We are so excited to usher in this festive time of year with our very own giving campaign. Jolkona’s tireless volunteers and members have teamed up to present and advocate for projects important to them. This is, after all, the season of giving – and we believe genuine generosity is contagious. The holidays are special times for family and community, for gathering and storytelling, for being thankful and giving back. The spirit of giving is a malleable form that can manifest in many ways. We would like to share our spiritedness with you.

Launching our Gifts

Jolkona volunteers have been crafting videos dedicated to their chosen projects. Each day, beginning today, we will ‘unwrap’ a gift by unveiling a new video. The projects are meaningful and unique, one and all, which is why we want to let each one speak for itself on a given day. Visit the Campaign page here.

Our non-profit partners span focuses from healthcare to education to the environment. This campaign will give you an excellent opportunity to be exposed to different projects and choose one that really resonates with you. We are excited to have so many passionate team members on the Jolkona team to speak on behalf of these projects.

Take a look at the video below for our first gift of the season. It is all about our partner Calcutta Kids, an organization working hard in India to combat child mortality from diarrhea. Show your support for their ongoing health efforts by making a gift of $10.

A Gift of Impact

In addition to our 10 Days of Giving Campaign, we have a convenient gift option available for individuals looking to offer something different to a friend or family member. Our holiday e-gift cards can be easily purchased through the Jolkona platform; these can then be applied to a project of the donor’s choosing. Your gift to them will be a gift back to a community in need. It is a flexible and useful way to positively involve yourself in the lives of others. The gift of impact is a treasure.

Join the Jolkona family with your Support

People’s social support systems – family, friends, significant others, co-workers – play a vital role in celebrating the holidays. It is important to not lose sight of this love when considering the less fortunate. The spirit of giving is about philanthropy, yes – but it really comes alive through love and compassion.

We encourage you to commemorate this holiday season by getting involved in our 10 Days of Giving Campaign. Give to a particular project. Purchase an e-gift card to give to someone in your life. Spread the word about Jolkona’s projects through conversation and social media. Become a person of giving during this busy time of year. One individual’s impact is greatly amplified in the esteemed company of fellow givers.  

How will you give impact this holiday season?

Like Jolkona on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check us out on Pinterest to keep up with all of our ongoing projects.

This post is part of a blog series inspired by World Give Day and hosted by GiveForward. To find other posts in this series please visit or follow the hashtag #giveday.

Jolkona visits Generation Rwanda Students, Dec 2010

A few weeks ago I was introduced to GiveForward, a crowdfunding site that empowers individuals fundraise money online for medical expenses like chemotherapy, organ transplants, mission trips, and their favorite non-profits. Their values and approach are very similar to Jolkona as they encourage you to use your small-scale donations to create a big impact. They do it by allowing individuals to start campaigns and raise money for a very large expense. And we do it by partnering with nonprofits around the world to find with cost, high impact projects and let you track the impact of your gift over time.

Small donations are the backbone of philanthropy

Mission statements aside, our vision is to cultivate the next generation of philanthropists by showing that you, our community and donors, can make a difference today for as little as $5. This vision and the idea that small-scale donations are the backbone of philanthropy is a thread that connects us with GiveForward and a number of other nonprofits and social enterprises that are part of the paradigm shift in philanthropy.

It’s the idea that you can make a difference no matter how much or how little you have to offer. For example, one of our projects allows you to provide group housing for the future leaders of Rwanda for $45. While that project alone may not mean anything, if you consider the fact that the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and AIDS epidemic has produced the largest percentage of orphans of any country in the world (825,000 orphans in a country of 10 million people), providing housing for an educated society will give these ambitious students a safe home and support system that will allow them to further their education and rebuild their country. The life-long impact of this single donation is huge. Can you imagine what that student will accomplish because of your gift?

The ripple effect you can create from one small gift is limitless.

How we are celebrating World Give Day

World Give Day

To celebrate this approach to giving and philanthropy, we’re excited to partner with GiveForward for World Give Day, a day where people all over the world are coming together to celebrate the causes they’re most passionate about.

You can give in a number of ways – by donating to your favorite nonprofit (we have 96 active projects for you to choose from), donating to someone in your own community, giving your time, or even giving a hug. The idea and motivation for this day is to celebrate the culture of giving. In their words: “World Give Day is based on the underlying belief that every effort, no matter how big or small, can have a significant effect on our society.”

We are also excited to share with you a number of blog posts from our community who wrote about the idea of small-scale donations being the backbone of philanthropy. They are:

You can read more posts from World Give Day Blogger Buddies, here.

We will be celebrating World Give Day here on our blog, on Facebook, and Twitter throughout the day. You can also take part in the real-time conversation on Twitter by following #giveday.

Thank you, Ethan, Desiree, and Cate at GiveForward for organizing World Give Day!

How are you starting your own ripple effect of change?

Happy holidays everyone! It’s been a few months since I’ve written and my silence in the blogosphere is conversely proportional to how busy I’ve been working for RDF in Hyderabad. As the Public Relations and Development Manager, I’ve been editing and designing our annual report, spearheading the Sponsor a Child program, project managing a documentary on RDF, giving fundraising presentations, and all sorts of other exciting but time-consuming projects. When trying to decide what to write about in this blog post, I initially wanted to focus on the challenges of raising funds in India—yet the more I dug around and reflected upon the challenges I have had, I realized these challenges are much more systemic and complex than I initially thought.

It comes down to the circle of giving. Giving not just money, but time, energy, and other resources. The more that I reflect on my fundraising challenges in India, I realize they aren’t unique to money but all elements of giving. Not only does RDF have challenges fundraising in India, but also trouble recruiting local volunteers and gaining in-kind donations.

Giving money

It is clear that this is reflected globally with the recession and budget cuts, but looking further, it is more than that. Giving is really a societal value, one that is reflected in the types of widespread programs and opportunities available to those who give their time and resources. And being here, it has become clear that the ways people give in India are quite different than the ways in which they give in the West.

For example, when fundraising for dollars, a major struggle has been routing money from individuals to causes rather than to religious institutions. Although I realize that this is a gross generalization and that of course many Indians donate to social causes and human development, it seems at least from the trends I’ve personally encountered that people here seem much more willing to give to their temples, mosques, and churches rather than to the local nonprofit. Of course with 40% of the population living under the poverty line, it’s no wonder that giving in general is an issue. It’s clear though, that even out of those who are living financially abundant lives in India, many have strong beliefs about where to allot dispensable money and RDF, at least, isn’t at the top of their list.

Giving time

Another challenge is that of giving time. Many of RDF’s volunteers come from all corners of the world to give their time in Hyderabad as well as the village schools, often wonder, why aren’t there more locals doing this same work?

The answer from the CEO was multifaceted: part of it clearly is the lack of effort put in so far to FIND viable candidates locally, part of it is the work ethic and global perspective RDF enjoys from foreign volunteers, and part of it is the lack of a volunteer culture in India. Many of us were asked, ‘Why do we volunteer?’ ‘Well, because we are fortunate to have the resources to take some time off and gain international experience and because it adds value to our work history moving forward in our careers.’ Programs like the Peace Corps and hundreds of volunteer programs in the U.S. make it clear that our society is garnered to reward volunteering, whether it is through better jobs in the future or better admission into grad school. In India, on the other hand, I’ve gotten reactions like ‘Why are you wasting your time??’ and ‘Why don’t you get a real job?’ Again, gross generalizations, but there is something to the consistent reactions in this manner here that has me thinking.

Changing the circle

How do we embed the values of giving in our day-to-day lives such that more people are rewarded for their giving habits? Grad school admissions and tax cuts for donations are great, but I strongly believe it’s up to us as an upcoming generation to mold the way for a new paradigm of giving. That we encourage each other to give on a regular basis, that we teach our children the values of giving during the holidays, that we emphasize the different methods of giving—that it’s always possible to give, even when money is tight.

In particular, I love Jolkona’s Social Portfolio – a way to share how you give with your network. This holiday season, I encourage all of you to discuss with friends and family how you plan to contribute to the circle of giving. The more we are rewarded for our giving habits, the more we will give, and the more we are all contributing to the greater good.

How have you experienced or changed the circle of giving?

P.S. As a shameless plug, if you need an idea for a particular place to give, Day 5 of Jolkona’s 12 Days of Giving is a great place to start. Happy giving everyone!

Photo Credit: Mindful One

Imagine something that has been proven to make you happier, healthier and more confident while being environmentally friendly, and having absolutely no adverse side effects. I am not referring to a new miracle drug or infomercial for aroma-therapy candles, but simply the act of giving. People have long known that altruism carries its own rewards. History is filled with references to the fact that in giving there is also receiving, however, there is still some debate as to why.

In his latest op-ed piece Our Basic Human Pleasures: Food, Sex, and Giving, Nicolas Kristof claims that giving leads individuals to live happier, more fulfilling lives (so far so good). Yet, he goes on to argue that because of this giving is, in fact, a selfish act. He demonstrates that we give not necessarily out of our interest for others, but because we feel good doing so.

While I don’t believe it was Kristof’s intent, he has fed the flames of an old debate, that volunteers and philanthropists aren’t out to help others, but to feel good about themselves. As an economics student I have heard this argument before, that of “Homo Economicus”, or the economic man. The premise of the Homo Economicus model is that human behavior is solely dictated by self-interest, or rather everyone is out for themselves. Under this model firemen wouldn’t run into burning buildings, there would be little volunteerism, and as Kristof asserts, charity would be self-interest in disguise. Yet, firemen do run into burning buildings, we do volunteer a substantial number of hours (over 8 billion hours in 2009), and we give an immense amount to charity ($230 billion in 2008 (see Adnan’s article posted back in June). So what’s wrong with this explanation?

While there is no denying that being altruistic feels good, emerging research tells us it is for a completely different reason then self gain. It turns out we give because we are social creatures. In a recent study participants were asked to either keep a $128 research stipend for themselves, or donate part of their stipend to charity all while being monitored on an MRI. When subjects chose to give (and they often did) their brain activated “reward pathways” as if they were fulfilling a selfish act such as eating; however these pathways were stimulated by regions associated with social, not selfish behavior. The conclusion of course being that we are innately driven to give not out of selfish, but communal interest.

Within the greater context of human interaction such a behavior makes sense. Being group-oriented creatures, what tends to be in the interest of one is in the interest of all. Yet, we must admit that sometimes our selfish desires blind us to what is truly best for our community, and ultimately ourselves. Thus, our innate drive to give is our brain’s way of subconsciously combating our selfish tendencies of “Homo Economicus”, which explains why we give above and beyond what is purely advantageous to us. This research also tells us that giving to communal needs can be just as instinctively rewarding as fulfilling personal needs, such as food or shelter. This finally explains why those of us who give often are found to be much happier than those of us who don’t give at all. And, there is no refuting that happy people lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.

So what does this all mean in practice? The next time you are having a down day, happiness may not be found in another latte or a new pair of shoes, but a donation. Intuitively we know that a latte will only make us happy until we reach the bottom of our cup, but giving someone the amazing gift of a healthy child or an education will give us reason to be happy for days, months, and even years to come. When we focus on giving rather than getting we not only help others, but ironically help ourselves, which we know, buried within the depths of our brain, is the gift of giving.

Kristof’s article:

Jorge Moll et al., “Human Fronto–Mesolimbic Networks Guide Decisions About Charitable Donation,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103 (2006).

Volunteer statistics: