The Seattle Foundation’s annual #GiveBIG campaign, which boosts donations to 1,600 Seattle-area nonprofits, raised an astonishing $12.89 million yesterday! Super-heroic, indeed.

Trevor Rotzien

Trevor Rotzien

Heide Felton

Heide Felton

We’re still in the process of tallying up donations, and we don’t know about our share of the foundation’s “stretch pool” or matching funds from eligible employers yet, but it looks like we raised about $1,500 for Jolkona within that 24-hour window. The funds will be used for our Seattle operations and to support an increased focus on South and Southeast Asia – particularly Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Michelle Primley Benton

Michelle Primley Benton

Special thanks to all our heroes, including Heide Felton, Trevor Rotzien and Michelle Primley Benton! (We would love to turn all our GiveBIG donors into superheroes. If you gave to Jolkona yesterday and want to get suited up, just tweet your preferred photo to @Jolkona or post it to our Facebook page this week.) It’s truly an honor to live and work in such a giving community.

I’m especially gratified because I’m wrapping up my time as Jolkona’s Communications Manager this month. Between our “Which Philanthropist Are You?” quiz, the Huffington Post and Seattle Times op-eds about the Bangladesh garment industry and factory disaster anniversary, and now all this GiveBIG fun, I’m feeling a bit like a superhero, too… albeit a pretty tired one today! It’s a good time to try one of those digital sabbaticals. Fortress of Solitude, anyone?

Thanks so much for reading my Jolkona posts and social media updates for the past year. You can still find me on LinkedIn and Twitter; my secret identity days are (mostly) behind me.

Gotta fly now…

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Today – April 24 – marks the first anniversary of the Savar garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed 1,133 men, women and children, and injured more than 2,500 others. In the weeks that followed, Jolkona donors raised more than $20,000 for our campaign to buy artificial limbs (through BRAC) for the survivors who had lost arms, legs, or both.

In January, our co-founders Adnan and Nadia Mahmud met with two of the survivors. Here are their stories:

Adnan’s column in The Huffington Post’s Impact section explains more: 3 Lessons from the Biggest Industrial Disaster in Bangladesh.

You can continue supporting Jolkona’s Bangladesh partners through our Lift Bangla program. Collectively, we can make a big difference for the Savar families and the people of Bangladesh.

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In honor of International Women’s Day, I joined other nonprofit communicators at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Friday to discuss ways we could use social media to promote women’s health initiatives, including PATH’s redesigned female condom, self-administered contraceptive shots (see photo — so tiny!) and low-tech cervical and breast cancer screenings.

This #GatesSocial also got me thinking about more ways to inform and engage donors for Jolkona’s 4th annual Give to Girls campaign, which is crowdfunding for 10 projects that save lives, educate and empower women locally and globally. What would inspire you? We’d love to produce something like the Girl Effect video:

Stay tuned for some new Jolkona media for this year’s #Give2Girls. In the meantime, check out the traditional press release about the campaign.

SEATTLE – Launched on International Women’s Day (March 8) and continuing through Women’s History Month, Jolkona’s 4thannual Give to Girls campaign is crowdfunding for 10 innovative projects to lift up women and girls in the United States and strategic regions of Latin America, Africa and Asia.

“We inspire the women of tomorrow by giving to girls today,” says Nadia Mahmud, Jolkona co-founder and CEO. “Empowering women is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty around the world. Invest in a healthy and educated girl today, and she will be able to reinvest in her family, her community, and our world tomorrow.”

From now through March 31, donors can choose among nine high-impact projects related to education, maternal health and empowerment. Starting at the $5 level, the options range from supporting job training for homeless women in Seattle topromoting female literacy in Afghanistan to funding counseling services for rape survivors in Haiti.

The bonus project will be selected by members of Jolkona’s monthly Give Together program: starting at the $10 level, participants join a private Facebook group to review proposals from nonprofit partners and determine which one should be awarded the community’s collective grant. For this campaign, Give Together is also accepting one-time donations, in addition to monthly subscriptions.

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Happy Valentine’s Day to our donors, partners and volunteers!


We love working with you to make the world better for our generation and brighter for future generations. Thank you so much for your support over the past six years.

And if you’re still searching for a meaningful gift for that special someone in your own life,  we hope you consider making a dedicated donation to one of our partners. We have dozens of philanthropy projects to choose from in Asia, Africa, North and South America. Something for everyone, whether your sweetie is passionate about education, health, human rights, job creation, animals or the environment.

On a related note, when shopping for gifts or other items online, you can use the Amazon Smile website to designate a nonprofit like Jolkona or our partners to benefit from a small percentage of your purchases.

Love to give, give to love.

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If you go on an amazing trip and have a life-changing experience, but don’t share it on Facebook, did it really happen? This satirical story from The Onion says it all: 6-Day Visit To Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture

“I don’t think my profile photo will ever be the same, not after the experience of taking such incredible pictures with my arms around those small African children’s shoulders. Honestly, I can’t even imagine going back to my old Facebook photo of my roommate and I at an outdoor concert.”

If your Facebook photo could use a similar upgrade, check out Jolkona Expeditions. These small group trips take volunteers to visit our nonprofit partners fighting poverty in developing countries. Previous expeditions have gone to West Africa and South America; the next one is scheduled for March 16 to 30, visiting organizations in Kenya and Tanzania.

Jolkona Expeditions: Not only will they change your life, but they will definitely change your Facebook profile picture!

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In case you missed it last week, Bill Gates wore a chicken suit, a Seattle Seahawks jersey, and all sorts of other outfits in his viral video (with an assist from Jimmy Fallon) to promote the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Annual Letter.

And now it’s stuck in my head:,, Which is the point of the viral video, of course. But now that I’ve read the letter — and hopefully, so have you — we’ll have to cleanse this earworm. Try this or possibly that.

Maybe we should do one for Can’t you just see Adnan and Nadia in some of these outfits? Or it could star Baby Aleena

Happy Friday!

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An injured child in Tacloban City (Reuters)

We generally take down our Christmas decorations around Jan. 7 at my house, but my son loves them so much that we still have some lights up right now, and I always keep the photo-cards from friends and family up until the next batch starts coming in late November.

Similarly, while the holidays may be over and the headlines may have faded, Jolkona’s Standing With the Philippines holiday campaign remains active. Thanks to your donations and our champions, we’ve raised more than $3,500 for Peace Winds America’s Typhoon Haiyan relief and recovery efforts, and will continue to support them throughout 2014 as a Give Direct project. You can donate $30 to provide food, bedding and water for a family of six for five days, $60 to help a family for 10 days, or any amount you like — as Jolkona always says, every drop counts.

From Jon Ehrenfeld, Peace Winds America’s program officer:

In addition to our deep thanks to all the supporters of Haiyan relief, I would add that we are presently exploring a variety of early recovery and medium- to long-term recovery programs in the same areas that we conducted our relief. This gives us a lasting presence and a continuity of support – in the same region where we provided emergent relief we may also be funding shelters, seeds and tools for farmers, and boat repair kits for fishermen devastated by the typhoon. In this way our commitment to lasting relief and recovery will be felt for long after the storm struck.

For more information, check out our previous blog posts about this campaign.

And in the spirit of this blog post, from my favorite holiday special of all time:

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Nelson Mandela passed away on Dec. 5. In his honor, we have changed the main image on Jolkona’s homepage this week:

The banner will resume linking to Standing With the Philippines, our holiday campaign to help Typhoon Haiyan survivors, after Mandela’s funeral this weekend.

We also highlighted Mandela’s wise words about the power of education at the top of our first Give Together newsletter earlier this year:


Bill and Melinda Gates and other global nonprofit leaders have stepped forward to praise Mandela’s work — not just as a statesman, but as an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised. Jolkona co-founder Adnan Mahmud “wasn’t lucky enough to ever be in the same room as Mandela,” but was nevertheless inspired to write a new Huffington Post column sharing his own view of this man’s legacy:

Mandela’s Gift: How to be Loved by the People

Why was Mandela so special? What makes him worthy of this attention?

In fact, the detractors have already begun to surface. Some say he was a violent guy. He was a communist. He disapproved of U.S. policies. He neglected his family. His presidency was mired by corruption and economic problems.

Yet no one can deny the power of his legacy…

Check out the rest of the column over at The Huffington Post. We also currently have eight projects you can support in Africa via our Give Direct program, ranging from funding elementary school teachers in Zambia to providing financial services for people in Ghana.

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My father is a Vietnam veteran, so I never let a Nov. 11 go by without thanking him and others for their service — especially since our emotional trip to Vietnam in 2007 with a group of veterans and philanthropists. We had no connection to Seattle yet at that time, but coincidentally, we accompanied the Seattle Rotary Club and Son Michael Pham, founder of Kids Without Borders, on our first visit to the Go Vap Orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City.

Happy Veterans Day, aka Remembrance Day for our neighbors to the north and other parts of the world.

Southeast Asia is also on my mind as we are hearing worse and worse reports of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, with more than 100,000 feared dead in the Philippines and panicked evacuations causing chaos in Vietnam.

Jolkona does not have any projects in those two countries this month, but through our headquarters here in Seattle, we have ties to the Filipino and Vietnamese American diaspora. Check out this Seattle Times story for information on how these groups are responding, including links to helping the rescue, recovery and rebuilding efforts through the Red Cross, World Vision and Mercy Corps. (Both WV and MC are also based here in the Pacific Northwest.)

And please check back for more information as we work with our nonprofit partners to help these ongoing efforts, as well.

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During my journalism career, I spent more than six years covering religion, and you would think that being married to an Indian American would have helped whenever Hindu news stories came up. Unfortunately, my husband is clueless about his family’s faith, so my research generally involved a basic Google search, then a quick call to his parents or sheepish Facebook chat with his cousins. Eventually, I grasped the basics — at least, enough to understand that the giant pink swastika wall hanging we received as a wedding gift was truly well-intentioned! (We left it in Pune. Auspicious or not, no way was that thing going on display in our Upper West Side apartment.)Diwali_Diya

Maybe it was a stretch in looking for new angles while covering longstanding belief systems for so many years, but I always got a kick out of finding similarities in unexpected places, such as between Muslims and Mormons. And despite my initial whiplash over the swastika symbol, I still notice common themes between Hinduism and Judaism. Both religions have a plurality of adherents who barely practice the basic rituals, yet still strongly  identify with these traditions on an ethnic-cultural basis. Both have a “festival of lights” around this time of year. And both have a confusing range of calendar start dates and English spelling options for every holiday… not exactly helpful for a journalist!

In any case, the major Hindu holiday of Diwali / Deepavali starts this weekend. (Some say it starts today; some say it starts Nov. 3. Bloggers get to be vague!) And for the first time, we are attempting to host a Diwali party. Our festivities will consist of serving food from an Indian restaurant, lighting candles, playing Bollywood films and soundtracks, and asking guests to make donations to Jolkona’s Upaya project in lieu of bringing us bottles of wine or some other kind of host gift.

Here are some other worthwhile nonprofit projects related to India, if you’d like to make a charitable gift in honor of Diwali this week:

Happy Diwali!

P.S. Forgot to add: this holiday is also observed by Buddhist, Sikhs and Jains! If that’s you, please feel free to share how you celebrate Diwali, either by posting in the Comments section or on our Facebook wall.

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photo 2Possibly the coolest thing I own is this desk globe I found in my grandmother’s apartment in Cyprus last summer. At first glance, it looks like any small globe — just a bit dented and dirty, and the “Made in England” logo on the stem prompts the same chuckle we get from our son playing with his dad’s 1970s-era “Made in Hong Kong” matchbox cars.

The fun part comes from looking closely at the continents — especially Africa and Asia — and marveling at how much the world has changed in less than 75 years. For the most part, it’s like a desk toy based on this week’s Project Syndicate (via Slate) article, “Of Course The World Is Better Now Than It Was In 1900.”

But even more fun: trying to nail down when on earth this spinning map could have been made?

Some of its countries that no longer exist:

  • Abyssinia
  • Anglo Egyptian Sudan
  • Ashanti
  • Bechuanaland Protectorate
  • Belgian Congo
  • Borneo
  • British Guiana
  • British Somaliland
  • Chinese Republicphoto 1
  • Dutch Guiana
  • Formosa
  • French Equatorial Africa
  • French Indochina
  • French West Africa
  • Italian Somaliland
  • Manchukuo
  • Northern Rhodesia
  • Sarawak
  • Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
  • Yugoslavia

Other clues: There’s no Israel, Jordan, Lebanon or United Arab Emirates. Tibet is bigger than Germany. Bangladesh is Pakistan. Korea is united. Germany has a line snaking down its middle, yet is not labeled into East or West versions…

So what year was this globe made? Make your guess in the Comments section below! (Or, fellow Children of the ’80s, just insert your best Carmen Sandiego joke here.)

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fashion show sari

Jolkona’s Night of Fashion & Giving 2012

Love philanthropy? How about colorful clothes? Bollywood and salsa dance numbers?  If you’re in the Seattle – Eastside area on Oct. 28, here’s an event for you:

Back by popular demand, the Jolkona + Microsoft Giving Campaign fashion show raises awareness and funds for Jolkona’s mission to inspire and empower a new generation of philanthropists locally and globally. Join us for a fun evening of fashion, dance, refreshments, good company and a great cause!
What: Giving In Style
When: Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 6:30 pm
Where: Microsoft Building 34, 3720 159th Ave. NE, Redmond, WA 98052
Why: Food, wine, music, fashion and dance. Did we mention it supports a great cause, too?
Tickets: $25 admission includes two drink tickets and hors d’oeuvres –

Visit the Facebook event page to view photos from last year’s fashion show and see who else is going!

On a related note, there’s just over a week left to contribute to one of our partner projects for Women & Girls and have your gift matched! Join our Give Together pool (starting at $10/month), or make a one-time donation (starting at $5) to a Give Direct project. 

Editor’s Note: Seattle is definitely known for philanthropy… but fashion? Hey, we are home of the flagship Nordstrom! And a Zara store is opening here soon, just around the corner from the Jolkona office. (Dangerous, at least for me.)

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Jolkona Staff - 2010

Jolkona’s Fearless Females – 2010

In Jolkona’s first five years, we’ve collected more than $700,000 for nonprofit partners locally and globally. More than $40,000 has come just through Give2Girls, a campaign we run every March to specifically support causes for women and girls. And we’ve raised more than $1,200 so far this month through our Give Together featured cause of Women & Girls, supporting projects in Seattle, Nepal and Sudan.

Our work for women and girls is much bigger than the occasional fundraising theme, however. One way or another, most of our partners empower women and girls. Some literally save lives; others strive to make those lives worth living. As Jolkona blogger Madison Abshire noted at the beginning of this month: “The world’s women and girls are one of the greatest sources of untapped potential for providing lasting global change… Improving women’s lives has a positive impact on society; on average, 90 percent of each dollar invested in a woman is returned to her family and community.”

We’ve had dozens of interesting posts here on the Jolkona Blog about how donors and volunteers can make a big difference for the world’s women and girls. Three blasts from the past:

Double Your Dollars

This month, we have matching funds from the Seattle International Foundation to amplify donations to Jolkona partner projects related to women and girls. This offer will double the first $1,500 given to our Give Together and Give Direct projects for women/girls. Which one inspires you to give? 

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Anne FrankI had a poster of Anne Frank on my bedroom wall when I was growing up. On my 16th birthday, I looked up at her, sadly and somewhat apologetically, thinking about how I would now always be older than her — and about all the other innocent girls around the world struck down for reasons beyond their control and my comprehension.

Malala Yousafzai

Today is International Day of the Girl Child, and for me, it feels like we’ve gotten a second chance with Malala Yousafzai. The Pakistani teenager, who miraculously survived being shot in the head by the Taliban over her fight for the right to girls’ education, turned 16 this summer. She’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and has been making the rounds to promote the Malala Fund and her new book.

I took notes as I watched the livestream of her appearance, with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, at Mashable’s Social Good Summit last month. Some notable quotes:


I want education for every child.

We shall not wait for someone else. We shall not wait for the governments to do it. We shall do it by ourselves. It is our duty.

My dream is to see every girl be educated, in every country.

A Talib chooses guns to solve a problem. We choose our voice… a peaceful way to solve problems.

I believe that today it would seem like a dream that we are saying tomorrow there will be equality. It seems a dream now — but in future, it will be reality.

Ziauddin Yousafzai:

In most parts of the world, when a girl is born, right from the very beginning, her wings are clipped. She’s not let to fly. The only thing I did: I tried to make her free, to make her free and independent. I dreamed for her. All that is good. Now it’s up to her what she chooses for herself.

A few days ago, she also had a charming visit with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. (Sorry, the embedded video is not working, so just use the link for now. –NNG)

Jon Stewart should have had her on for the whole show, or at least two segments — the government shutdown news mockery will be good for a while (sigh) — but TDS did add two extended interview clips to the website:

Each of us can do something more to support girls and women, whether in desperate situations like Malala’s Swat Valley or in our own neighborhoods. This month, donations through our Give Together program will help fund three nonprofits working with women and girls in Nepal, Sudan and here in Seattle. The pool we raise this month will be matched by Seattle International Foundation funds, so there’s twice as much reason to give — starting at just $10. Join Jolkona’s Give Together for Women & Girls in October, and make a big difference for women in Africa, Asia and the United States.

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Adnan has a piece in The Huffington Post today about what Jolkona and other nonprofits can learn from the ongoing U.S. government shutdown — check it out!

An excerpt:

Aleena passport photo

“The Chronicle of Philanthropy is keeping a running log of how the shutdown is impacting nonprofits; we can expect that list to multiply every day. The silver lining is that this conflict provides an opportunity for us to take stock of our work and make sure we focus on what’s important.”

“And even when the current shutdown ends, I’m afraid we will see more of these types of disruptions in the future. I’m a big fan of staying focused on Plan A and not getting distracted along the way; it’s an essential key to success for nonprofits and startups. However, when things happen beyond our control — like the government shutting down — it’s good to have a Plan B. We owe it to all those who receive our services.”

And some bonus commentary for the Jolkona Blog:

“With the shutdown in full swing, I find it really interesting how the government prioritizes what things to keep open and what to close down. It is quite intriguing that they shut down clinical research and cancer treatment trials, yet keep passport offices open. In our case, we got really lucky the Seattle Passport Agency stayed open because we needed to get Aleena a passport for her first international trip this month! We also know that we will be traveling fine next week because the TSA is still working. But, Nadia and I are sad that babies like Aleena who need urgent medical care are being turned away because of the shutdown…”

How is the government shutdown impacting you, personally or professionally? Share your thoughts in the Comments section, or through Jolkona’s Facebook or Twitter feeds.

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