As the CEO of Jolkona, I am proud of what the team has accomplished in 2010. It has been a great foundation building year for the organization.

I want to start by thanking our partners and donors for believing in Jolkona through our early stages and providing us with invaluable feedback. You are at the center of our work and you are our inspiration for putting in long volunteer hours after a full day at the office or school.

Famed tennis player Arthur Ashe once said, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” Jolkona’s journey these past three years is a testament to that adage. In 2010, Jolkona made great strides in ”doing” and proving proof to becoming a highly successful giving platform.

Jolkona’s success is directly measured by on how much impact is delivered to those lives that need the help the most. The global impact we made in 2010 has reached thousands, but some of our highlights include:

  • Providing meals to 600 children in Uganda
  • 43 prosthetics provided in Bangladesh
  • Responding to the floods in Pakistan before the news hit mainstream media in the U.S.
  • 30 farmers trained in Sudan
  • 13 women’s stories sponsored in China
  • 2,800 trees planted in Ethiopia
  • 43 children tutored in Guatemala
  • 50 classes received books in USA
  • 100 days of medical supplies provided in Bangladesh

Coming into 2010, we were a fledgling startup without any major financial backing. We had few projects on the site and a handful of early adopters. Quickly, Jolkona learned how to build a successful startup organization with little to no resources and building a dynamic volunteer team that is beyond passionate about our mission. What is the cornerstone of our mission? It’s championing transparency within Jolkona and its partner community – something we care about deeply.

By the end of the year, our team grew from two to 20+ highly-skilled volunteers. Our donor base more than doubled, donations grew by almost 300%.

Jolkona landed our first corporate sponsor, partnering with communications agency Waggener Edstrom Worldwide (WE), on the matching grant campaign called MatchED, which funded up to $5,000 (U.S.) of individual donors’ contributions to educational projects showcased on the Jolkona website.

A second campaign – Give Health made possible by a group of anonymous donors – alone raised close to $14,000 for our projects.

Measuring impact continues to be a major focus for Jolkona and in 2010, we were able to work together and completed the following: align our measurements against the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Jolkona team was also able to visit some of our partner projects in Africa for the first time in 2010 and see the real difference that we are making in the lives of those on the ground and we rounded out the year with our 12 Days of Giving Campaign generating over $5,500 in funds.

2011 is off to a feverish pace – we are thrilled to have hired our first two employees to start off the year. It had become obvious Jolkona needs a full-time team in order to reach its maximum potential: co-founder Nadia Khawaja Mahmud will be taking over as the CEO and Laura Kimball will be leading our marketing and outreach efforts. Their depth of knowledge and operational execution has been critical in building Jolkona into what it is today and we look forward as they continue lead efforts and breathe passion into our organization. We secured our first ever grant from Seattle International Foundation which is vital to developing outreach in areas such as Asia and South Africa. Over $4,000 was raised at the Social Media Club of Seattle anniversary party (SMC). This was our second year celebrating SMC’s birthday, and we are very humbled to be selected as the sole beneficiary!

Saving the best for last, I can’t pass along enough praise and thanks to all of the Jolkona team for the great work they have done in 2010. I am honored to have worked with such a passionate, dedicated team. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you in 2011 and beyond.

Stay tuned, as Jolkona will launch our first matching campaign for 2011, to be unveiled in mid-February and will focus on education projects.

Best wishes for the New Year and our new chapter!


Photo Credit: becca.peterson26

During our recent trip to Africa I found myself drawn to farming. I took a lot of interest in projects that were dealing with farming – everything from how to increase yield to helping farmers find markets for their crops. I took pages and pages of notes. I could not figure out why I was so fascinated with farming. I couldn’t figure out why farming would be so compelling to someone like me, a city-dweller from America who is an engineer by profession.

Then on our second day at the Serengeti, after we finished our hot air balloon ride and were on our way back to the visitor center, we came across a leopard. There were 20 to 30 other tour vehicles around the leopard all juggling for a good position to get a good picture of the leopard. We waited around for over 30 minutes trying to get the best angle to catch the spotted animal. That’s when I realized that I was drawn to farming because it was similar to photography.

Photography is all about getting the perfect shot. It is about tweaking all the various factors like lighting, exposure, film speed, etc., and combining them in a particular way to get the perfect picture. It takes many years of practice to understand how these various factors work with each other. The ultimate goal is not to only get one perfect picture, but to be able to replicate that quality over and over again for every picture you take.

Farming is not that different. Farmers spend years trying to understand how the various factors like rainfall, season, sunlight, amount of fertilizer, harvest time, etc., can be tweaked to give them the maximum yield. Their ultimate goal is also not just one great harvest, but to be able to take the learnings from one great harvest and replicate it for every season.

The trial and error aspect of farming along with the ultimate goal of perfection makes farming very appealing to me. If we can figure out how some of these lessons can be better shared across communities, then we can help accelerate this learning process. There is some great work being done already, especially in the mobile space (e.g. receiving weather updates on phones). And I imagine we will see a lot more innovations around sharing farming knowledge in the next 3 to 5 years.

This series of four photos is my attempt at trying to capture a perfect shot of the leopard.

All photos are by Adnan Mahmud.

Throughout my trip thus far, I have seen over 10 projects and many innovations around the pivotal role community plays in development. Everywhere I have seen examples of individuals who depend on their community for support in order to advance themselves and in turn enrich the well being their neighbors. In turn I have seen communities come together to help those who need it the most. Because of this model, this inherent need to build up each other and those around them, these groups of individuals create change by organizing their efforts together.

I call this “Powered by Community” and here is the impact community can have in affecting change:

  1. Foster closer community through honesty and openness. Members of the community of Dago, Kenya come to together once a year for the Kick It with Kenya Soccer Tournament.  Time is made to connect and openly share ideas with other communities who come over as visitors to  the tournament. Making time to honestly share helps with community growth and building long-term relationships.
  2. Break taboos and stigmas. Talking about HIV and AIDS used to be a big taboo in African villages like Dago. Now every community has a voluntary counseling and testing center (VCT) where the conversation about the prevention of HIV and AIDS is commonplace. It is far easier to change long held beliefs if change is being done as a collective whole.
  3. Continue traditions. Families have started to see their members spread out geographically. In a family with 5 children, most might move out to the city or even another country. Yet, during Christmas, everyone attempts to come back home to reconnect with their roots and share stories – continuing a tradition that has been in place for generations.
  4. Improve health. In Dago, Community Health Workers organize their own communities to educate themselves about current health conditions, provide preventive measures, and distribute medications to those in need. Providing this much-needed service at a reduced cost increases the prevention of illnesses to all within the village.
  5. Educate the youth. Every community has a primary school with the goal to send every child to school. In addition, communities are finding ways to support continuing education of the brightest students so that every family can continue to prosper. For example, Dago’s orphanage has solar power – giving the children ability to study after dark, while 99% of the homes in Dago don’t have power at all.
  6. Share risks. In the village of Kiminini, Kenya, women pool their savings to make loans to their peers. The borrower needs to get signatures from other women in her group before applying for the loan. This way, the women in the community take the risk of having to pay back the loan in case the borrower defaults. Distributing risk empowers the community to insure the borrower is successful.
  7. Share responsibility. Just like distributing risks, the women in Kiminini understand the share responsibility amongst the group members to make sure that the borrower pays back the loan on time by distributing ownership for loan amongst members of the group.
  8. Build skills. Outside of Kampala, Uganda, an orphanage houses close to 100 kids during the holidays. They kids don’t have a family to go to. Yet, they are spending the holidays learning various dance techniques like their own regional dances as well as salsa and other contemporary styles. Encouraging learning during what would typically be a difficult time for these children raises their self-esteem and further develops their sense of cultural belonging.
  9. Achieve self-sustainability. In Dago, Kenya, the villagers are implementing farming initiatives that will ensure that they can meet the local food needs and have all the pieces in place for self sustainability now and for future generations.
  10. Have a family. The community provides a family to everyone, including those who don’t have one of their own. In Dago, the community comes together to support widows with housing, food, and land for farming.

How do you define community?

Opportunity Collaboration 2010 (OC 2010) was an amazing experience for Nadia and me. For those not familiar with Opportunity Collaboration, it brings together close to 300 non-profit leaders, social enterprises, and funders with the goal of spurring conversations and collaboration around poverty alleviation. It is an un-conference where the focus is placed on getting things done versus hearing keynote speakers and panel talks. I have been reflecting on that experience since my return. For me, often times the best way to make a sense of things is to write down my thoughts and this blog post is my attempt to do just that.

One of my favorite discussions at OC 2010 was actually the first session where we analyzed Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. It was a perfect way to start this un-conference. It set the stage for everyone to bring an open, respectful, and cooperative attitude to the rest of the event. The participants of Opportunity Collaboration brought with them rich stories from the field that really added to the depth of the discussions all weekend.

Opportunity to collaborate

As the name implies, the focus of the event was on collaborations and partnerships. Nadia and I had to wear two hats while we were at the conference – seeking out partnership opportunities that we can fund through our web platform as well as meeting with potential funders to support and fund our operations.

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I had the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) Conference in Miami. This conference was launched by President Clinton in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world. This year I was humbled to be one of 70 non-profit representatives working with youth to be invited to attend the conference, along with 100 university deans, and 1300 university student leaders from around the world.

During this 2-day conference, I had a chance to interact with 100s of people–all brought together  by the common desire to make a sustainable positive impact on the community. The conference included an A-list guestlist including President Clinton to stars like Heather Graham and Pharrell to organizations like Lend for Peace who are using microcredit to help the people in need in the troubled West Bank. However, despite this amazing list of people and organizations in attendance, what inspired me most was meeting the university students and hearing their stories and dreams for change. I was particularly moved by a college freshman I met who I learned became an orphan while she was in high school. She was also pregnant when she became an orphan. Given all her adversity, it would have been so easy for her to give up on education; instead, she found the courage to give birth to her baby and then, to leave her surroundings in Chicago and head south where she is now getting a degree while raising her child.

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Pepsi Refresh is the latest venture in a string of high-profile voting based grant giving. It is great to see big corporations getting more involved in the social sector and the more contests we have like this, the better. We are still in the very early stages of these contests and people are still figuring out the kinks in the system. There have been couple of issues in the current Pepsi Refresh campaign – one discussing perceived bias towards celebrity-sponsored nonprofits and another exploring whether it is proxy voting is considered “cheating.” However, we must also credit companies for coming forward and trying out various models.

This month Jolkona Foundation submitted an idea for the May voting period. I thought this was a good opportunity to write a blog post about our experience. This is not meant as a representation of what all non-profits do, rather it is a view of our journey thus far in submitting our idea to the Pepsi Refresh Challenge.

Background info on Pepsi Refresh

For those who are not aware, Pepsi Refresh ( is a contest being put on by Pepsi where it gives away large grants to US-based proposals that earn the most number of votes from the public. It is a monthly contest and so at the beginning of every month they put up a new list of projects for people to vote on.  Organizations are invited to submit a proposal the month before the voting. Submission closes either on the 15th of the month or once 1000 proposals are received for that month. Then a panel of judges review the proposals for objectionable ones and the approved ones make it to the voting stage. The grants are awarded to the top voted ideas breakdown as follows:

  • 10 X $5,000 grants
  • 10 X $25,000 grants
  • 10 X $50,000 grants
  • 2 X $250,0000 grants

That’s a cool $1,300,000 given out by Pepsi every month and Pepsi should be commended for giving out that much to support the community. In the current month, there are 1143 ideas (yes, it is more than the 1000 ideas limit because Pepsi pushes some of the ideas from previous months into the next month). If Pepsi, evenly distributed the purse across all the ideas, each one would get $1137. It is important to remember this figure and I will refer to it again later in the post.

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Dear Jolkona Foundation Supporters,


Jolkona Foundation ( is a startup nonprofit organization based in Seattle that lets people choose how to impact the world through small donations with tangible proofs of impact.


When we launched Jolkona Foundation to the public in June 2009, we were very excited at the potential of Jolkona Foundation to make giving more fun, transparent and engaging for all donors. Since then, we have seen a tremendous response to our service. Over 350 donations have been made through Jolkona Foundation thus far. We now have over 50 projects in more than 30 countries and continue to add new projects on a weekly basis. We have received a lot media coverage as well, including a front page article in Seattle Times. Most importantly, together we have made very tangible impacts around the world:


  • Supplied more than 250 books to schools in Tibet
  • Educated over 25 girls in Afghanistan
  • Provided more than 15 artificial limbs in Bangladesh
  • Supplied over 25 desks to schools in Zambia
  • Trained over 15 children in computers in Guatemala
  • Planted over 4,000 trees worldwide
  • And much much more…

I would like to start this holiday season by thanking you – our biggest supporters. Your support has played a crucial role in making Jolkona successful in our first 5 months. We will continue to look to you to help reach out to more philanthropists and change the lives of more people on the ground. This holiday season I have 4 specific asks of you:


1.    Make at least one more donation to the Jolkona Foundation. Whether it is $5 to buy a malaria net in India, $30 to train a low income individual in USA, or $40 to buy a solar stove in Tibet, please make at least more 1 donation through Jolkona Foundation this holiday season. Check out our projects at and give.

2.    Vote for Jolkona Foundation in the Facebook Chase Giving Challenge and help us win $25,000 and a chance to win $1,000,000. It just takes one click to vote for Jolkona Foundation. Just follow this link –, login into Facebook, and vote today. Once you have voted, please get at least 10 of your Facebook friends to also vote for us. We will be planting a tree for every vote we get in this challenge.

3.    Please tell at least 5 people about Jolkona Foundation and give them the opportunity to feel empowered by the difference they can make by giving to a project that inspires them. The more people we can get to give, the more impact we can have around the world.

4.    Stay tuned for our holiday giving features. Give the gift of making a difference to your friends, family, or co-workers.  Holiday gift cards will be available on our website shortly and will make great holiday gifts, stock stuffers, etc.    


We started Jolkona Foundation with a vision to galvanize a new generation of philanthropists – young people who want to see the difference their small donations can make. This message has resonated very well and as a result, our team has grown from just Nadia and I to a team of 20 capable, passionate, young people. We have been able to accomplish a lot because of this team and we are looking to accomplish a lot more in 2010. However, we need your help in helping us reach more people and get them to use Jolkona Foundation. I look forward to your continued support this holiday season and in 2010. If you have any questions/comments, please feel free to contact me any time.


Happy Holidays from Jolkona Foundation!


All the Best,