The Pacific Northwest Global Donor’s Conference was held on May 17th, as a forum to promote global philanthropy. As this is a great opportunity to connect with others in the philanthropic community, and learn about the initiatives and innovations of other non-profits, some members of the Jolkona team attended. The goal of the conference was to create an environment in which connections could make a real difference, as expressed by the opening speaker: “We have all the technology and solutions to solve the world’s problems. But, it is leadership and organization that will make it happen.”

Here were the impressions of our team:

The conference promised to unveil a new model with utility for the non-profit community. What was the model, and how did it work?

The model is for the new conference structure. The day started with a rapid fire of 7 minute quick talks, and after lunch, it went into “open space”. A few people with topics in mind would make the topic suggestion, and then people go to join a table. At any point you were free to move around so you could spread the ideas around.

Did you learn about something that you thought was inspiring, intriguing, or worthy of interest?

I picked a workshop on travel for philanthropy. I met a lot of interesting, trip-leading veterans from 11plus, EcoViva, Pangea, and others. I felt like we are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to considerate, sustainable trip leading. They have much more advanced approaches on how to prepare the community before a foreign visit and lessons learned (when they went to see someone in a slum community, his landlord raised rent on him assuming he got a lot of money from the white visitors).

Were there any exciting new foundations or organizations at the conference? Who were they, and what do they do?

I really like some of the impact investment groups that I met, and heard from quick talks. Impact investing is about focusing on impact, which is not the same as return on investment. A company with great products makes a good investment because they make a lot of profit. These groups invest in them. But, nonprofit/social for-profits don’t make a lot of money but make positive impact on our population, and these investment companies balance their portfolio by investing in them also.

Did you meet any new potential partners for Jolkona?

Village Volunteer is an exciting partner, and their new projects are great. One project is to make biodegradable sanitary pads for rural communities out of an invasive species that looked like water lily. EcoViva has interesting projects with the indigenous communities in Guatemala, in an area with largest mangroves still remaining in the world. One women’s human rights group talked to me about being a Jolkona partner as well.

What did the speakers talk about that you found most interesting?

Gates Foundation had an interesting way of applying modern financial tools used in established economies and, transferring it for use with the poor. They learned a lot making this transition.

IDEX is a group that stays with their projects for the long haul, even if their mission changes. One of their partners went from micro-finance to human rights, and all of their funders left because it didn’t align with what they support anymore. IDEX stayed. They believed it was the right strategy shift for their partner and was able to continue funding them

Was the experience worth going to, and what could have been improved?

It is clear that the active philanthropist community is small and tight, so it was nice to start to get used to the faces. But, the conference (and all of us) needs to be able to reach out to other groups.

You can help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

An enduring question in the non-profit sector has been the decision of how anonymous a donation should be. A recent article from the Nonprofit Quarterly frames the question as a public vs. private matter. They ask whether charity is an individual and private decision, or one that relies on community involvement. The philanthropy section of the New York Times introduced the topic, asking about whether public giving is about a name on a plaque or building, or if it is an integral part of building donor relationships? Both of these articles, and other sources, choose to frame their arguments in a Judeo-Christian context, emphasizing the belief that humility in giving is almost as important as the act itself.

However, in my opinion, this approach seems dated, and fails to fully take into account or embrace the themes of social connectivity, and the changing public face of philanthropy. We are in the age of social media, where nothing is truly quiet, and the way people are motivated into action has changed. As social media has changed the way we communicate and keep in touch with our acquaintances, it makes sense that philanthropy would follow the same route.

It seems that whether or not you give anonymously, both choices seem motivated by individual needs than by broader good. Asking for privacy is perceived as avoiding the pressure for further donations, and receiving a special plaque or building seems like a quest for immortality. Alternatively, a donation with a well-known name behind it helps bring publicity to the non-profit, and bring in further donations. While these questions are still being discussed by the major sources of non-profit news, it seems as if the debate will soon be made obsolete by our social media culture. People spread awareness about all sorts of issues and causes, and publicity is no longer about an engraved name, or seen as crass self-promotion.

For those of us who aren’t wealthy enough to earn our name on a park bench, or organizations that don’t rely on large donations, quiet, anonymous gifts may be counterproductive. In fact, 15 to 18 percent of donations are referred from Facebook in an average peer-to-peer campaign. Most of the people who “like” a charity on Facebook do so because they want to publicly display their support for the charity to their friends. In addition, over half of social media users who engaged with a non-profit or cause took further action by donating, volunteering, or continuing to spread the word.

Of course, just as selecting a cause or organization is a personal decision, so is the choice to make your donations public or strictly private. Keep in mind however, that small non-profits especially rely on social media to garner donations, publicize campaigns and build a strong following. When you can publicize what you ate for lunch, why not use social media to share a cause you are passionate about?

Whether or not you make your donations public, small organizations like Jolkona can use just a small contribution. Make a difference and donate to a project today.

Read our previous post about Social Media and Philanthropy.

You can help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.


“I wouldn’t change a thing, because that would change everything,” are the iconic lyrics that the Black Stax’s hit single “I love my life,” preach to their R&B and Soul audience. The song speaks of someone overcoming the obstacles put in front of them, and coming out on top because of the struggles in their life. If you want to help children overcome the challenge that is poverty, attend the STEM+ART as a Social Catalyst event, put on by the Technology Access Foundation (TAF).

STEM+ARTThe STEM+ART as a Social Catalyst event will take place tomorrow, May 23rd, at 7:30pm, at The Triple Door in Seattle, WA (216 Union St. Seattle, WA 98101). Tickets can be bought at Tripledoor: $10 for students, $20 for non-students. Black Stax will be performing, and there will be an art gallery displaying the incredible artwork of Tony Taj, alongside the artwork of some TAF students. All proceeds will go to the Technology Access Foundation.

The Story Behind TAF

TAF’s major goal is to, “[Equip] students of color for success in college and life through the power of STEM education.” Equipping students means giving students laptops, flash drives, or anything else a student needs to succeed while in school. The buzzword that most educators use to talk about the problems with the American education system is the “Achievement Gap.” However, the people at TAF believe the gap the education system should be trying to close is the “Opportunity Gap.” TAF believes that if all students received the same opportunities, all would be successful. They created TAF to not only prove this statement right, but to help students meet the high expectations of the classroom, develop relationships with their teachers and classmates, as well as provide the tools necessary to succeed in school. A list of their full goals can be found here.

The Power of TAF

Matt Sauri, (a TAF Corporate Partner ) stated in a promotional Youtube video that, “[Washington state] is the number one state in producing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) jobs, but were embarrassingly low on the list in terms of producing stem skill sets.” He hopes that TAF can change this statistic. TAF served 32 students in its first year, but now serves over 750 students a year by giving the tools and support necessary for each individual student to succeed in school.

Join Jolkona at the Event!

If you still aren’t convinced to attend the event, knowing that Jolkona will be there tabling should push your “not sure” answer to a “definitely going.” Please come say hello to our table, and enjoy the great music and art. For more information about The STEM+ART as a Social Catalyst event, check out #TAFStax or their Facebook page.

Find out more about Jolkona by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter and Pinterest.

diversity day 2013logo

We live in a world of ever increasing connectivity, where we have access to as much information as we want, from around the world, at our very fingertips. Cultural diversity is more a part of daily life, both locally, and globally, as more and more people have access to technology and social media, making the world more connected than ever before. However, despite the shrinking space between interactions, having a society that respects cultural diversity is more difficult than one would think. In fact, a full three quarters of conflicts still have some cultural dimension. That is why today, on May 21st, we recognize the UN World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

On an international policy scale, the UN recognizes that cultural diversity is vitally important to development, as well as to peace. Irena Bokova, the Director General of UNESCO says, “Experience shows that efficient development models are those that actually integrate local cultural specificities, thus eliciting the involvement of the communities concerned.” In addition, keeping culture central to developing educational, environmental, communication, and other policies, means that marginalized groups are better represented. Diversity Day focuses on encouraging cultural and religious dialogue and plurality locally, as well as internationally, while creating a better balance between the exchange of cultural goods, and preserving the most vulnerable cultures.

Celebrating World Diversity day and experiencing cultural diversity doesn’t only have to be the project of international policy, it can just as easily be done at home. Do one of the things on the list provided by the Do One Thing Campaign for Diversity and Inclusion, from the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations:

  1. Visit an art exhibit or a museum dedicated to other cultures.
  2. Invite someone in the neighborhood from another culture or religion to share a meal with you and exchange views on life.
  3. Rent a movie or read a book from another country or religion than your own.
  4. Invite people from a different culture to share your customs.
  5. Read about the great thinkers of other cultures than yours (e.g. Confucius, Socrates, Avicenna, Ibn Khaldun, Aristotle, Ganesh, Rumi.)
  6. Visit a place of worship different than yours and participate in the celebration.
  7. Play the “stereotypes game.” Stick a post-it on your forehead with the name of a country. Ask people to tell you stereotypes associated with people from that country. You win if you find out where you are from.
  8. Learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures like Hanukkah, Ramadan or about the amazing celebrations of New Year’s Eve in Spain or the Qingming festival in China.
  9. Spread your own culture around the world through our Facebook page and learn about other cultures
  10. Explore music of a different culture

Information from UNAOC. Find out more about the Do One Thing Campaign here.

In honor of UN World Diversity Day, you can also donate to a project here at Jolkona, which will not only contribute to celebrating cultural diversity and identity, but also to aiding and empowering people in developing countries, which will soon be the epicenter of the development questions put forward by UNESCO. Through Potters for Peace, donate just $25, to train a Nicaraguan artist in making traditional pottery, for up to a year . This not only provides a steady source of income for those living in extreme poverty, but also preserves cultural heritage. Similarly, a donation of only $15, through Awamaki, supports a woman weaver in remote indigenous communities in Peru . The donation provides workshops and business training so the women can be self-sufficient, and giving them access to an international market for their traditional Peruvian weavings.

Though globally recognizing and celebrating cultural diversity may seem like an incredibly massive task, you can do your part with just a small act of seeking out and experiencing a new culture, whether it is exploring a new cuisine, or donating to help someone turn their culture into a source of well being, and have a stronger global presence. Today, on UN World Diversity Day, make a difference, be inclusive, and be part of the dialogue.

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

After two mind-opening weeks in West Africa, four of us from Team Jolkona headed north for some reflection and relaxation time in the Sahara desert.

We arrived hours too late to meet with our camels. Instead of sunset, it was moonlight as we rode into the sand dunes. The temperature plummeted dune after dune. The wind picked up and blew sand into our faces. Discomfort aside, we enjoyed our bumpy ride, the silence of the desert with just the sure steps of our camels, and the cloudless night sky filled with stars from one horizon to the other.

At night we stayed in a Berber tent with the “desert people,” as they call themselves. They poured us mint tea and taught us how to play their Moroccan drums.

One of the “features” of our trips to edges of the world is being off the grid. Be it a tent in the Sahara or a rural village like Ouesse, Benin, we were forced to be disconnected from Facebook, emails and other sources of digital distraction. Staying off the grid in a modern metropolis nowadays is nearly impossible. Short of going to a digital detox camp, there is always a commute or a Starbucks line prompting us to glance down to our glass slabs. So, despite the inconvenience and, let’s admit, the foreign sensation, the digital detox during our trip was good for us. It forced us to be present, to absorb and interact with our environment instead of tuning it out. It has filled me with a great sense of wonder, what I’ve learned from the people I met, and what I’ve seen in every stop we made. Did I miss out on all this back home, in my kaleidoscopic neighborhood, while tuned out behind my glass slab?

As we left our sand dunes behind, I asked our guide Hassan, a desert nomad converted to travel guide, if he missed his prior life.

“You would not believe it. You all think wi-fi, Facebook and YouTube is the life. It is not the life.”

You can follow all the latest blog posts from our Jolkona Team in West Africa here

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram.

Written and Illustrated by Suejin Kim

Visiting Schools with Empower Playgrounds

After a beautiful canoe ride to an island, we walked into a beautiful school campus. It had only two sounds, children playing and birds, and had an open space with trees and flowers. Along with Isaac, a founder of Empower Playgrounds, we were welcomed with fresh coconut water by a school dean and staff members.

Playing Time

To understand classroom dynamics and to break the ice, Nancy led a spaghetti activity, which is creating a tower with given spaghetti and a marshmallow in 15 minutes. Students got excited and created some interesting shapes! After, we asked the kids draw anything on napkin size piece of fabric. They drew many daily life objects, such as a soccer ball.


Empower Playground

In the school’s playground, kids were playing with the Empower Playgrounds supported equipment. They were excited to see us and play with us. Isaac explained that while kids play, the equipment charges lanterns that kid can borrow for after school hours to study. In places like this, where there is no electricity, this is the only source of energy. Isaac mentioned that the performance of students went up after they introduced the equipment.

Empower Playgrouds has currently installed its play equipment in 32 schools and is aiming to install it in up to 40 schools this year. However, the equipment cost about $10,000 dollars to install. The money is donated by variety of NGOs and private donors. Energizer, the battery company, donates customized lanterns. In terms of business, this seems more of an interim solution before electricity infrastructure get fully built in Ghana. For small rural towns, the interim period might last decades.

No matter what, they are doing an amazing work in villages with no electricity, so kids can study longer, saving them from hours long house chores. What a cool idea this is, from a design perspective alone! It’s the Ghanaian way of “Study hard, Play hard.”

You can follow all the latest blog posts from our Jolkona Team in West Africa here

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram.

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Twisted. Mangled. Buried. Crushed. As the bodies seem to defy gravity, so too does the photo seem to defy belief.

The devastating collapse of an eight-story factory building in Savar, Bangladesh on April 24th rapidly made the headlines around the world. The death toll, just two weeks later, has risen to over 700. It has been the nation’s deadliest industrial disaster. The International attention it has drawn has focused not only on the tragic scale of loss of life, but also – and rightly so – on the appalling conditions that so many people in developing countries are constrained to work under.

Most appalling of all, of course, is because it is so often at the behest of us in the West with our infantile addiction to cheap prices, which we are so happily spoon fed by smug Multinationals.

Tragedy for the workers and their families

The first tragedy is the loss of life – immutable, irreversible, and harrowing. Families have lost their loved ones. Nothing will repair this.

The second tragedy is that most of those workers provided a living for their families. In all likelihood, for many families it would have been their only source of income. Those families have been plunged not only into heartbreaking tragedy, but also complete destitution.

The same, though, goes for many of the survivors, who have suffered life-altering injuries: brain damage, broken backs, crushed bones, and severed limbs. Many of these workers will never be able to work again.

Hope for the injured: prosthetic limbs

We have partnered for a long time with BRAC. We visited their Brace and Limb Center in Bangladesh during our Partner Visit trip to South East Asia in the summer of 2012. BRAC has been helping design, build, and fit prosthetic limbs for thousands of Bangladeshi people for many years.

To respond to the tragedy in Savar, we have partnered with BRAC to start a campaign to provide survivors of this terrible accident with an artificial limb.

A new limb for these workers can mean the difference between livelihood and destitution, between life and death – for an entire family.

For $220 you provide one limb for one victim of the Savar tragedy. You can also donate as little as $5. We have already raised over $4400, reshaping the lives of 20 victims. Help us reshape the lives of many more. Give today.

You can also help support the campaign by sharing about it on Facebook and Twitter.

As we have discussed before, the nonprofit sector has been facing difficult financial challenges ranging from budget cuts, to the loss of market shares in the industry. To some researchers, it is becoming clear that there is a divide between the public perception, and the realities of how nonprofits operate. The John Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies has begun to explore these concepts by initiating the Listening Post Project’s Non-Profit Renewal Conversation.  More specifically, they hope to begin a conversation about the special values and unique responsibilities of non-profits, how to communicate those ideas to stakeholders and the broader public, and to answer one question: why do non-profits matter?

Using a network of over one thousand non-profits that responded to regular surveys, or “soundings,” to monitor trends and developments in the sector, the Listening Post Project helped narrow down a set of values that various non-profits thought were most important.  They have started to find that the issue does not lie with disorganization of the non-profit sector, as the surveyed groups had a great deal of consensus about the way the values and qualities that are core to their work.  The issue was much more about the ability of non-profits to communicate those values to the public. The Center at John Hopkins will use this information to renew the value of non-profit commitment.

Here is an example of some of the results of the conversation:

 Anyone is welcome to contribute to this project, in order to get as much perspective as possible.  If you would like to join in with the Non-Profit Renewal Conversation, use Twitter (#nonprofitvalues), or Facebook, to share your thoughts.

Here at Jolkona, we hope to make a difference in reinvigorating the non-profit sector, through our dedication to the idea that anyone can make a difference, with just a small donation, and that knowing the impact is essential to each donation.  As the whole industry works to define why they matter, perhaps we can renew a sense of value by changing the culture of giving.

Change the culture of giving today.

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram.

When people talk about African safari, 99.99% of the time they are talking about the parks in Kenya and Tanzania or the ones in South Africa and Namibia. The remaining 0.01% of the time, people are talking about the 3rd park – Pendjari National Park which spans across Burkina Faso, Benin, and Niger.

Our Expedition’s last stop was Pendjari National Park. We spent about 36 hours at the park, including couple of game drives. It is clear why Pendjari doesn’t get as much love as the parks in eastern and southern Africa:

  1. Lack of diversity. Pendjari doesn’t have very diverse wildlife, unlike the safari in Kenya and Tanzania. That is a big initial hurdle that Pendjari has to overcome.
  2. Park services are not well developed. While the accommodations inside the park were great, the guide was below par, as was the vehicle we were using. We were delayed by more than an hour for our sunrise drive because our vehicle would not start.
  3. Animals are really difficult to spot. We were able to easily see elephants, buffaloes, hippos, and antelopes. However, the cats were to be really hard to find. Our guide didn’t seem very knowledgeable about locating the different animals. We did hear a lion growl, but the guide seemed unsure which direction we should head.
  4. Lack of coordination. One of the cool features in East Africa is that the different safari vehicles would communicate with each other if they spot a rear animal. This kind of communication was missing in Pendjari. While I appreciate the desire to provide an adventure feel in trying to find animals, Pendjari does need to make it easier to find the wildlife.

Pendjari might never become as big as the Serengeti or the Kruger National Park, but it has the potential of being lot more engaging than it is today. If the administrators of the park can address some of the issues I mentioned above, I believe Pendjari will be part of most West Africa tourist itineraries.

You can follow all the latest blog posts from our Jolkona Team in West Africa here

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram.

Chances are, if you are reading these words, social media brought you to our blog. It is a trend that has transformed the way that philanthropies operate, and reach out to donors, connecting almost everyone with the opportunities and means to be involved in charitable giving. Here at Jolkona, we use these strategies to inform potential and current donors about our low cost chances to make a difference.

With the proliferation of the non-profit sector in social media, there have been a number of studies of exactly what have been the most effective strategies. For instance, studies like the 2013 eNonprofit Benchmark Study, or those from the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) find who and what are more successful on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. Intuitively, posts with pictures included are more likely to spread, and promote dialogues and actions. Less intuitively, smaller organizations have the highest average Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and their posts go more viral. Check out this infographic for more in formation about just how much social media benefits non-profit organizations.

We are seeing a new freedom in the way the nonprofit sector operates. Organizations can find donors and inform people about their causes more easily than ever, no matter how big they are. It could mark a transition away from the reliance on major donors, and influential people, and put philanthropy more firmly in the hands of anyone who wants to contribute.

The biggest online charitable giving event that Jokona will be participating in is the Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG event, on Wednesday May 15th. Donations made on the Seattle Foundation’s website will be matched from a “stretch pool,” the size of which is related to how much is donated throughout the day.

This is a huge event, since it allows local Seattle area non-profits to all benefit from matched donations, which can be stretched up to $25,000 per donation per organizations. Last year’s GiveBIG generated $7.43 million in online contributions, demonstrating just how much social media and online charitable giving can benefit non-profits. GiveBIG 2012 more than double the amount given in the previous year, and we can do even better this year! Keep an eye out for Jolkona, and participate in GiveBIG 2013.

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram.

Written by Lena Alfi

After a long, scenic drive heading east along the coast of Ghana, our van pulled into a quaint village called Anloga. Positioned alongside a main road, the shops and homes of Anloga are only a five-minute walk from the ocean. As a result, our first whiff of Anloga air was consumed by the smell of dried fish. We arrived at the Lumana house where we were greeted by Eric. He is the Country Director of Lumana in Ghana, and graciously hosted us. Lumana is an organization founded in Seattle that provides financial services and small loans to Ghanaians living in poverty.

The Lumana house is in the center of town and easily accessible to every street shop, food stands and local bank. After dinner at a nearby restaurant (which consisted of chicken and jolof – a delicious tomato based rice dish), we rested up in our mosquito tents and prepared for the following day to meet Lumana loan recipients.

Women fishmongers

We started off the next day by squeezing into a local shuttle (Ghanaians don’t waste any space – there are always seem to be 3 people per seat), and driving up the coast to a farm. There we met our first clients of the day. George and Joseph are brothers who own a few acres of land and mostly farm peppers and tomatoes. They have quickly become some of the most successful farmers in the area and have used Lumana loans to build up their product. Their plans for expansion include farming carrots and onions, which will require pipes for irrigation. Lumana is working on fundraising about 2000 USD to support this. Aside from their farming business, the brothers have come up with some very entrepreneurial and socially conscious ideas, including a fish farm, a hostel, and scholarship money to support schooling for their employees. As we walked through their fields, we were amazed at how different some fruit can look without all the hormones and preservatives we tend to use in the US!

After leaving the farm, we walked to the beach to find Dashi, a local fishmonger who spends hours in the sun waiting for fishermen to reel in their fish nets so she can buy, dry and sell fish in the market. Dashi is one of many fishmongers who are women, and they all surround the beach daily to negotiate fish prices. As the sun was blazing in the middle of the day, we were all amazed at how effortlessly these women endured the heat to make a profit of under $10. We could barely last 20 minutes!


Monica, SueJin, Lena and Nancy with Christie and her staff

After recuperating from the heat, we headed down the street from the Lumana house to visit Christie, a tailor who, with Lumana loans, opened a shop where she currently employs 7 young tailors and is one of the most successful tailors in the town. Aside from being extremely sweet, welcoming, and thankful to Lumana’s services, we were most impressed with how beautiful her shop was! She is an inspiring success story of how far a small loan can go – beginning with one tailor and resulting in a business with young women employees and a large clientele.

We visited another male tailor with similar success before heading to Senna and Appalonia’s home. Senna is a successful businessman who built upon Anloga’s many tomato farms. He started a cannery that purchases malformed or old tomatoes that would be otherwise wasted from surrounding farmers, and purees and cans them. Senna has built an impressive clientele of customers from all across West Africa, who he sells canned tomato puree to, and has quickly become the most popular and successful businessman in town. He has benefited from Lumana loans by purchasing equipment, buckets and jars for his business.

Appalonia with a bottle of tomato puree

We had a wonderful experience in Anloga. Thank you to Eric, who was an amazing host who lined up inspirational clients for us to meet. Thank you to Anloga for welcoming us so warmly, and sharing your stories with us! Our time with Lumana was eye opening to the power of “small small” (as Ghanaians often say) loans to make big, sustainable change.

You can follow all the latest blog posts from our Jolkona Team in West Africa here

You can also help spread the word by liking us on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter,  Pinterest, and Instagram.