education, and screenings. I hope you will join me in our campaign to help raise money to cover the costs of 20 kids to attend this tournament.

Again, each scholarship is only $27, but if you can only give $5 or $10 it all goes a long way here, TRUST ME! Please make a small contribution today. Good night from Dago!

KITO International takes reformed street youths in Nairobi, Kenya and provides them with operational business training so that they can work with KITO’s many businesses (e.g. bag productions) and/or set up their own, profitable business. Nadia and I had a chance to meet with the first group of youths who are about to finish the course. It was amazing to hear their stories, where they are from, and the dreams they want to pursue after they finish at KITO.

One of the youths that spoke to one of my own passions was named Alex. He wants to be a rapper. Here is a short sample of what Alex’s talent:

The mastermind behind KITO, is Wiclif Otieno, who we met at Opportunity Collaboration. He himself was a street child in Nairobi. He is commonly called a “reformed street kid” – street children who are rescued from their current conditions. After going through the government-run program, he realized that a big problem faced by these reformed youths is that there are limited opportunities to apply themselves after completing the program. As a result, they can often end up back out in the street as before. Wiclif wanted to break the cycle and create change. Through KITO, the next step is to help Alex connect with a producer.

I am looking forward to having KITO go through Jolkona’s vetting process and be added as a Jolkona partner so that you can help Alex and others pursue their dreams and leave the street life behind them.

Okay, not really. But seven Jolkona volunteers, including co-founders Nadia Khawaja Mahmud and Adnan Mahmud, are traveling to Africa to spend the holidays visiting our partner organizations in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. Their mission: Experience Jolkona’s impact first-hand.

We’ve reached a critical point in our mission and giving model where seeing the actual impact the Jolkona community is making, face-to-face with those we help, is invaluable. Aside from the humanitarian aspect, the goal of this trip is to learn how we can continue to move the needle with our giving platform in the most effective way possible.

It’s one thing to facilitate change through our web platform, but it’s another thing to experience the impact we’re making on the ground and help tell those stories. All while gaining a better understanding how donations change a person’s life, strengthening our partnerships, and what we can do to continue to make giving more impactful around the world.

Team Africa will be visiting partners at the following projects:

To celebrate, Team Africa is launching two campaigns as part of Jolkona’s 12 Days of Giving. Both campaigns support projects that Team Africa will be visiting during their trip.

  1. Provide clean water for about 400 rural kids in Kenya

    By supporting this project, a donation of $100 will provide ten locally-produced water filters to provide clean water for about 40 children in Kenya. Each donation of filters includes training on water safety and filter maintenance and helps ensure environmental sustainability for these communities.

  2. Help 20 rural youth attend a soccer tournament and receive public health education in Kenya

    This holiday season, we’re asking our friends and family to please help us to give about scholarships to 20 kids living in rural villages in Kenya the opportunity to attend a 4-day soccer tournament where they will also receive health screening, preventative health care, and public health education. You can help promote health awareness by donating $27.

When you contribute the full amount to a project, you will receive a proof of impact for your donation. You can also give  different amounts, starting at $5, though you will not receive a proof for a partial gift.

Stay tuned to our blog, on Facebook and Twitter as we share Team Africa’s photos, videos, and stories published from Africa and after. Also be sure to follow Nadia (@nadiamahmud) and Adnan (@adnanmahmud) on Twitter as they’re posting some great live updates.

Please Note: We are pleased to announce this trip is a 100% funded by the volunteers who have graciously given of their own time and money. No funds from Jolkona have been used to sponsor any portion of this trip.

If you are involved in the social sector, you are very familiar about the importance of measuring impact. Both donors and investors want to know that their money is being put into good use and consequently organizations want to show impact so that they can continue to receive funding for their projects.

Over the years the impact reporting has evolved starting from very passive forms of feedback to more proactive forms and it is worth taking a brief look at how impact reporting has evolved. The Revenue Act of 1918 for the first time established tax exemption for charitable bequests where donors would receive feedback related to acknowledgment of donations and tax exemption. Then the Internal Revenue Act of 1943 established the requirements for 501c3 organizations to annually submit their I-990s so nonprofits are now required to report back financial information of their work. In the 1950s, we saw organizations like World Vision starting to send photos of a child sponsored by the donor. It is important to note that is still a very popular program today, despite drawing strong criticisms. In the late 1990s and early 2000s we started seeing a new breed of organizations who used the power of the digital media to tell donors about the impact on the field. I would put organizations like Kiva, DonorsChoose, Global Giving, etc. in that group. When we look at organizations today and look at their annual reports, 100% of them talk about their impact and 99% of them are of the flavor “X girls educated” or “$Y million in loans given” or “Z meals provided”.

But, is that “true impact”? A popular phrase in our sector is, “Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day.  Teach a man how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime”. At Jolkona, we try to use that in partner selection process, during our talks, and on our website – I am sure someone sells that as a bumper sticker as well. Of course this phrase should not be taken literally. However, it does provide a good discussion point for this post. If an organization says that they taught “100 people to fish” is that good? It really depends. If every one of those 100 people were able to fish, sell their fish, and earn income for the family then, that’s great. What if only 10 out of those 100 people were able to earn income for the family (even though all 100 learned to fish)? Then, would we still consider this impact in the same regard?

Here is another example of impact reporting not being accurate. Often times organizations will talk about their impact as “X number of people impacted” where X is the person receiving the direct donation + their entire family and the rest of the people in the village. In the need to impress the funders with big numbers, organizations often try to maximize their impact footprint. Again, we have to ask is that “true impact”?

Ideally, we would want to figure out a systemic way of tracking detailed impact. We should not settle for just having a count of how many children we educated, but we should strive to measure impact by tracking if the lives of those children and their immediate family have improved over the years because of that child’s education. We should not track how many fishermen we trained, but how has the life of each fisherman and their immediate family improved because of their training. Is this easy? Absolutely not. I do however, believe that we should make sure we spend time trying to figure out how to best measure impact so that are constantly improving the quality of the metrics and getting closer and closer to “true impact”.

Here is an annual report from a nonprofit organization in 1925:

It has almost been a century, but how much have we really evolved from this report? We have progressed so much since 1925 and yet, how we measure the impact we have on society and those in need hasn’t really changed that much, except for larger numbers. 🙂

There are more than 30 billion (probably way more) webpages out there which is 5 times the world population. Few billion pages get added every day. We know EVERY detail about EVERY webpage – how it has evolved over time, which pages link to it, how many people access it, what language it is in, who is the author, etc. Yet, we can’t track nutrition levels, education levels, income, etc. for individuals. We have the tools, we just need get more focused on how we use the tools to measure “true impact”.

We can do it and I am sure we will soon!

1925 report from Camp Kern/Camp Ozone Historical Materials

We are officially in the holiday season – we all know that. We also know that holidays mark a time of overspending, overeating, and overindulgence. In our first-ever infographic, we attempt to make sense of this excessiveness that marks the holiday period here in America.

For those of you who want to break this cycle or don’t know what to get someone who seems to have it all, we provide 5 alternative gifts this holiday season. Join others in giving back this holiday at http://www.jolkona.org/holiday2010.

Jolkona Holiday Infographic

Data source: comScore

The holidays – ‘tis the season to be cheery and bright, generous and humble, and, oh yeah, give. Even in this tough economy, nearly six out of 10 Americans plan to donate to organizations less fortunate this holiday season. For many families, giving charitable gifts has become a part of their holiday tradition.

12 Days of Giving

On the first day of giving, my true love gave to humanity — 20 weeks of health screening, and a proof of impact for each week.

In the spirit of giving back, the Jolkona team is celebrating the holidays by launching 12 Days of Giving, a series of campaigns for their favorite projects. On each day, we’ll unwrap one new campaign along with a message about what makes it so special.

Today we unwrap our first campaign, which is lead by Tysen Gannon, the Director of Corporate Partnerships here at Jolkona.

Ready to help Tysen provide 20 weeks of health screenings for people living in Bangladesh and make an impact this season? You can give one full gift ($50) and you will receive the full proof for your donation. Or if you’re not ready to give the full amount, you can donate a partial gift. For both options, you have the option to dedicate this gift to someone you care about.

Keep an eye on the 12 Days of Giving as we unwrap a new campaign each day. You can also follow our blog, Twitter, and Facebook for updates on the campaign.

Looking for ways to incorporate charitable giving into your holiday?

Join us and give impact this holiday season; here is a list of ideas to get you started:

  1. Donate to one of the 12 Days of Giving campaigns
  2. Give a Jolkona Gift Card to someone you care about
  3. Start your own campaign
  4. Bring Jolkona to your business

How will you give impact this holiday season?

Photo Credit: Mukumbura

GET INVOLVED!