I’m not ashamed to admit it, my love language is food. Food is affection. Food is happiness. Food is love. Cook me a bowl of warm soup on a wintery day and I might love you forever. Likewise, if you’re someone important to me, I’ve probably already cooked you dinner (or at least I’m planning to). You can probably imagine, then, my unabashed glee when Jolkona initially drafted up our Corks & Forks fundraiser event. And as each decadent, mouth-watering detail has been finalized, my pangs of anticipation have risen to a steady crescendo. Much grumblings of stomachs later, the event is here!

Great food, a better world

Hosted at the delectable Blue Ribbon Cooking School, this Thursday October 4th Jolkona will be throwing a soiree of cooking classes, dinner, wine, hearty slaps on the back, and much jollity – and all in aid of making this world a better place.

Guests will be greeted with a beautiful selection of appetizers and beverages. During this time of mirth and mingling, attendees will select 4 of 5 different classes to attend. The cooking stations for the evening are as followed: (1) gnocchi (2) steak & salmon (3) crepes  (4) wine tasting (5) cocktail mixology.

And then – we get to eat it! And just in case that doesn’t sound tempting enough for you and you haven’t seen it already, here’s the menu:

The menu


Vegetarian Samosas with Traditional Indian Chutneys

Tostones topped with White Fish, Pineapple Salsa and Cilantro Infused Sour Cream

Thai Grilled Chicken Skewers with Honey-Peanut Coconut Glaze


African Spiced Carrot, Orange and Parsnip Salad

Salmon en Courte with Creamy Spinach and Walla Walla Sweet Onion Sauce

Steak au Poivre with Brandied-Peppercorn Sauce

Homemade Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Medley of Pike Place Market Style Grilled Vegetables


Seasonal French Dessert Crepes

Blue Ribbon Coffee

Afterwards there will be a live fundraising auction. One of the stellar items up-for-grabs is a 5 night’s stay in the Fairmont Heritage Place in Whistler. There’s also a pair of K2 skis. Buy them both and that’s ¾ of your winter vacation covered!

The Kona Fund

The Kona fund has a special place in our hearts. Why? – because it’s really the cornerstone of our Foundation. Through it we offset all our operating costs, which then allows us to allocate 100% of your donation to your chosen project. All the evening’s proceeds will go to the Kona fund.

NextGen Tickets are $100 and General Tickets are $120.

VIP Tickets are $175.

Make (and eat) great food; make the world a better place. Come to Corks & Forks! Miss it, miss out.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest and keep up to date with all we’re doing and the impact you are making.

Consisting of 10 letters and 4 syllables, philanthropy is a big word. It is a big word associated with big ideals, big plans, big money, and often, therefore, with big people – the real adults. It is one of Jolkona’s central missions to prove that this is in fact a myth, at least the “big money” and the “big people” part.

We want to encourage and grow a new generation of philanthropists. We want to show that you don’t have to be a big name with a big pay check to engender change. You can just be you. And with as little as $5 you can make that change and see that change happen. $5, what is that? – half the price of a movie ticket, an appetizer, a glossy magazine, a trip across the 520 bridge between 3pm – 6pm (without a Good To Go! pass).

Young adults are big part of our vision, our hope. And this infographic shows why. Read it and watch the “big money, big people” myth begin to disappear. If you want to make it disappear forever, then go here and browse any of our 120+ projects. Give. And be the change you want to see to in the world.

[click to enlarge]



Be the change you want to see in the world here.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest and keep up to date with all we’re doing and the impact you are making.

We’re fortunate at Jolkona to have a group of stellar volunteers. They’re a mixed bunch coming from all over. But they all have one thing in common: they’re passionate about engendering change – for the good. Meet one such volunteer: Takuhiro Kodani. Takuhiro is 22 and comes from Tottori, a small village in the south west of Japan. He’s a regular at the Jolkona office and just started his own Jolkona campaign. Check it out here. I caught up with him and asked him a few questions about his time here and a little more about the campaign and the project he’s supporting.

So Takuhiro, what brings you to Seattle?
I came here to study International Business. I’m currently taking an International Business program at Bellevue College.

Are you enjoying your time here?
Yes, absolutely. I’m really enjoying Seattle life – beautiful days and great food!

Are you looking forward to going back to Japan or will you be sad to leave Seattle?
Actually, I will be sad. Obviously life is very different in Japan. I think I like the lifestyle and culture better here in Seattle; it suits me!

How long have you been interning here at Jolkona?
Since May. So a little over three months.

Why did you decide to get involved with Jolkona?
For two reasons: for a long time now I’ve been interested in non-profit operations and management. The culture of non-profits in Japan is very different from those in the US. So I wanted to experience and learn those differences. Secondly, I am also interested in empowerment projects, especially in developing countries. Last year I stayed in Bangladesh for three months and what I experienced there had a big impact on me. I realized that I wanted to do something to empower those less fortunate than myself. Then I found out about Jolkona. I saw what it was doing and it really appealed to me.

Is this your first time working with a non-profit?
Yes it is.

How has the experience been so far?
It’s been great. I’ve learned so much from Jolkona and its members, a lot of which I could never learn from studying.

Tell us a bit about the volunteer work you do and the projects you’re involved with.
Mainly I’m in charge of promoting Jolkona’s Japenese projects. There are 6 Japanese projects, so I promote them through social media like Facebook and Twitter. In addition to that, I supported Jolkona’s co-founder, Adnan Mahmud, when he came to Japan to give a series of talks in four cities. I helped promote his events through a Japanese Web magazine and by putting him in touch with other non-profit social entrepreneurs.

So you’re running your own campaign. Why did you decide to do this?
When I came to Seattle I met and talked to lots of people. Many times I was asked about Fukushima and the Tohoku region which was devastated by the Tsunami in April of 2011. The only thing I was ever really able to say was that current situation was still bad and that a lot more help was needed to complete the rebuilding. I myself then began wondering what I could do. I knew Jolkona had several Japanese projects which supported the rebuilding of Tohoku, so I decided to get involved myself and support Japan from Seattle. So that’s why I’m running this campaign.

Can you tell us a bit more about the campaign?
This campaign supports ETIC, a Japanese non-profit organization which helps young leaders who are trying to rebuild the Tohoku region by giving them technical assistance and leadership training. You can support their work by making a donation from as small as $5. My goal is to fund 5 EITC leaders. My campaign started today!

What do you hope to show people by doing this campaign?
I want people to understand that, although the disaster happened over a year ago, there are still many challenges in the rebuilding the Tohoku region. The work is not finished and I don’t want it to be forgotten.

What would your advice be to young people who want to get involved in philanthropy?
First, I think it’s important to pay attention to what is going around you. If there is a problem that you can resolve, then take action. But there are so many resources available to us. The internet and online giving platforms, like Jolkona, are great examples of this.

Finally, are you confident you will hit your campaign target?
Yes, I am confident I’ll hit my target for the campaign. It’s a great project, and I really hope a lot of people will see that and help me fund it.

Check out Takuhiro’s campaign page and help him help others.

Want to start your own campaign for a project you’re passionate about? It’s easy! Click here to find out just how easy it really is!

July 9th saw the start of our Give Health matching campaign designed to coincide with July’s Global Health month here in Seattle.  The match was a generous $3500 and finished fully funded!

We want to thank everyone who participated: the sponsors, the donors, the volunteers, and also S4SC for throwing us a great party and showing us how to socialize for social change!

The final amount raised was:


And here’s the impact you’ve made:

  • 2 prosthetics provided in Bangladesh
  • 49 children saved from diarrhea in India
  • 4 booklets about improved mental health distributed in Japan
  • 12 children received complete dental care in Bolivia
  • 12 participants in Kenyan soccer tournament sponsored
  • 60 children fed for a week in Uganda
  • 2 families of 6 people fed for three weeks in Somalia
  • 20 people received healthcare in Mali
  • 2 dogs vaccinated in Nepal
  • 8 weeks of medical supplies provide in Bangladesh
  • 2 homes fumigated in Bolivia
  • 10 children received complete dental care in Bolivia
  • 4 weeks of health screenings provided in Bangladesh
  • 70 health kits provided in Somalia
  • 2 children’s dental visit sponsored in Bolivia
  • 4 water construction tools provided in Kenya
  • 20 people received oral rehydration salts in Somalia
  • 2 children received vitamins and medicine in Sierra Leone
  • 2 children’s medical needs supported in Cambodia
  • 2 malnourished children saved in Nepal
  • 2 weeks of care provided for a mother and her baby in Guatemala
  • 2 bags of seeds provided in Nicaragua
  • 2 children sponsored for a dental visit in Bolivia
  • 7 women health workers supported in Peru

Thank you everyone!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and keep up to date with all we’re doing and the impact you are making.

My brother almost died when he was a new-born. Though healthy at birth, it soon became apparent that he was having serious problems. Increasingly emaciated and severely dehydrated, he was suffering from chronic diarrhea. As a result, lactose – the one thing he relied on almost more than anything – could not be digested. The diarrhea got worse and worse; he grew thinner and thinner.

Biologically speaking, this is what was happening to him: diarrhea is brought about when the mechanism controlling fluid balance in the intestine is disturbed. The most common causes of this are toxins secreted by bacteria, or damage to the lining of the bowel by bacteria. My brother was experiencing the latter due to a bout of gastroenteritis. As a result, his body was releasing excessive amounts of essential fluids – water and electrolytes. The loss of these fluids was literally draining the life out of him. The electrolyte imbalance could well have begun to damage his kidneys and cause his heart to beat irregularly. Untreated this would have killed him.

For a while my parents weren’t sure if he would live. We were living in Morocco at the time, where healthcare is nowhere near the quality most of us have access to. However, in the end, they were able to diagnose the problem and treat it with a simple fluid replacement program. My brother’s life was saved. He now lives in Leicester in the UK, is married, and is training to become a doctor. He also happens to be one of my best friends and one of the kindest and most gentle people you’ll ever meet.

My brother lived. Millions of other children don’t. UNICEF estimates that number to be around 1.5 million annually.

Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death for children under 5 globally.

Bringing the Global to the Personal

If you follow my posts for Jolkona, you’ll know I have a penchant for telling personal anecdotes. I do this for a reason. Statistics are harrowing, yes. 1.5 million children is as incomprehensible as it is sickening. But I’m of the mind that you cannot measure suffering on the scale of figures. Suffering is suffering, for 1.5 million mothers as it is for one. So I share these parts of my life with you because I want you to understand that it’s the people behind the statistic who matter. It is they who suffer, who die, who mourn.

At Jolkona we want to invite you into the stories behind the statistics. So today I’m inviting you into the stories of children in India. Give $10 to save one child from diarrhea and we’ll send you the discharge certificate of the child whose treatment you provided. Even better, this month we’re running our Give Health matching campaign so we’ll double your donation and send you a second discharge certificate.

For the price of less than a movie ticket you save two lives. Two families spared from tragedy and suffering. Two stories you become a part of. It is a beautiful thing.

I care about this project because I am thankful that my family had access to the simple medical care that saved my brother’s life, and because I believe it is a terrible injustice that a child should die of something so banal, something so easily treatable as diarrhea. Give to this project. Give Health today.

You can also support this project by coming to our Socializing For Social Change event on Thursday July 26th. Tickets costs $10, the total of which goes to one of three global health projects of your choice. Saving a child from diarrhea is one of them.

Follow our campaign and its impact via our Give Health campaign page, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Tweet using the #givehealth hashtag.


When we start talking about Global Health, there’s always the risk of creating an impression of generality. We can easily succumb to the idea of a vast plethora of ‘worldwide issues’ clumped together, one indistinguishable from the other. Needless to say, this is not the reality. So this month, Seattle’s Global Health month, Jolkona is bringing the Global to the personal. Today we’re thrilled to launch the Give Health matching campaign. By donating to any one of our Global Health projects we’ll directly show you the impact your donation makes in the lives of those the project supports. Even better: we’ll match your donation, double the impact, double your proof. The match will be up to $3,500, which has been generously provided by a group of anonymous donors.

What is Global Health?

Global health refers to health problems that transcend national borders or have global political and economic impact. This includes not just problems such as infectious and insect-borne diseases which can spread from one country to another, but also health problems that are of such magnitude that they have a global political and economic impact, such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic and malaria.

Why Global Health?

Because health is one of central foundations of a good and just society – and we passionately believe that. Because Global Health indirectly and directly impacts all of us: the spread of a crippling disease in another country, while confined to its borders, can still have major economic and political repercussions in your country. Furthermore, an uncontrolled disease that transcends a country’s borders obviously has the potential to wreak havoc on a truly global.

But we care most about Global Health because we know what it means be in good health and, more importantly, because we know what it means to have the support of healthcare facilities and medications when we are not. The tragedy is that there are billions of people worldwide who do not have access to the most basic healthcare. It is devastatingly unjust – almost unthinkable to us – that a mother should lose her child because of something as mundane as diarrhea.

Bring the Global to the Personal

During this campaign we want to show you that you can make a difference by showing you how you make a difference. So give to any one of our 30+ Global Health projects and we’ll match your donation, whilst you see double the proof of impact. For example, give $10 to save a child in India from diarrhea, we’ll donate an additional $10, and we’ll send you copies of both the discharge certificates for the children whose treatment you provided. You are the person who makes the difference, and you see the difference made in the person’s life. This is how we’re making Global Health a personal issue.

Go to our campaign page to view our Global Health projects. Find one you care about. Donate.

Giving Health, socializing for change

As part of the campaign, our friends at Socializing 4 Social Change (S4SC) are throwing us a party to help draw awareness to three of our Global Health projects. The evening will be replete with giveaways, music, food and drinks, as well as a silent auction. Buy a ticket for the event and the full amount will go to one of the three projects of your choice. The event is on the evening of July 26 and you can get your tickets here. At $10 a pop, how could you not?

Give Health and make Global Health a personal issue.

Keep up with us on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.


In case you missed it, Jolkona featured as a case study in the Millennial Impact Report 2012, an extensive study of more than 6,500 millennials (defined as people born between the early 80s and the early 2000s) on how they learn about, connect with, and give to non-profits. The results demonstrated the exponential improvement in giving that could be achieved if:

  1. Donations could be made online.
  2. Miro-giving was an option.
  3. There was proof of impact.

If you know anything about Jolkona, then you’ll know we are stellar on all three of those fronts.

One of the other significant findings from the report was that 79% of smartphone owners said they have connected with a nonprofit via smartphone. So here’s another front we’re going stellar on!

Enter Change by Jolkona, the new Windows Phone app.

Change yourself and the world in 21 days

Change by Jolkona is a Windows Phone app that allows you to track and share personal goals while making an impact in the world. Research shows if you can repeat an activity for 21 days it will become a habit. Change by Jolkona lets you easily set, track and share personal goals. Along the way we will motivate you by showing how you can also create positive change in the world.

How does it work?

1) Create or choose a personal goal:

 2) Choose a Jolkona project  which tackles a specific Millennium Development Goal:

 3) Update and track your personal goal:

 4) Check in with your global goal:

And in 21 days we’ll show you how you can engender change on a personal and a global scale.

Download Jolkona Change here. Find out more on our Change Facebook page here. Connect with Jolkona in a way you’ve never been able to before – on your smartphone!

In 1962 Seattle hosted the World Fair at its brand-new and futuristic Seattle Center. It was an event that essentially put the city on the modern map, giving it world-wide recognition. Back in April this now iconic heart of the city started celebrating its 50 year anniversary. As part of its Next 50 festivities, the Seattle Center is running a six month-long celebration, with each month focusing on different areas of regional leadership and development. The month of July is Global Health – and we at Jolkona are very excited about that, as you might expect!

Aerial of World's Fair grounds, 1962

Bringing awareness to – and tackling – Global Health issues is something we’re deeply passionate about. So to participate in that celebration we’ll be announcing a new matching campaign. The campaign will kick off on July 9th and run until the end of the month.

A matching campaign?

You heard that right, folks, it is a matching campaign! As always, that means you’ll have the chance to double your impact. The match will apply to any of our Global Health projects. In a nutshell: we’ll double your donation and you’ll see double the proof of impact.

As part of the campaign, our friends at Socializing 4 Social Change (S4SC) are throwing us a party to help draw awareness to three of our Global Health projects. The evening will be replete with giveaways, music, food and drinks, as well as a silent auction. Buy a ticket for the event and the full amount will go to one of the three projects of your choice. The event is on the evening of July 26 and you can get your tickets here. At $10 a pop, how could you not?

I want to make a difference!

So if you’re passionate about Global Health, then get involved. If you know nothing about Global Health, still get involved. If you want to join us in building a new generation of philanthropists, changing the world one drop of water – one person -at a time, then get involved.

Sit tight for much more info about the campaign coming soon!

You can keep up with us and all that’s going on at Jolkona on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.


Daljit Singh, our stellar Office Manager, is a lady of eclectic talent: she maintains all the records of donations and expenses with fine comb consistency, she manages relations with partners and volunteers, she runs our Facebook page, she tweets up a storm on Twitter, and she even fixes our air conditioning. Like I said, stellar.

More recently, though, she’s quietly been building up a small empire on Jolkona’ s Pinterest, carefully curating all the stuff that inspires us and you the most. If you haven’t seen our Pinterest page, check it out here, or click on the image below:

As opposed to the linear format of Facebook with its endless scrolling down and infuriating “page loading” status bar, Pinterest reads more like a comic book with a series of different boards. Each board is its own category, making organizing and accessing different pins wonderfully simple.

Jolkona was recently featured in a top 10 list for best non-profit Pinterest pages by the social media news gurus Mashable. Daljit herself later featured in another piece by Mashable for 10 tips on how non-profits can use Pinterest effectively. Needless to say, we’re very proud of her!

If, like me, you don’t know all that much about Pinterest, here’s a useful infographic deconstructing how it’s used and what it’s all about:

[click on the infographic to enlarge]

Pinterest Deconstructed


I was born in Morocco near the Algerian border in the small city of Oujda. It was an unassuming city, dusty and tourist free (for good reason). I was the last of six children. The location of my birth was in my oldest brother’s bedroom, which also served as our classroom – and now a maternity ward. I was born around 3.30pm, just in time for afternoon tea. The people present were my Mum and my Dad.

Knowing my birth was imminent, my father had taken my unruly siblings to the park with our visiting grandmother. My delivery was quick and problem free. So quick, in fact, that my meant-to-be midwife, an American neighbor of ours, was my first visitor. Dad rushed back to the park in our bright, beat-up orange VW van and, so the story goes, turned up triumphantly exclaiming, “It’s a boy!” Upon realization that she was still the only girl amongst her siblings, my sister cried. I have since forgiven her for that. (And clearly from the way she’s clutching me in the photo below, she got over her disappointment without much difficulty).

When I reflect on the story of my birth, I feel a certain simplicity and sacredness –  just my parents and I, alone together in a small bedroom in a faraway place. I feel immensely fortunate. Fortunate that both mother and child were safe. It helped that my parents were doctors and knew what they were doing. Fortunate that I was loved and protected. I had siblings that doted on me, a father who worked hard to keep a roof over us with food on the table, and a mother who cherished and adored me.

Story vs. statistics

But why am I writing this? I’m writing this because with Mother’s Day approaching this Sunday May 13th, we want to emphasize the importance of story, especially individual story. At Jolkona it is necessary that we talk about statistics, of course. Statistics give us the overarching picture. But what fuels the fire that drives us is the story behind each statistic – the individual. This is why we give you, the philanthropist, not just the chance to change statistics, but to actually glimpse into the life of the individual behind the statistic by seeing exactly how your donation makes an impact.

Mother’s Day projects

We have over fifteen projects at Jolkona that support mothers globally by improving maternal health and reducing child mortality. One such project is run by our partner MADRE. MADRE works with groups of Palestinian and Israeli midwives to help women safely deliver their babies in the West Bank and Gaza. Your gift of $50 provides a safe birth kit containing medical supplies for delivering newborns. With $50 another statistic is reversed and a story is changed.

The story of my birth is a happy one. Sadly, though, there are so many mothers – millions globally – whose stories of motherhood are weighed down with profound uncertainty and fear, or worse, mired in tragedy and grief. Help us change that.

For Mother’s Day give the gift of impact; change one story:

  1. Go to our project page here
  2. Filter your search by selecting Improve Maternal Health or Reduce Child Mortality
  3. Choose a project
  4. Give
  5. See how you changed a life


The Seattle Foundation is launching its annual GiveBig campaign today, and over these next 24 hours you can have your chance to make an impact – and increase it! The campaign is supporting over 1,300 nonprofit organizations by enlarging donations made to each of those organizations today. Needless to say, we’re delighted to be one of them!

The stretch

Give to Jolkona through the Seattle Foundation’s webpage between midnight and 11.59pm (Pacific Time) today, May 2 2012, and you will receive a pro-rated portion of the matching funds from their “stretch pool”. The amount of “stretch” depends on the size of the stretch pool and how much is raised in total donations on GiveBig day. For example, if Jolkona receives 3% of the total donations during GiveBig, then it will receive 3% percent of the stretch pool.

Put more simply: the more you give to Jolkona, the more the Seattle foundation will match.

The Kona fund: help us help others

We have over 120 projects at Jolkona. And today we’re asking you to support one of our very own, the Kona fund. By giving to Jolkona via the Seattle Foundation you enable us to continue our mission: to reach out to and connect a new generation of philanthropists with our global partners and their projects through our innovative microgiving online platform.

Give Back. GiveBig

Here’s your chance to help us help others. Give to Jolkona via the Seattle Foundation webpage and watch your donation stretch. To do so, follow the very simple instructions:

  1. Go to Jolkona’page on The Seattle Foundation website today between 12am and 11.59pm (PT). (To be eligible for stretch funds, your donation must be made through The Seattle Foundation website).
  2. Click on ‘Donate Now”. Donations can only be made by credit card. Give a little – or a lot – and watch it stretch!
  3. Tell others about your donation through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Encourage your friends to GiveBIG to Jolkona.

Stretch your donation; enlarge the love. GiveBig.


At Jolkona we believe online philanthropy is the future of giving. Our online model has been at the heart of what we’re about since we began. It’s important to us not just because it’s hip (though it is that as well), but because online giving is incredibly effective and powerful. Our ultimate goal is impact – more of it. Going on online and making philanthropy more accessible and more transparent, we believe, is the best way to see this impact achieved.

This week we’re highlighting two great events in our calender: Seattle Foundation’s GiveBig (blog post to follow tomorrow) and World Give Day. To encourage giving to these two campaigns, we wanted to present to you the raw facts about how successful online and social giving truly is.

This infographic was created by the brilliant Blackbuad, a software and services provider to nonprofits:

[click to enlarge infographic]

In the world of philanthropy, World Give Day is a relatively new kid on the block compared to many of the other celebrated days of awareness. As a non-profit in our infant days ourselves, development is something we can relate to, which is why World Give Day gets our vote!

This year, World Give Day turns 2 and will be celebrating its third annual event. Friday May 4th is World Give Day 2012.

World Give Day came about when GiveForward co-founder realized that while there were a few days set aside in the philanthropic calendar to encourage people to volunteer (last week’s National Volunteer Week being one of them), there weren’t any devoted specifically to encourage people to give. She decided to fill that void, and thus World Give Day was born.

What is it about?

The idea is wonderfully simple: creating unexpected joy by giving. And similar to Earth Day, there aren’t any rules or regulations about what and how you give. You can give your time volunteering, you can give your money by donating to a project, you can even give someone a smile or a hug. It truly doesn’t matter. At its epicenter, it is about getting more people to become actively involved in their community to raise awareness about their favorite cause. If there’s something you’re passionate about, then give in that name and show how a small gift can make a big impact.

Spread the word: Crowdfunding

One of the best things you can do to participate in World Give Day is simply by telling people about World Give Day. Start a conversation with a friend, like the World Give Day Facebook page, follow World Give Day on Twitter and tweet using the #giveday hasthtag. When people start talking, things start happening. And when things start happening, then crowdfunding happens.

What is crowdfunding? It is the collective effort of people who network and pool their money and other resources together, usually via the internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. These supported efforts can be anything from disaster relief and non-profit support to political campaigns or startup companies seeking fundraising. Crowdfunding has preserved communities, saved lives, and transformed our capacity to give entirely with our hearts and visibly see the effect of our giving directly.

We like crowdfunding at Jolkona. It epitomizes what we’re about – people making small donations that make a big impact. And every small donation, like a drop of water, collects to make that ocean of difference.

With over 120+ projects you can be the difference and we will show the change. Be the difference, see the change here. Participate in World Give Day.



In 1969 an oil platform off the Californian coast of Santa Barbara blew out, unleashing a ghastly environmental nightmare. A nation stood appalled and watched as an entire ecosystem drowned in the toxic filth of crude oil. Out of the horror of its aftermath, and in an effort to bring a greater social consciousness of environment protection, Earth Day was born and first celebrated on April 22nd 1970.

42 years later the environmental issues that plague this planet rage ever louder, but so too does the crusading Earth Day. This Sunday, April 22nd, is Earth Day 2012.

What is it about?

The Earth Day Network connects with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify, and mobilize the environmental movement. On Sunday over 1 billion people will voice their love and appreciation for this planet whilst demanding for its protection. It is a campaign designed to provide people with the opportunity to unite in their call for a sustainable future, directing them toward quantifiable outcomes. One of those quantifiable outcomes is the Billion Acts of Green project. Yes, that’s one billion not one million.

A Billion Acts of Green

This mother of all projects encourages individuals, organizations, businesses and governments to support the campaign by performing environmental actions, such as biking to work, picking up garbage off the street, or planting a tree. The goal is to reach one billion actions by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012. The accomplishment will be presented at the Rio +20 Conference to be used as a lever addressing the UN’s inaction and inspiring leaders to reach a global agreement.

What can I do?

Simple: pledge any act of green you can think of and let the people at Earth Day know here. At Jolkona we have 16 partners that are directly involved in environmental protection. With $5 your donation plants trees in countries from the Philippines, through India, Senegal, to Haiti. With $10 your donation teaches youth in Costa Rica about water conservation. With $24 your donation conserves rainforests in Tanzania. With $40 your donation builds a fuel efficient stove for a family in Nepal. With $100 your donation trains environmental youth advocates in Kenya.

Go to our projects page and select ‘Environment’ under the ‘Projects’ column to view all the appropriate projects. Join us and a billion others in the call and pledge to protect our planet Earth.

For more information, resources, and ideas go to the Earth Day website.

Follow and share the movement on Facebook and Twitter.

Tweet using the #earthday hashtag.

Sorry to let the cat out of the bag so soon, but I think the straight answer to this question is no, Amazon does not have an obligation to philanthropy. However, before I go any further let me get two things clear: yes, we do have Amazon employees who volunteer at Jolkona; no, I’m not one of them.

In case you were on the moon (with Jeff Bezos’s private aerospace company perhaps), the issue of Amazon’s apparent absence in the philanthropic life of its hometown (Seattle) featured in an article belonging to a wider four-part series by the Seattle Times questioning some of the company’s practices.

View from an Amazon office building, South Lake Union, Seattle. Photo credit: Flickr, Cliff Hung

First of all, I don’t really wish to comment on the other issues regarding Amazon’s ethics of business, mainly because capitalism doesn’t strike me as a particularly ethical system in the first place. It’s a paradoxical argument, in my view. And secondly, because we’re talking about philanthropy here, not business. Which is precisely my point.

The truth is, a company has legal obligations to its shareholders, employees, customers, and…. well that’s about it.

At the heart of philanthropy is not corporate business. At the heart of philanthropy is the individual promoting the well-being of man-kind. Businesses, though, are about people, and so one could argue that it would be beneficial for them to care about the well-being of the community and people they serve.

But as we’ve seen the foundation of almost every business is a visionary individual. Likewise, the foundation of almost every non-profit is not thanks to a corporation, but to a single person with a single mission. A case in point, of course, is our own CEO, Adnan Mahmud, who started Jolkona whilst simultaneously holding down a full time product manager position at Microsoft.

Microsoft, though, is a good example of a large corporate business that does encourage philanthropic participation from its employees, offering donation matching, volunteer matching, and pro-bono software to non-profits, among other company wide philanthropic initiatives. The question, then, becomes can businesses like Amazon become serious participants in encouraging individuals towards philanthropy and they themselves as a company promoting the well-being of others? Absolutely they can. And there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that they indeed should.

According to a study by Corporate Citizenship 85% of Americans have a more positive image of a product or a company when it supports a cause they care about. Whilst 79% of Americans say they would switch from one brand to another if the other brand is associated with a good cause. It’s hardly rocket science, but in a nutshell: a company is likely to make more money if they are seen to be connected to philanthropic causes. Tom’s shoes is an excellent example of this.

The gain for Amazon, then, in theory, should be greater profitability. But if philanthropy equates to profitability, then one might ask why has Amazon not done more for philanthropic initiatives in its own community. Clearly, though, they’ve assessed what is most profitable for them, and at the moment they seem to be saying corporate philanthropy is not the direction they want to go in. You can’t criticize them for that. Can we criticize them ethically, though? We can question them, yes. But I still don’t believe corporate businesses have obligations to philanthropy. Whether or not, though, Amazon will suffer an eventual consumerist backlash is yet to be determined.

The possibility remains that if Amazon becomes more philanthropic it could improve its own bottom line, which in turn would be a win win situation for shareholders and the community.

Does Amazon have a obligation to philanthropy? No. Might Amazon benefit from taking part in philanthropic activities? Very possibly, yes. Could Amazon have a big impact on the philanthropic community? Absolutely they could.  But again, I personally believe philanthropy is more about the individual, not corporate business. Non-profits need and value the help of corporate businesses, but we must rely on ourselves to better the world around us.

Don’t ask what Amazon can do for philanthropy. Ask what you yourself can do for philanthropy.

Be the change you want to see in the world here.

This post was written by Gabriel St. John.  He is a volunteer with Jolkona and contributes and manages the blog.  He has a Masters of Research degree in European Languages and Culture. He hails all the way from Cornwall, England, where he studied at the University of Exeter.