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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.

maddie pic“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.

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Like many of you, I really look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving. Between spending time with my family and pets, and finding the balance between tradition and innovation on the dinner table, it’s always an enjoyable holiday. Most of all it is a good day for reflection (perhaps while recovering from all the food) on what we each have to be grateful for this year.

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At Jolkona, we also have lots of reasons to give thanks. Our donors support our partners and our mission of demonstrating that anyone can be a philanthropist. Our partners work with us to provide high-impact aid locally and globally, showing that great things can be accomplished with creativity, love, and social innovation. Our Give Together members, by joining this new donation platform, are helping us revolutionize charitable giving. And of course, we are thankful for all the volunteers and staff who have helped make Jolkona bigger and better this year by giving their time, energy and talent. Personally, I am thankful for everything that I have learned since joining the Jolkona team.

Give Together: Fighting Poverty & Helping the Philippines

Along with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah is also starting this week, and the pine-scented, carol-filled escalation to Christmas has already begun. In the meantime, we still have a couple of days left in our November Give Together campaign to Alleviate Poverty. Our partners for this month — Upaya, Dagbe, and Washington C.A.S.H. — could still use your contributions. With your help, we can reach the funding goal by Dec. 1!

Next month, in lieu of a new theme, Give Together members will be included in our major holiday campaign: Standing With the Philippines. Donations to this campaign will help Peace Winds America provide shelter, food, water, medicine, bedding, and hygiene kits to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Typhoon Yolanda)Contributions can also be made in honor of family and friends — a meaningful holiday gift, especially for the people on your “nice” list who already have everything. Win-win-win!

If you’re in the Seattle area, you can carry the grateful and giving spirit of Thanksgiving over into December — and cleanse your palate from the chaotic consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday — by celebrating #GivingTuesday with us on Dec. 3. Head over to Facebook for event details and to RSVP. The festivities are free; anyone who donates to the Standing WIth the Philippines campaign during the party will be entered to win fabulous raffle prizes.

Celebrate Thanksgiving by Giving Together & Standing With the Philippines, and we look forward to giving through the holidays with you!

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Today is National Philanthropy Day, and what better way to celebrate than to Give Together? Take today to recognize and appreciate the positive impact the philanthropic community — you included! — has had on our world.

Our third and final Give Together partner for November, Dagbé, works to alleviate extreme poverty by providing healthcare and education to youths victimized by child labor and human trafficking. With your help, Dagbé can give some of the most vulnerable children in West Africa a chance at a better life. In the organization’s own words:

What’s your mission, and why? What inspires your organization?

We work with local care providers to provide basic housing, food, and restore social stability, access to education, and healthcare to orphans, victims of child trafficking, physical and sexual abuse, and destitute poverty, as identified by local authorities. Our vision is to provide support for the wellbeing of children in crisis situations, and foster an environment to allow them to develop into healthy, educated, and productive members of society.

So many Beninese children need someone to provide them with life-changing opportunities. Instead of living day-by-day working long hours just to get their next meal, we want these children to be able to go to school, enjoy their childhoods, and be set up for long-term success, and this is what drives us.

What’s your project for this month’s Give Together campaign?

Provide Critical Care to Keep Children from Being Further Victimized by Human Trafficking

What’s the impact of every $150 that Give Together members raise for your organization?

  • $150 will help reunite a trafficked child with their family (costs of staying at our center, investigation, transport, etc.)
  • $250 will help reunite a trafficked child with their family and provide them with school or vocational training for one year to encourage stability and progress.
  • $500 will provide for school fees and expenses for five trafficked children per year.
  • $1500 funds an anti-trafficking training seminar for 50 people. Raising awareness is critical to putting an end to child trafficking in Benin. These change agents are trained to prevent, identify, and report cases of trafficking and the training seminars have proved very effective.

In a nutshell, why should Give Together members support your project this month?

Dagbé is currently the only organization offering direct care services to children in crisis situations in this region in central Benin. Our efforts are critical to the children’s wellbeing. Our time spent living and working in the community ensures that the effectiveness of every dollar is maximized. We are committed to serving these children and this community.

We love impact reports at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite story you can share about how your organization changed someone’s life?

Our anti-trafficking training seminars have proved very fruitful. They are very well organized and attended by approximately 50 members of the community. They are also broadcast over the local radio to an estimated 15,000 listeners. Each training seminar has produced immediate results. A year ago, community members alerted us to a trafficking case only three days after the seminar. We were able to rescue a little girl who had been trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation. We cared for her and were able to reunite her with some of her relatives and send her to school. We also worked with authorities to bring the traffickers to justice.

This past August, after another anti-trafficking training, we were alerted to the case of a ten-year old boy who had been taken from southern Benin to the north to work in masonry. Due to the long hours and harsh conditions, he had fled and walked nearly 100 kilometers until he was found by one of the recent training seminar attendees – hungry, with swollen feet, and in poor health. He stayed with us for several weeks while he recovered and we worked to find the best possible solution for him. His father passed away when he was young, but we reunited him with mother in southern Benin. She has very few resources to care for him, much less send him to school, and we are thrilled to be paying for all of his school expenses as well as most of his basic care needs.

These children would normally go unnoticed. Child labor and child trafficking is an issue in Benin, and many people are unaware of just how far some of these children get pushed and exploited. By raising awareness of the issue we are making a difference, with the added impact of caring for the children in the aftermath of an instance of trafficking and providing opportunities for them to have better futures.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Dagbé is thrilled to continue partnering with Jolkona. In April 2013, we were honored to receive some Jolkona team members as guests in Benin and together we witnessed the positive impact that we achieved by working together.

Remember to Give Together, and check back on the Jolkona Blog for more installments of the Partner Spotlight series.

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Washington Community Alliance for Self-Help (C.A.S.H.) is a nonprofit working to alleviate poverty right here in Seattle, by helping entrepreneurs become financially self sufficient. As part of our Partner Spotlight series for Give Together November, we asked the organization some questions about this month’s project:

What’s your mission, and why? What inspires your organization?

Washington C.A.S.H. provides the business training, supportive community, and capital to help enterprising individuals with limited financial resources gain self-sufficiency through small business ownership. We serve individuals at the most vulnerable end of the economic spectrum: people whose assets and wealth have been greatly depleted by the economic downturn, and whose circumstances — including English language barriers, lack of literacy or education, poor or nonexistent credit, or cycles of persistent generational poverty— prevent them from advancing out of low-paying, inflexible employment. Our programs equip people to take ownership over their financial situations by becoming their own bosses and making a living pursuing their passion—whether that is landscaping, handcrafting jewelry, or selling gourmet pizzas a farmers’ markets and street fairs.

What’s your project for this month’s Give Together campaign?

Washington C.A.S.H.’s cornerstone 8-week Business Development Training equips low-income entrepreneurs with the skills and knowledge they need to become financially self-reliant through small business ownership. For financially vulnerable individuals, the BDT is a lifeline to help them build their confidence and define, organize, and launch their own micro-businesses.

What’s the impact of every $100 that our Give Together members raise for your organization?

Every quarter, at least twenty ambitious entrepreneurs want to enroll in the BDT but are unable to pay for course materials. This month, Washington C.A.S.H. seeks contributions to its “scholarship fund” to cover material fees for individuals enrolling in the next round of trainings. For every $100 that Give Together raises for this project, Washington C.A.S.H. will be able to waive the course materials fee for one low-income entrepreneur to enroll in the BDT and take their first step toward financial self-reliance.

In a nutshell, why should Give Together members support your project this month? 

  • Washington C.A.S.H. serves only low-income individuals; the average entrepreneur supports a family on $22,267 per year.
  • Washington C.A.S.H. is unique in the Puget Sound region in that it offers aspiring entrepreneurs a comprehensive toolbox of services that includes training, coaching, financial assistance (micro loans and matched savings accounts), AND retail incubation through the Ventures retail store.
  • Washington C.A.S.H. is remarkably successful: on average, businesses more than quadruple their revenue, and just over half (51%) of clients experience an increase in household income, within the first year and a half of receiving services.

We love impact reports at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite story you can share about how your organization changed someone’s life?

Before finding Washington C.A.S.H., Nelson faced challenging circumstances; he spent years in and out of homeless shelters and battling mental illness. Then a counselor referred him to our program, and Nelson began working closely with one of our experienced business coaches. Through customized training and coaching, Nelson learned how to overcome obstacles to the success of his business. Staff at Washington C.A.S.H.’s Ventures retail store in Pike Place Market helped Nelson refine his products and prepare them for larger markets. Now, nearly two years later, Nelson is CEO of Organic Teas United LLC and sells unique organic tea blends in several large retail outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Uwajimaya. Nelson is proud to be a client of Washington C.A.S.H.; he says, “The program reminds me of essential vitamins…our bodies won’t function optimally without the essentials.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Our services helps people change their lives; with your help, a struggling single mother becomes CEO of her own small business; a disabled veteran launches his own company; or a young ambitious immigrant family opens up shop in their new country.

Give Together today to empower low-income entrepreneurs to become financially self-sufficient through small business ownership!

Check back on the Jolkona Blog for more installments of the Partner Spotlight series.

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It’s still Diwali for a few more days, so let’s start our November Partner Spotlight series with a nonprofit organization that fights poverty in India: Upaya Social Ventures.

Upaya logo

As one of three organizations in this month’s Give Together campaign for Poverty Alleviation — and also our neighbor in Jolkona’s new downtown Seattle office! — Upaya is creating silk weaving jobs in northern India for skilled workers living in extreme poverty. In his own words, Steve Schwartz, Upaya’s director of strategy and operations, explains why it’s important to support this project:

What’s your mission, and why? What inspires your organization?

Upaya Social Ventures builds businesses that create jobs and improve the quality of life for people living on less than $1.25 a day. We do this because we believe that giving someone a change to earn a stable and dignified living is the best way to ensure that everyone has a chance to permanently break the cycle of extreme poverty.

What’s your project for this month’s Give Together campaign?

Upaya is working with a Bhagalpur, Bihar-based startup that trains Tasar silk weavers on new skills, techniques, equipment and designs. By contributing to this project, you are supporting Upaya’s ability to provide both the startup capital to launch the business and the management support to create new jobs and remain competitive in the marketplace.

If Jolkona’s Give Together members raise $250 for your organization, what’s our impact?

Based on the program costs for its current portfolio, we estimate that Upaya spends a mere $250 for each job created — a job that can continually support a family for a lifetime.

In a nutshell, why should Give Together members support your project this month?

The real question is “If a job is the key to providing food security, housing stability, and a chance to invest in children’s education to families living in extreme poverty,” the question really becomes “Why shouldn’t Give Together members support the Upaya project this month?”

We love impact reports at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite story you can share about how your organization changed someone’s life?

Just one? I’d encourage everyone to check out the Face-to-Face section on our website to hear all about the folks who are having their lives changed by their first stable job.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am not just representing a Give Together project; I’m also a member!

Join Give Together, and check back on the Jolkona Blog for more installments of the Partner Spotlight series this month!

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With November, we welcome not only the holiday season, but also a new Give Together theme: Poverty Alleviation.

This month’s Give Together partners help vulnerable people lift themselves out of extreme poverty in Benin, India and Seattle. Through Give Together, providing education and training to empower people to gain financial independence and live and work in dignity may be the most important gift you can give this year.

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Upaya

Upaya Social Ventures works to improve the lives of silk weavers in India, who live on less than $1.25 a day. The nonprofit works with a local startup based in Bhagalpur, Bihar, to teach the silk weavers new techniques, equipment, and designs so the weavers can earn a stable and dignified living. In addition, your donation also provides capital for their partner start-up to expand their business and create new jobs in their region. Every $250 our community raises through Give Together will help Upaya create a new job for one of these talented weavers.

Dagbé

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Dagbé works in  the West African country of Benin, supporting orphans and children who have been victims of human trafficking. This grassroots nonprofit organization provides food, safety, healthcare, schooling and social stability so that children in crisis situations can grow up to be healthy, educated and productive. In addition to aiding children, Dagbé also educates communities about human trafficking and child labor, and what they can do to prevent it. Every $250 raised by our Give Together community will help Dagbé reunite a trafficked child with his family, and fund his education or vocational training for the next year.

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Washington C.A.S.H.

Community Alliance for Self-Help, also know as C.A.S.H, is a Washington-based organization that helps low income entrepreneurs develop their own business. Through their Business Development Training program, they help ambitious individuals who face obstacles such as low income, language barriers, and limited education and literacy develop the skills and training necessary to launch their own business, and become financially self reliant. For every $100 raised by our Give Together community, Washington C.A.S.H. can send one entrepreneur to an 8-week business training program.

The Giving Season

To learn more about these amazing projects, keep visiting this blog to read November’s Partner Spotlight series.

As we look forward to spending time with family and eating holiday meals (and stocking up on Trader Joe’s seasonal snacks), it’s also a great time to get into the holiday spirit by giving back, locally and globally. Check out Jolkona’s events through our website, Facebook and Twitter feeds for upcoming campaigns related to the holiday season — including our #GivingTuesday Seattle party on Dec. 3.

Start out your holiday season right, and Give Together for Poverty Alleviation today!

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GET INVOLVED!