Since I began volunteering with Jolkona almost a year ago, I have learned a lot about the nonprofit sector, and how our team and partners are working to change the status quo of philanthropy. Jolkona has taught me that constant innovation is important not only to optimizing impact, but also to the process of democratizing philanthropy and bringing charity into the 21st century. And above all, Jolkona has shown me that anyone can be a philanthropist, regardless of income, age, or experience.
“Philanthropist” can be a loaded term, bringing to mind major institutions like the Carnegie libraries, huge university and arts endowments, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s millions. This point of view can be discouraging to those of us who don’t have those kinds of resources, and therefore feel like we can’t make a meaningful difference. But with its crowdfunding platform and one-to-one impact reports, Jolkona has shown me that even $10 can change someone’s life, especially when combined with other people’s donations and directed to a trustworthy cause.
According to a recent New Yorker article, philanthropy is a key area where global income inequality is particularly stark, and one where the heaviest hitters do little to alleviate that problem. The 85 wealthiest people in the world hold as much combined wealth as poorest half of the world. Though the top philanthropists are part of this remarkably tiny elite group, they do little to address poverty alleviation.
That isn’t to say that some of biggest philanthropists don’t support causes that aid the poor. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has set the goal to eradicate extreme poverty on a global level, saying that there will be no poor counties by 2035. However, a 2008 study on the giving behaviors of the wealthiest imply that this is more of an exception to the rule. When it comes to giving to causes that address the needs of the poor, households that make $100,000 or less spend 36% of their charitable giving on causes that effect the poor. In contrast, households that make a million or more only spend 22% on poverty alleviation. The top recipients of funding are colleges and universities, hospitals and medical centers, and general foundations.
All this tells me is that changing the face of philanthropy means working from the bottom up. Jolkona’s strategies rely just on that, by making philanthropy more accessible not only to all who are passionate about making a difference, but also to small but efficient high-impact organizations that create huge amounts of change per dollar. By making informed giving accessible to those outside the economic elite, even a recent college graduate like me can say, “I am a philanthropist.”
With a high-impact donation and collective giving, every drop truly counts.