The Seattle Foundation’s annual #GiveBIG campaign, which boosts donations to 1,600 Seattle-area nonprofits, raised an astonishing $12.89 million yesterday! Super-heroic, indeed.

Trevor Rotzien

Trevor Rotzien

Heide Felton

Heide Felton

We’re still in the process of tallying up donations, and we don’t know about our share of the foundation’s “stretch pool” or matching funds from eligible employers yet, but it looks like we raised about $1,500 for Jolkona within that 24-hour window. The funds will be used for our Seattle operations and to support an increased focus on South and Southeast Asia – particularly Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Michelle Primley Benton

Michelle Primley Benton

Special thanks to all our heroes, including Heide Felton, Trevor Rotzien and Michelle Primley Benton! (We would love to turn all our GiveBIG donors into superheroes. If you gave to Jolkona yesterday and want to get suited up, just tweet your preferred photo to @Jolkona or post it to our Facebook page this week.) It’s truly an honor to live and work in such a giving community.

I’m especially gratified because I’m wrapping up my time as Jolkona’s Communications Manager this month. Between our “Which Philanthropist Are You?” quiz, the Huffington Post and Seattle Times op-eds about the Bangladesh garment industry and factory disaster anniversary, and now all this GiveBIG fun, I’m feeling a bit like a superhero, too… albeit a pretty tired one today! It’s a good time to try one of those digital sabbaticals. Fortress of Solitude, anyone?

Thanks so much for reading my Jolkona posts and social media updates for the past year. You can still find me on LinkedIn and Twitter; my secret identity days are (mostly) behind me.

Gotta fly now…

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It’s Fun Friday, so take our quiz to find out!

Full disclosure: I wrote this quiz, but I was still surprised by my results! Not that they weren’t accurate, mind you… my social networks seem to agree, anyway. Also, I took it twice, to try a couple of different responses for areas where I was on the fence, and here’s what I got:

Quiz screenshot

Well, Kate Middleton IS my style icon

Oprah philanthropist

Oprah, huh? Must be the communications connection.

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Today – April 24 – marks the first anniversary of the Savar garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed 1,133 men, women and children, and injured more than 2,500 others. In the weeks that followed, Jolkona donors raised more than $20,000 for our campaign to buy artificial limbs (through BRAC) for the survivors who had lost arms, legs, or both.

In January, our co-founders Adnan and Nadia Mahmud met with two of the survivors. Here are their stories:

Adnan’s column in The Huffington Post’s Impact section explains more: 3 Lessons from the Biggest Industrial Disaster in Bangladesh.

You can continue supporting Jolkona’s Bangladesh partners through our Lift Bangla program. Collectively, we can make a big difference for the Savar families and the people of Bangladesh.

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Message from Nadia Mahmud, Jolkona CEO, to Give to Girls 2014 donors:

Thank you so much for joining us to Give to Girls! Your contributions helped us raise more than $2,600 in March for Jolkona partners supporting maternal health, education and empowerment for women and girls locally and globally.Nadia

With your donations ranging from $10 to $1,000, our collective giving is enough to fund English and computer classes for eight girls in Nepal (Bo M. Karlsson Foundation), agriculture training and supplies for six women farmers in Sudan (MADRE), school supplies for five girls in Liberia (More Than Me Foundation), job skills classes for two homeless women in Seattle (Jubilee Women’s Center), and more.

Our partner organizations will be sending out impact reports for every donation in the coming months. You can also continue supporting these kinds of projects by making a meaningful contribution to Jolkona’s Women & Girls partners throughout the year.

If your company has a matching donation program, you have an opportunity to double your impact. Let us know if we can assist you in submitting the information to your employer this month.

Thank you for investing in the women of tomorrow by giving to girls today!

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Like many first-time moms, when I went into labor last year, I was really scared about how painful the delivery would be and whether anything would go wrong with me or my baby girl. And even now, though Aleena is very healthy, I often double-check to make sure she’s still breathing when she’s asleep.

These fears are real to me, but they seem so trivial compared to the fears that mothers in developing countries face: Will they survive childbirth? Will their babies survive? Will they be able to give them clean water and healthy food? What about medicine if they get sick? Can they afford to send them to school? All of them, or just the boys?

Medical complications from pregnancy is one of the leading causes of death for women around the world. Even in India, which has made great strides in the past generation, the maternal mortality rate is 10 times higher than in the United States, according to the World Health Organization – even worse than in neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal. But there’s hope: When I visited a Kolkata slum a few years ago, I met with a grateful woman and baby who had received proper prenatal care and a safe delivery through Calcutta Kids. Thanks to the funding this nonprofit gets from our Jolkona donors and other supporters, this woman and thousands of others in her community no longer live in fear of dying in childbirth, or that their children won’t live past their fifth birthdays.

Some people argue that supporting efforts to improve maternal and child healthcare in slums and developing countries only exacerbates overpopulation. But, as Melinda Gates noted in the Gates Foundation’s annual letter, the data actually show that when more children survive, women opt to have fewer babies – slowing population growth and improving education and empowerment opportunities per family.

 In addition to health issues, the world’s women and girls continue to lag behind in education and employment. Improving these measures is a win-win-win for the women, their families and their communities. Researchers have confirmed that when women and girls earn money, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families (compared to only 30-40 percent for men) – a ripple effect that can break the cycle of poverty in a single generation.  

Last Day to Give to Girls

These stories and statistics inspire me during Jolkona’s annual Give to Girls campaign, combined with March as Women’s History Month. This year, we focused on crowdfunding in three categories where our growing pool of small donations can have the greatest collective impact: maternal health, education, and empowerment. The 10 projects we chose will each provide proofs for every donation, so that even small donors feel confident that they can make a difference.

It always amazes me how little it costs to make a life-changing difference for young woman. For just $30, we can train a woman farmer in Sudan. For $60, we can educate a girl in Afghanistan for one year. For $160, we can provide prenatal care to a mother in Guatemala.

All it takes is a small donation to change lives – starting with one girl, her family, her village, and the world. We need to invest in the women of tomorrow by giving to girls today.

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Jolkona’s co-founder Adnan Mahmud spent the last few days at the NTEN Nonprofit Tech Conference, sharing and learning how nonprofits are gathering and evaluating data to improve fundraising, operations and programs. Check out his latest Huffington Post Impact column for his insights into three Big Data challenges we need to overcome: quantity vs. quality, imperfect tools, and funding priorities.

At Jolkona HQ, our team has a mix of people from Microsoft and the nonprofit sector; let’s just say that some of us are more naturally data-oriented than others! As communications manager, my work includes monitoring our website traffic, social media analytics and audience demographics — but it’s a constant challenge, especially as we evolve from our startup phase, to keep up with all the recommended metrics and figure out what they mean. Donor data can also be a real head-scratcher: Why are some of our Give to Girls projects attracting large contributions from new donors, while others are more likely to attract small contributions from repeat donors? Why are some donors supporting multiple projects, but others just one of the nine options? When the campaign is over on March 31, we’ll have to take a look at this information and see whether it means we should structure next year’s campaign differently…

Jolkona partners and peers: What are some problems you have experienced related to gathering data about your donors, clients and programs? How can we improve, as a sector, to engage more funders and help more people?

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In honor of International Women’s Day, I joined other nonprofit communicators at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Friday to discuss ways we could use social media to promote women’s health initiatives, including PATH’s redesigned female condom, self-administered contraceptive shots (see photo — so tiny!) and low-tech cervical and breast cancer screenings.

This #GatesSocial also got me thinking about more ways to inform and engage donors for Jolkona’s 4th annual Give to Girls campaign, which is crowdfunding for 10 projects that save lives, educate and empower women locally and globally. What would inspire you? We’d love to produce something like the Girl Effect video:

Stay tuned for some new Jolkona media for this year’s #Give2Girls. In the meantime, check out the traditional press release about the campaign.

SEATTLE – Launched on International Women’s Day (March 8) and continuing through Women’s History Month, Jolkona’s 4thannual Give to Girls campaign is crowdfunding for 10 innovative projects to lift up women and girls in the United States and strategic regions of Latin America, Africa and Asia.

“We inspire the women of tomorrow by giving to girls today,” says Nadia Mahmud, Jolkona co-founder and CEO. “Empowering women is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty around the world. Invest in a healthy and educated girl today, and she will be able to reinvest in her family, her community, and our world tomorrow.”

From now through March 31, donors can choose among nine high-impact projects related to education, maternal health and empowerment. Starting at the $5 level, the options range from supporting job training for homeless women in Seattle topromoting female literacy in Afghanistan to funding counseling services for rape survivors in Haiti.

The bonus project will be selected by members of Jolkona’s monthly Give Together program: starting at the $10 level, participants join a private Facebook group to review proposals from nonprofit partners and determine which one should be awarded the community’s collective grant. For this campaign, Give Together is also accepting one-time donations, in addition to monthly subscriptions.

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Happy Valentine’s Day to our donors, partners and volunteers!


We love working with you to make the world better for our generation and brighter for future generations. Thank you so much for your support over the past six years.

And if you’re still searching for a meaningful gift for that special someone in your own life,  we hope you consider making a dedicated donation to one of our partners. We have dozens of philanthropy projects to choose from in Asia, Africa, North and South America. Something for everyone, whether your sweetie is passionate about education, health, human rights, job creation, animals or the environment.

On a related note, when shopping for gifts or other items online, you can use the Amazon Smile website to designate a nonprofit like Jolkona or our partners to benefit from a small percentage of your purchases.

Love to give, give to love.

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If you go on an amazing trip and have a life-changing experience, but don’t share it on Facebook, did it really happen? This satirical story from The Onion says it all: 6-Day Visit To Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture

“I don’t think my profile photo will ever be the same, not after the experience of taking such incredible pictures with my arms around those small African children’s shoulders. Honestly, I can’t even imagine going back to my old Facebook photo of my roommate and I at an outdoor concert.”

If your Facebook photo could use a similar upgrade, check out Jolkona Expeditions. These small group trips take volunteers to visit our nonprofit partners fighting poverty in developing countries. Previous expeditions have gone to West Africa and South America; the next one is scheduled for March 16 to 30, visiting organizations in Kenya and Tanzania.

Jolkona Expeditions: Not only will they change your life, but they will definitely change your Facebook profile picture!

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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:,, 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 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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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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Nelson Mandela passed away on Dec. 5. In his honor, we have changed the main image on Jolkona’s homepage this week:

The banner will resume linking to Standing With the Philippines, our holiday campaign to help Typhoon Haiyan survivors, after Mandela’s funeral this weekend.

We also highlighted Mandela’s wise words about the power of education at the top of our first Give Together newsletter earlier this year:


Bill and Melinda Gates and other global nonprofit leaders have stepped forward to praise Mandela’s work — not just as a statesman, but as an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised. Jolkona co-founder Adnan Mahmud “wasn’t lucky enough to ever be in the same room as Mandela,” but was nevertheless inspired to write a new Huffington Post column sharing his own view of this man’s legacy:

Mandela’s Gift: How to be Loved by the People

Why was Mandela so special? What makes him worthy of this attention?

In fact, the detractors have already begun to surface. Some say he was a violent guy. He was a communist. He disapproved of U.S. policies. He neglected his family. His presidency was mired by corruption and economic problems.

Yet no one can deny the power of his legacy…

Check out the rest of the column over at The Huffington Post. We also currently have eight projects you can support in Africa via our Give Direct program, ranging from funding elementary school teachers in Zambia to providing financial services for people in Ghana.

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In honor of Giving Tuesday yesterday, the Seattle mayor’s office issued a proclamation to encourage charitable donations and acts, and Jolkona hosted a holiday party to kick off our Standing With the Philippines campaign. It was inspiring — and fun! — to join the international #GivingTuesday movement, aimed at reclaiming the true meaning of the holiday season after the feasting and chaotic consumerism of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Our supporters have contributed more than $1,200 so far, which Jolkona partner Peace Winds America can use to help at least a dozen Filipino families displaced by last month’s Typhoon Haiyan. Let’s keep it going throughout December — and well into 2014, as the relief and recovery efforts are ongoing, despite our tendency to move on to the next headline.

As our co-founder Adnan Mahmud stated in his recent Huffington Post column:

The trouble is, most of us tend to remember to give only after disasters and during the holiday season — especially with the growing popularity of the “Giving Tuesday” movement, observed Dec. 3 this year. But for the millions of people in need locally and globally, access to medical care, housing, food and water aren’t only problems once or twice a year. Poverty doesn’t take a day off.

Our Philippines campaign has suggested donation increments of $30, $60 and $200, but any amount will make a difference. Donors can also make contributions as holiday gifts for family and friends — a win-win situation, if you’re like me and have trouble shopping for several people on your “nice” list every year…

For more on Peace Winds America’s disaster relief plans in the Philippines, here’s a clip of Jon Ehrenfeld, the organization’s civil-military program manager, at the #GivingTuesday party at Jolkona HQ last night.


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Alicia Holmes has the distinction of being our first Give Together member who was completely new to Jolkona. Not only had she never donated through before, but she doesn’t know anyone affiliated with us, she’s never attended one of our events, and she lives all the way across the country…

We couldn’t wait to hear her story!

Age:  30

Occupation:  Senior advisor for a healthcare and pharmacy innovation company

Location:  Massachusetts

How did you hear about Jolkona, and what made you want to contribute?

I saw an article [on LinkedIn] that described Jolkona’s philosophy and contribution model. The type of projects that Jolkona was targeting — small scale, material impact, varying causes — resonated with me. I like knowing that I didn’t just contribute X dollars to a particular city or country; I know that I helped purchase books for a local school or provide job-training for young women.
Jolkona strikes me as fresh and innovative. I was floored when I received an email from an actual person, Nicole, after signing up for Give Together online. No “do not reply — distribution only” emails. Real people who care about their work and the causes they support are the people behind this organization.

How did you hear about Give Together, and what inspired you to join?

After reading about the company, I learned more about Give Together on Jolkona’s website. It’s a practical, results driven program where you’re actually engaged in the act of giving and can witness the collective result as more people join the cause. It isn’t just an anonymous donation on a website.

How would you define “philanthropist?”

I think the term philanthropist sounds so formal that most people wouldn’t describe themselves as such, unless you actually are Bill or Melinda Gates. But in my mind, philanthrophy only requires that you look outside of yourself, your situation, and try to make a positive impact on humanity. There are many more philathropists walking around this world than we think.

What other causes do you support, and what kind of causes would you like to support in the future?

Veterans organizations have always been important to my family, as I come from a long line of service men and women. My father is a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, and in their retirement, my parents have started a non-profit to provide respite for soldiers and their families. I guess I take a lot of cues from them.
Healthcare (especially nutrition and prevention) and education are at the top of my list as well. Those are just a few areas where you can do more than relieve an immediate need. You can support the development of skills that will be useful for a lifetime (and hopefully passed on to later generations). Small contributions are magnified in that way.

What would you say to encourage others to donate to projects through Jolkona or elsewhere?

If you want to make an impact, if you want to know where and how your dollars are being used to help others and make the world a little more liveable, this is where you start.

Thanks Alicia!

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My father is a Vietnam veteran, so I never let a Nov. 11 go by without thanking him and others for their service — especially since our emotional trip to Vietnam in 2007 with a group of veterans and philanthropists. We had no connection to Seattle yet at that time, but coincidentally, we accompanied the Seattle Rotary Club and Son Michael Pham, founder of Kids Without Borders, on our first visit to the Go Vap Orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City.

Happy Veterans Day, aka Remembrance Day for our neighbors to the north and other parts of the world.

Southeast Asia is also on my mind as we are hearing worse and worse reports of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, with more than 100,000 feared dead in the Philippines and panicked evacuations causing chaos in Vietnam.

Jolkona does not have any projects in those two countries this month, but through our headquarters here in Seattle, we have ties to the Filipino and Vietnamese American diaspora. Check out this Seattle Times story for information on how these groups are responding, including links to helping the rescue, recovery and rebuilding efforts through the Red Cross, World Vision and Mercy Corps. (Both WV and MC are also based here in the Pacific Northwest.)

And please check back for more information as we work with our nonprofit partners to help these ongoing efforts, as well.

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