I got the news on a Thursday afternoon, in February 2012. Our sales team had completed a stellar quarter at Google, and the email notified me that I could expect a handsome bonus in a few weeks time.
As my mind raced with ways I could use the extra money, I thought about my recent volunteer expedition to South America, with Jolkona. I’d been meaning to do something positive once I got back to the U.S.; perhaps a donation was a good place to start. I called up my good friend, Jolkona CEO Nadia Mahmud, and told her I wanted to make a donation benefiting women and girls. Nadia said, ”Well, rather than a donation, how about making a sponsorship?”
I’d never done something like this before; weren’t sponsors supposed to be big organizations or corporations, and not random tech employees like myself? But together, Nadia and I crafted a plan for Jolkona’s 2nd Annual Give to Girls campaign. I’d match donations, dollar for dollar, to a handful of charities that Jolkona works with — and we decided to approach the women’s network at my office to come on board as a key marketing partner.
My initial thought was to not mention my individual sponsorship in our marketing campaign, keeping it anonymous . The head of our women’s committee thought this was ridiculous. “Absolutely not! We’ll tape a video of you talking about the campaign, and you need to put your name on this.” I was reluctant, but the personal touch seemed to work. Our community banded together, and the donations came in day by day. I received countless emails from co-workers and friends excited to support our efforts. And one particularly generous coworker of mine, Jessan Hutchison-Quillian, was moved to join me halfway through the campaign as a sponsor.
Through my Give to Girls sponsorship, I learned a couple of powerful lessons. First, I witnessed the power of the crowd rather than the individual — we can truly amplify our impact when we give together. Second, I experienced how people around you will rise to the occasion when you share your personal passion for something. Jessan jumping in as a co-sponsor was an unexpected and wonderful example.
During these last few days of Women’s History Month, I encourage you to make a meaningful donation to Jolkona’s Give to Girls campaign.
Zanoon Nissar leads various giving initiatives at Google. Since 2010, she has volunteered with Jolkona, and has spent six weeks traveling/blogging through South America & South East Asia as part of their Expeditions.