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In case you missed it last week, Bill Gates wore a chicken suit, a Seattle Seahawks jersey, and all sorts of other outfits in his viral video (with an assist from Jimmy Fallon) to promote the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Annual Letter.

And now it’s stuck in my head: GatesLetter.com, GatesLetter.com, GatesLetter.com. Which is the point of the viral video, of course. But now that I’ve read the letter — and hopefully, so have you — we’ll have to cleanse this earworm. Try this or possibly that.

Maybe we should do one for Jolkona.org. Can’t you just see Adnan and Nadia in some of these outfits? Or it could star Baby Aleena

Happy Friday!

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Through its events and campaigns, Jolkona has created a vibrant, fun and energetic community of Gen Y’s that not only give their money, but also their time and hearts. As a Jolkona supporter and someone who is passionate about teaching women the power of financial independence, I’m excited to partner with Jolkona to launch a special event on Feb. 20: Ignite Your Radiance. This evening will bring women together to share the message that health, wealth and community are all interdependent and essential to success, with proceeds going to support Jolkona operations.

Many of us spend the majority of our time and energy thinking about our health or finances, and often times, can feel isolated. Yet finances tend to be taboo topics for women — not something typically discussed in social circles.

Without wealth, health is compromised; without health, there is no wealth. Community, when robust, strengthens both health and wealth. Put all three together, and you have a powerful foundation that can propel your life, career and business to the next level. By incorporating each of these pieces together, we can fully be empowered to be of service to others.

Women are natural connectors, and thrive with an encouraging and supportive community. On Thursday, Feb. 20, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with like-minded women, and hear from a group of amazing speakers from different backgrounds: Jolkona’s CEO Nadia Mahmud; Jamie Silverstein, a yoga studio owner and former U.S. Olympian; Melody Biringer, a successful author and entrepreneur; and Dianne Juhl, a financial coach with an impressive personal story. In a TED Talks-style format, each will share her experience of how achieving a balance between wealth, health, and community has helped her thrive. Men and women alike who attend can learn from these stories, be inspired and expand their social and business networks.

Will you be one of them?

To learn more and attend this event, please visit: https://igniteyourradiance.eventbrite.com

Guest post by Michelle Wong, a Jolkona donor.

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As Jolkona focuses on growing our community of philanthropists and social entrepreneurs, we are thrilled welcome a new member to our leadership team: Aparna Rae, our first Development Manager.

What is your role here at Jolkona?

I’m joining the team as Development Manager. Basically, my job is to bring in funds to support Jolkona operations, through grants, major donor cultivation and events.

What was your previous work experience?

I went to college with the dream of working for National Geographic — majoring in forensic anthropology and graphic design — but somewhere between my second and third year, took a turn and headed into education. Over the last 10 years, I’ve worked in K-12, after-school and community-based programs, and even taught seminars at a university.

Despite the many changes to my original “plan,” my motivation today is the same as when I started college: helping the world’s bottom billion (or two). In my previous roles locally, I focused deeply on structural issues that keep immigrant and refugee youth from succeeding in school, and designing programs to address them.

Which other nonprofits have you previously worked with, in the Seattle area or elsewhere?

Locally, I’ve worked with Neighborhood House, The Power of Hope, FEEST as a consultant, and currently PYE Global’s Young Women Empowered as a consultant.

In addition, I helped launch Project Feast and its pilot programs for immigrant and refugee cooks in May and June 2013. I currently sit on the board of The Service Board, as the Vice President/Chair.

How did you first find out about Jolkona ?

I heard about Jolkona from Siddhartha Saha, who was shooting some photos for a project a few years ago. Followed from the periphery, and then helped with elements of Corks & Forks (Jolkona’s fundraising dinner) last year.

What do you find most interesting and/or challenging about Jolkona?

What’s both interesting and challenging about Jolkona is that we need to capture funds to meet goals on our Give partner programs (through Give Direct, Give Together, Lift Bangla), as well as for our own operations. This model creates a kind of Catch-22, since Jolkona doesn’t oversee the Give projects, so those donations don’t pay for our own staff, office or website. So, I do think that a lot of my work early on will be in helping define program areas and increase fundability.

My areas of expertise are primarily in program design and evaluation, which translates really well to the needs of fund development at Jolkona. And at the same time, I want to get people excited about the promise of Jolkona and our innovative next-gen philanthropy lab model, so that they want to join us by making meaningful contributions to operations.

What are you most excited to do as part of the Jolkona team?

I love meeting new people, and in my role I’ll get to do just that.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I lived in four different countries before moving to the U.S. at 14: India (Jaipur, Delhi, Gurgaon); Kathmandu, Nepal; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai, UAE.

If you would like to hear more about her in person, Aparna will part of the Crowdfunding & Beyond panel discussion for nonprofits at tomorrow’s NDOA conference in Bellevue, WA.

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How are 21st century tools reshaping philanthropy? Just look at Jolkona: our giving platform, timely proofs of impact, and mobile access to remote villages would not have been possible a generation ago. And our mindset — a holistic and innovative approach to solving the world’s most pressing problems, embracing new technologies and social entrepreneurship — is definitely millennial.

KQED Radio, the Bay Area’s NPR station, hosted a panel of tech philanthropists on this topic yesterday: Adnan Mahmud, Jolkona co-founder; Danial Lurie, CEO of Tipping Point Community, an organization that works to reduce homelessness in the Bay Area; Jocelyn Wyatt of IDEO.org, an organization that uses human-based design to relieve poverty; and Renee Kaplan, chief strategy officer of the Skoll Foundation, which invests in and connects social entrepreneurs.

This Rebooting Philanthropy panel, moderated by KQED Forum host Michael Kinsey, discussed the importance of cultivating a relationship between technology and philanthropy, taking a cue from Silicon Valley innovation. Listen here:

Adnan said:

I think technology can be really seminal in moving issues forward. I think it’s exciting to see technology moving forward as part of the solution as well. (27:30)

As the panel discussed, it is equally important that philanthropy also inform the technology industry. While many companies start thinking about social good only after becoming successful businesses, a philanthropic perspective can help a brand stand out and may even open up new markets. As Adnan stated,

If you’re a tech company, you look at building your business on things like Fortune 500 companies, where there is a lot of money, etc. But if you look at the market sizes, you can probably make the argument that there is more need with small household farmers around the world. There are probably more farmers than there are office workers. So, why is there not software being built to make farmers more productive? (28:08)

Adnan Mahmud and Jocelyn Wyatt will appear together again on the How Tech Has Changed Philanthropy panel on Jan. 28 at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco, hosted by Scott Shafer of KQED, and David Brancaccio of the Morning Marketplace Report. Joining them will be Nadia Mahmud, Jolkona CEO; Matt Mullenweg, WordPress co-founder; Craig Newmark of Craigslist; and Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

(This event will not be broadcast, so if you’re in the Bay Area, make sure to buy your ticket to hear what these changemakers have to say about next generation philanthropy.)

At Jolkona, we’re proud of our innovative approach to philanthropy, and we are excited that our co-founders are spreading the word!

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Bill Gates appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night to promote the 2014 Gates Annual Letter, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s progress report on efforts to eradicate global disease, poverty and child mortality. The focus of this year’s letter is to “stop the myth” that foreign aid doesn’t work, through evidence and optimism.

Especially for those of us who work in the nonprofit sector, it is always encouraging to see philanthropy have a measurable impact. At Jolkona, we strive to be as transparent as possible about actions of our partners and the difference we make. This includes openly reflecting on our successes and failures, and using what we learned to continue to improve and innovate. We know that when it comes to donations for a worthy cause, every drop counts. We can do our part to #stopthemyth as well.

You can help fight common misconceptions about the effectiveness of aid efforts by sharing the 2014 Gates Annual Letter with others, using hashtag #stopthemyth. These small actions may have more of an impact than you know.

By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. People are living longer, healthier lives. Many nations that were aid recipients are now self-sufficient. You might think that such striking progress would be widely celebrated, but in fact, Melinda and I are struck by how many people think the world is getting worse. The belief that the world can’t solve extreme poverty and disease isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful. That’s why in this year’s letter we take apart some of the myths that slow down the work. The next time you hear these myths, we hope you will do the same.

Bill Gates

You can make a global impact through Jolkona, as well, through one of our three Give options: Support individual projects through our Give Direct platform, participate in a monthly discussion to make a collective difference through our 2014 Give Together campaign, or support holistic efforts to aid Bangladesh through the Lift Bangla program.  With just a small donation, each of us can reduce poverty a little bit more each day.

We too are optimistic about the future, and the impact we can have in years to come!

Photo Credit: gatesletter.com

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Guest post by Natacha Danon, a Seattleite who is studying political science and sociology at Bates College. She submitted this shortly after arriving in Morocco for a semester abroad.

While preparing to study abroad in North Africa and spending the last few weeks interning at Jolkona, I’ve been considering global connections. My Jolkona work has enabled me to travel (virtually) around the world and explore the innovative and remarkable work people are doing – from providing prenatal care to mothers in Palestine to increasing educational services for disabled schoolchildren in Nepal.

Natacha Danon in Chellah 2In Morocco, I will be learning Arabic and studying Moroccan literature and history – but the real learning, I suspect, will occur outside the classroom in the heart of Rabat, a city where Europeans mingle with Arabs from North Africa and the Middle East. The richness and diversity of the country is encapsulated by Darija, a dialect that combines Arabic, Tamazight (Berber), French, and Spanish. It is also reflected in a site I visited today — Chellah, which features beautiful gardens, Roman ruins, an ancient mosque built by the Arabs when they first arrived in North Africa, and royal tombs. This was a breathtaking display of the many cultures and people that have inhabited Morocco over the millenia.

In between seeing some ancient sites and modern malls, I’ve already enjoyed good food and company. My host family welcomed me with a relaxing late lunch – chicken couscous with raisins and chickpeas – and we watched the soccer game on TV. My new father (“baba”), mother, two sisters, and brother speak French (“alhamdullilah”) to me, but Darija amongst themselves. I’m hoping to learn this language soon, perhaps from the Arabic-dubbed Indian and Turkish soap operas the mother, daughters and I watched all Saturday afternoon! The value placed on hospitality and family are two things that will stay with me.

I’m excited about this opportunity. But at the same time, through my work at Jolkona and the countless hours spent navigating the website, it’s comforting to know that when I’m back in America, even if I take a desk job after graduating college, I can maintain my global connections. I won’t need to go halfway across the world to fulfill my desire to understand and impact people beyond the confines of my insular world. Besides, the cost of my plane ticket is enough to provide hundreds of books for Burmese kindergartners or agricultural training for dozens of women farmers in Sudan. I can continue to expand my horizons and make a global impact from my computer in the comfort of my own home.

And so can you.

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At Jolkona, we pride ourselves on being adventurous: always innovating to provide you with compelling philanthropic experiences. Although a few of these bold bets may fail, we believe such life-changing ideas are always worth trying – and these ideas are what makes me proud to be a part of this organization.

Seven months ago, we launched one of the first subscription-based monthly philanthropy platforms: Give Together, a bold bet that we weren’t sure would resonate with our donors or the market. Since then, this giving community has funded 16 different projects in four continents, ranging from life-changing surgeries for children in Bolivia to snow leopard conservation in Nepal.

In the meantime, monthly subscription services continue to grow in popularity for commercial enterprises like Netflix, Birchbox and Dollar Shave Club.  By bringing this model to the nonprofit sector, Give Together appeals to donors who want to give smaller amounts on a monthly basis (instead of coming up with a lump sum every year), while also learning about different kinds of projects and organizations that would not otherwise be on their radar. Our members have enjoyed the donation and educational components of our pilot program, but requested an easier way to participate in the selection process and engage as a community.

What’s new for 2014?

Keeping with Jolkona’s inventive spirit and taking our member feedback into account, we focused on how we could improve the Give Together program for 2014. We wanted to create bigger impacts, provide more community engagement, and further increase transparency around how we sourced our projects. So, starting this January, we have launched the new iteration of Give Together. Rather than fund three small projects each month, our community will give one larger grant to a single project, chosen from among our vetted partners. We believe that by pooling our resources together, the community can create bigger impacts on our world. We’ve also introduced Facebook connectivity with a private group for our members to view and discuss the project proposals applying for our monthly $1,000 grant. And as our community grows, so does the amount that we can give every month.

We’re excited to build off of our success in 2014 and continue to refine the monthly giving model. Whether you’re looking for new causes to support or want to take a more active role in grant-making, Give Together is an adventurous way to start the new year.

Join the discussion and change the world. Give Together .

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We’re excited to reveal the newest iteration of Jolkona’s website! We asked Nancy Xu, Jolkona’s design/tech director, about what prompted this redesign and what it means for Jolkona’s future:

Why did you decide to redesign the site?

Our last website was launched in March last year, designed around our two core programs: Give Direct and Give Together. Since then, we have created quite a few new programs that we want to showcase on our website. The programs are so different from Give Direct and Give Together, we might as well make a new website for them!

Jolkona home page

What’s new on Jolkona.org?

New programs! In addition, now you can see the latest news from all the programs right on the homepage. We have also improved our mobile user experience – most screens are looking pretty good on that little screen.

What are the new programs, and how can people get involved?

  • Lift Bangla: Crowdfunding a nation. Holistic giving experience that enables you to directly fund individuals and community projects in Bangladesh. We are currently looking for volunteers to help engage with the Bangladeshi community here in the U.S.
  • Project Catalyst: Supporting young social entrepreneurs around the world, starting with Indonesia: building their capacity, growing their organization, and as a result, making them more “fundable.” We are looking for entrepreneurs from specialities to be coaches and mentors to the young social entrepreneurs going through our training program.
  • Expedition to World’s Edge: Journeying to the far corners of the world to get firsthand look at nonprofits and social entrepreneurs who are changing their communities. Our next trip is to East Africa in March — we are accepting applications now!
  • Jolkona Works: Working with companies, starting at Microsoft, to design corporate giving programs that increase civic engagement for employees.
  • Give Together has also been updated to reflect feedback from the members of this monthly philanthropy program and increase community engagement.

What are you working on next?

In terms of the website, we still have features that we want to slowly roll out. Give Direct and the blog will be getting a facelift in a few weeks, for example.

Why is it so important that Jolkona stay innovative?

I think that’s the best part about volunteering at Jolkona! We believe constant innovation is the best way to find the right solutions to world’s biggest problems. There are lots of great nonprofits out there that have fixed programs; we really want to add value in a different space, where we can try different things, see what works, iterate and not be afraid to fail.

Take a look around Jolkona.org and let us know what you think through our social media channels. 

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PHILIPPINES-TYPHOON/

An injured child in Tacloban City (Reuters)

We generally take down our Christmas decorations around Jan. 7 at my house, but my son loves them so much that we still have some lights up right now, and I always keep the photo-cards from friends and family up until the next batch starts coming in late November.

Similarly, while the holidays may be over and the headlines may have faded, Jolkona’s Standing With the Philippines holiday campaign remains active. Thanks to your donations and our champions, we’ve raised more than $3,500 for Peace Winds America’s Typhoon Haiyan relief and recovery efforts, and will continue to support them throughout 2014 as a Give Direct project. You can donate $30 to provide food, bedding and water for a family of six for five days, $60 to help a family for 10 days, or any amount you like — as Jolkona always says, every drop counts.

From Jon Ehrenfeld, Peace Winds America’s program officer:

In addition to our deep thanks to all the supporters of Haiyan relief, I would add that we are presently exploring a variety of early recovery and medium- to long-term recovery programs in the same areas that we conducted our relief. This gives us a lasting presence and a continuity of support – in the same region where we provided emergent relief we may also be funding shelters, seeds and tools for farmers, and boat repair kits for fishermen devastated by the typhoon. In this way our commitment to lasting relief and recovery will be felt for long after the storm struck.

For more information, check out our previous blog posts about this campaign.

And in the spirit of this blog post, from my favorite holiday special of all time:

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Do you crave excitement, adventure, and the open road? Do you want to see Jolkona’s global partners in socially innovative action? If so, the first Jolkona Expedition of 2014 is just right for you!

This March, Jolkona will send a group to East Africa, to explore and see what inspires our nonprofit partners to do their work. By going on a Jolkona expedition, you take part in creating a global community of innovators, supporting high-impact organizations, and building a better world. Whether you’re new to Jolkona or a regular donor, this experience will be inspirational for all.

The expedition will be from March 16 to 30, visiting four organizations in Kenya and Tanzania. Afterwards, you are welcome to continue exploring on your own.  Check here for more information. If you sign up this month, you can take part in planning the trip and finalizing the itinerary. Be sure to do so soon, as spots are limited! If you have any questions you can contact expedition@jolkona.org.

For now, here is our projected itinerary:

We are excited to explore the world of social innovation with you. Sign on while spots are still available, and check out the expedition page for more updates!

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Crowdfunding, the process of raising money from a collective group of people, has become an exciting source of capital for artists, game developers, entrepreneurs, and others. Among nonprofits, Jolkona has used crowdfunding for the past five years to engage new donors and revitalize the way we think about giving through the ongoing development of innovative programs such as our monthly Give Together community.

This model was the subject of a recent installment of Movie Mondays for Fundraising Professionals, featuring Jolkona CEO Nadia Mahmud, along with our officemates Brad Fenstermacher of LiveStories, and Steve Schwartz of Upaya Social Ventures.

Watch Nadia, Brad, and Steve talk about crowdfunding here.

To hear more about crowdfunding for nonprofits from Jolkona, LiveStories, and Upaya, check out our joint panel discussion at the 2014 NDOA Winter Conference later this month.

Some of the key points the panel will cover:

  • Inspiration: Crafting a compelling story will help create an experience that ensures donors continue thinking about you long after they’ve left your website.
  • Cultivation: Gaining traction requires creativity, focus, and a willingness to go to your audiences, rather than waiting for them to come to you.
  • Retention: Create a loop that keeps donors coming back for more info, more inspiration, more experiences, more opportunities.

The NDOA conference is a great opportunity to learn about fundraising through workshops and panels from a range of experts. The conference is Jan. 28 at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, WA. If you register before Friday, admission is $150 for NDOA members, $195 for non-members. Hope to see you there!

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This post is written by Natacha Danon, a political science and sociology student at Bates College.

In 2013, I fulfilled my New Year’s resolution to give more of my time and money to help others. Through Jolkona, I researched several great causes — giving books to a kindergarten class in Burma, providing prenatal care for poor women in India, funding social services for exploited children in Benin, training homeless American women for the workplace — before deciding to contribute to helping Seattle children improve their math and science skills.

As someone who values education and appreciates the opportunity to attend college, I find it difficult to see friends and classmates grappling with the financial burden of steep loans or postponing their plans for higher education.

Technology Access Foundation

By contributing to Jolkona’s Give Direct project for the Technology Access Foundation, I can do something to help bridge these glaring inequalities. TAF provides educational support, particularly in math and science, to underserved elementary and high school students in Seattle. For example, a $30 contribution pays for a set of headphones to be used in one of their Techstart classes, to help bridge the technology and educational divide for children from low-income families. TAF’s mission is to provide educational opportunities and instills an appreciation for learning — things I was fortunate enough to grow up with because of my parents.

Jolkona carefully evaluates and selects organizations that are sustainable and effective, so I am confident that my contributions get to the right people and have a direct, tangible impact.

Educational Empowerment

In 2014, I plan to support Educational Empowerment, an organization that buys and distributes books to classrooms in Myanmar (Burma), where libraries are virtually non-existent due to years of isolation and political instability. My donation helps buy and deliver locally produced books to help Burmese children learn to read and love learning — a crucial impact  in a country where one-third do not attend school and 70 percent of those who do end up dropping out before high school.

You can also make a New Year’s resolution to support more philanthropy,  and use Jolkona.org to find an issue (education, global health, poverty alleviation, agriculture and food, women and girls), a region, and a specific project that inspires you. Donations are welcomed in any amount, starting at just $5. Whether you’re a college student like me, or already established in your career, every gift counts. After all, “Jolkona” means a drop of water in Bengali – each donation, pooled together with mine and others, collectively creates a large impact.

Happy New Year!

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GET INVOLVED!