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A quick update about our awareness drive. In the week since we launched our awareness drive we have little more than 300 people fan us on Facebook, or join our LinkedIn group or follow us on Twitter. Our original goal was to reach 3,000 people through these three social websites. We are 10% of the way there.

If you have already supported our drive, then, thank you and please continue to spread the word to your friends, colleagues, and family members. If you have not yet joined our drive, you can do that with three easy clicks:

  1. Become a fan of Jolkona Foundation on Facebook
  2. Join our LinkedIn group
  3. Follow us on Twitter
Jolkona Foundation will plant a tree for every Facebook fan, LinkedIn group member, and Twitter follower. So, with 3 quick clicks you can not only show your support, but, also plant 3 trees. Happy clicking!

Yesterday I came across this NPR article about the decrease in giving amounts in USA. The chart below sums up the main trend information showing the change in contributions from donors and the change in funds received by charitable groups from 2007 to 2008:

Source: Giving USA Foundation; Credit: Alyson Hurt / NPR

Source: Giving USA Foundation; Credit: Alyson Hurt / NPR

Couple of interesting observations in this chart. Firstly, the foundations are the only ones that gave more in 2008 despite seeing the biggest drop in contributions. I am not sure that those two groups are the same but, if they are, we should expect foundations to give less in 2009 and probably 2010. For example, Gates Foundation’s endowment dropped by about 6.6% in 2008. I expect that to impact their giving activities in at least 2009. Secondly, I find it interesting that religious, public benefits, and international affairs groups saw an increase in funding. Given the economic hardship and political instabilities in 2008, I think this trend makes a lot of sense.

I decided to dig deeper into the original Giving USA report which was the source of the NPR article. Here are some other interesting tidbits I found in the report:

  1. Giving made up 2.2% of the GDP in 2008, down from 2.3% in 2007.
  2. Individual giving makes up 75% of total giving at an estimated $229.28 billion. Comparatively, corporate giving was only an estimated $14.5 billion.

I am interested to hear your thoughts on how you think these numbers will change in 2009? Do you think religious organizations will continue to see an increase in contributions? Please share your thoughts.

We are celebrating our official launch milestone by kicking off an awareness drive.  Through this awareness drive, we are looking to increase our visibiity through the number of Facebook fans, number of Twitter followers, and number of members in our LinkedIn group. You can be a part of this drive by taking the following 3 simple actions:
To encourage this drive we promise to plant one tree for every new supporter in our groups over the next 10 days. We are looking to plant up to 3,000 trees through this drive.
We hope you will take a few short seconds to help us reach our goal of planting 3,000 trees and increasing our visibility in the next 10 days.  All you need to do is show your support and spread the word to your friends on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter!

Finally, after 6 months of Beta testing and incorporating 100s of feedback we are excited to remove the Beta tag from Jolkona Foundation’s website. Please check out our newly updated website available at www.jolkona.org. As our closest friends and supporters, you are invited to try out the new site today.

We will start a concerted outreach program next week. But, we wanted to give you the ability to try out the new site before anyone else.

Here are some highlights from this release:

  1. New branding and logo. One of the major feedbacks we received was that our logo does not clearly communicate our mission. We spent significant amount of time revamping our logo and the tagline. One of our co-founders, Adnan Mahmud, explains the new logo in more detail in an earlier post.
  2. Anyone can create an account. We have removed the invitation code and now anyone can sign up for a Jolkona website account and give.
  3. Deep integration with Facebook. We understand that you might not want to create another web account. If you are a Facebook user, you can sign into Jolkona website using your Facebook account.
  4. Invite your contacts easily. You can easily import your contacts from your web email accounts (e.g. MSN, Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) and invite them to also join the Jolkona Family.
  5. Share your Jolkona Experience with others. You can now find us on various social websites. We encourage you to become a Facebook fan, follow us on Twitter, and join our LinkedIn group.

We still have a long way to go, but we are now officially open for business.

After several months of testing our website with a small group of users on an invitation-only basis, Jolkona Foundation is excited to emerge from the Beta phase. Today marks the first step with the unveiling of our new logo and the launch of our Twitter account – @Jolkona.

Over the past few months we have spent a significant amount of time learning from our Beta users. One of the major feedbacks we received was that our original logo and the tagline – Every drop counts – gives the impression that we are a water-related non-profit organization. Along the same lines, few folks encouraged us to look for an alternative logo or tagline or both that would clearly and concisely connect with our work. We believe our new logo addresses these concerns.  Here are some of the reasonings behind the new logo:

  1. We did not want to change the original name of the organization. Jolkona is a unique name and it literally represents the impact we would like to have.
  2. The new tagline “Your choice. Your impact. Your world.” represents our model of allowing the donor to choose the projects she/he wants to help, to give small donations to the project, and then, to see their impact they have on the world.
  3. The logo icon has 5 colors representing the 5 categories of projects we support- Public Health, Education, Environment, Cultural Identity, and Empowerment.
  4. The icon also represents community. Jolkona Foundation is committed to 3 constituents – donors, partner organizations, and aid recipients. We help donors feel confident about how their gifts gets spent, we help our partners improve their efficiency and most importantly, we help get to those who need it (this is the critical piece) in the way they need it. While our site has a donor focus right now, our vision is to make sure we can eventually meet the needs of all 3 stakeholders.
Here is the new Jolkona logo:

New Jolkona logo

More than anything this new logo is a result of Jolkona Foundation’s evolution through the Beta process and the good fortune of having passionate users who constantly give us great feedback. The website is still featuring the old logo, but, expect that to change within next few days.
 
I am personally very excited about our Twitter presence. It opens up a great avenue for Jolkona Foundation to reach out to our target users and connect with them through a familiar media. Social media is a very useful tool for any small start-up, especially non-profits. We plan to use @Jolkona to not only give short updates on Jolkona Foundation, but also to share some industry and worldwide news/trends/events that are catching our attention. As always, we would love to hear how you think we should be using @Jolkona.
I must thank our beta users for the great support they have extended to us thus far. We could not have gotten here without your help! That’s all for today’s announcements. Let us know your thoughts on these updates!

Sorry folks for not keeping up with the blog. We are very busy putting in final touches to our website as we get ready to launch. We hope to remove the Beta tag fromJolkona’s website within few short weeks.

In the meantime, we are very grateful for the support we have received through the Beta period and all the feedback that you have provided us. We are confident that we will launch a very good service, thanks to your help.

Stay tuned… almost there!

From time to time, we go through our data to find some interesting nuggets. Last week, we came across an interesting piece of data. The Stock a Library in Rural China (partner: Machik) project was one of the 4 projects that we launched with back in October last year. Since then, Machik was able to raise enough money to buy 125 books for their library. These were not 10 page handbooks. We are talking about such well-known titles like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Arabian Nights and useful books like a book of Tibetan proverbs and an English-Chinese dictionary. The interesting part is that these 125 books were made possible by 3 kind-hearted people who gave a total of $200.
 
In summary: 3 PEOPLE gave $200 which helped to buy 125 BOOKS.
 
It is amazing to see how small gifts can have such an impact half a world away. We hope more people will be motivated to give SMALL gifts through Jolkona Foundation and have HUGE impacts.

 

Today we rolled out couple of new features on our website.  In the project listing page, the Instant Filter feature allows the user to quickly pick out projects. We believe this feature will really simplify the project selection process and it will be a favorite feature for our users.

We are also introducing Jolkona Badges which can be embedded in a website/blog. Today we are making two sets of badges available – simple and project badges. The simple badges link to our website homepage. The project badges can be used to point to specific project pages. We encourage folks to try out the badges and stick them on as many places as possible.

In the last few days, we have rolled out few new features including the Carbon Calculator. Let us know what you think about these features or any other aspect of Jolkona Foundation.

It has been about 3 months since we launched the website. It is a good time to look back and see what we have accomplished in that period.
  • We were able to raise $1800+ for our partners. 
  • Our website launched with only 4 projects and now we list more than 30 projects in over 20 countries.
  • We have added the quick filter to enable a user to quickly find a project of their choice.
  • We have projects in every one of our 5 categories.
In the coming months, we will continue to add more innovative projects and add more features to the website. We will continue to provide status updates through this blog.

Jolkona Foundation believes in the importance of protecting our environment and we are actively seeking out partners who are also committed to safeguarding our environment.  Few of these partners are involved with our forests – planting new trees and fighting deforestation.  While they have very compelling projects, these partners initially posed an interesting challenge to us and the challenge was how to show proof for gifts made to those projects. Jolkona Green Credit was created to address this challenge.

So, how did we come up with Jolkona Green Credit? Let’s go back to a core goal of Jolkona Foundation – show proof for every donation. But that is difficult when dealing with trees. For example, taking a photo of every tree does not scale well. Also, measuring the growth of every tree, while it might be useful to the grounds people, would not be very attractive to the donor. To address this issue, we developed a point system called Jolkona Green Credits. Our users can give to the environment projects (with gift options as low as $5) and in return they will receive a certain number of credits valid for 1 year.

Along with the Jolkona Green Credits, we are introducing our Carbon Calculator to help our users get an estimate of their carbon footprint. The calculator also lets the user know how many Jolkona Green Credits are needed to offset their carbon footprint.

You can find out more about the Jolkona Green Credits and our carbon calculator in the FAQ section. We encourage you to try out the calculator today and start giving to our environment projects.  Together, we can make the world a Greener Place!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GET INVOLVED!