Jolkona Foundation: Measuring Impact

Jolkona Foundation has some great ideas about how to measure donor impact. I had a great opportunity to meet the founders Adnan and Nadia Mahmud (see photo below by Photo by Trevin Chow Photography, a couple of weeks ago and I was so encouraged by their vision for young philanthropists. Today and tomorrow I’ll be interviewing Adnan, if you have any questions feel free to leave them as a comment below or connect with Jolkona through their website or with me.

What inspired you to start the Jolkona Foundation?

Photo of Adnan and NadiaCouple of years ago, I was at a cemetery in Bangladesh paying respect to my grandfather. When I was leaving, I came across a gentleman bringing in his dead son who was probably 6 or 7 years old. Muslim tradition requires a dead body be wrapped in a white cloth for proper burial. It was clear the gentleman did not have the means to afford such a cloth, which was probably no more than a few cents. I realized I could have given him that cloth. By the time I realized that I was back home. So, I decided to look for ways to give back now and not wait until later. I looked for sustainable things I could do within my capacity. After looking through various options and ideas, my wife and I realized there was no existing model for connecting individuals to causes that would show a one-to-one proof – connecting EVERY donation to an impact. After many hours of interviews and conversations, we decided to build a platform that other non-profit organizations can leverage to effectively connect with a new generation of philanthropists who want to give small donations.

What does a “one-to-one” mean and why is that important?

“One to one” refers to the fact that all donations via the Jolkona Foundation website make a specific impact with which the individual donor can identify. Jolkona Foundation focuses on establishing “one-to-one” impact in order to help address this problem. Moreover, because Jolkona Foundation focuses on targeting the youth and young professionals, (15 to 35 years old), one of the best ways to encourage anyone to get into philanthropy is to show the impact that their donations can have. Traditionally, this idea of seeing the impact of your gift was reserved for the “big donors”. They are able to sit on the boards and determine how their donations would be spent. People with smaller donations (less than $500) rarely had this kind of control over how their donation was spent. We are very committed to measuring impact and providing our community with as much transparency and feedback as possible. We are trying to push this transparency idea beyond just a personal impact. In our Impact section, we show the aggregate impact the whole Jolkona Community is having.

How is technology changing philanthropy?

We use technology to effectively show our donors the impact every donation is having. Traditionally, only few organizations like World Vision or Save the Children were able to set up programs that would send the photo of the child you are supporting. We believe technology can really allow almost any nonprofits to set up these programs. Couple of trends today are 1) digital cameras are very easily accessible and 2) Internet is spreading to more remote places every day. Those 2 trends alone allow us to build a richer donor experience than just getting one printed photo and a letter, at a very low cost.

Are you looking for more nonprofits to join your work?

We are constantly looking for new partners. One of the things we enjoy is learning about the wonderful and highly effective work that folks are doing around the world and figuring out the best way our platform can help them. Our website provides some good details about how to become our partner. Some benefits include, increased funding to provide more services, increased visibility for their organization, partner tools for tacking and monitoring funding, new source of potential donors, a web portal to easily report back to donors, and more.


5 Responses to Jolkona Foundation: Measuring Impact

  1. Guru D. says:

    This is a wonderful idea. I especially like the idea of having 100% of the donation going toward the particular ‘partner’ and then having a separate donation for administrative activities (a’ la Kiva).

    However, what makes me truly Proud, can I say that? Of another South Asian counterpart, fellow American, is the underlying Value foundation that arises such a thought. That a dying child, a grieving father, did not become an impotent caricature of sorrow-there is Reason in all things. Whether that reason overwhelms us and becomes a root cause for our Apathy or it overwhelms us and forges us anew, stonger, kinder, gentler, more compassionate-driven in the right direction. To give is not a Priviledge of those blessed with material plenty (when I traveled through India I met a man who worked with late stage AIDS patients. He said those that had AIDS in the poorest villages died best-the entire village would support them, help them, bathe them, massage them-unlike the richer areas where they shunned those with the disease to die alone) it is a mandate to be Human.

    I like that message that I get from the Jolkona group. Not just as a Non-Profit or even for the material ends that they are attempting (these are fantastic)-it is, to me, another proof that despite what almost everything tells us we still emerge our Native selves: goodness.

    Be well

  2. While I admire and understand the desire to have a visible and immediate connection of donor impact, it is not always possible.

    Here’s an example of where even after 2000 years, we don’t actually know what the donor’s (the Good Samaritan) was, and using modern performance management metrics one can “prove” that there was no impact:

    The Good Samaritan & “Performance Measurement”
    by Bill Huddleston

    Currently, there’s a lot of hype in the world about being “results oriented” and the culture of “performance management” has seeped its way into almost every realm of American life, including business, government and now, the non-profit world as well.

    Well, why shouldn’t it? Doesn’t it sound like it’s the only way to be, after all, who could be “against results” or against “performance measurement.” It sounds great, but like the question, “When did you stop beating your wife (or husband)?” it sets the stage in an extremely negative, and skewed fashion.

    Let’s use a historical example, the story of the good Samaritan from the Bible is one that I believe is so widely known that it qualifies as a societal story, not just a religious one.

    To recap, in the parable a traveler is robbed, beaten, stripped of his clothes and left for dead. Two different people walk by, leaving the robbery victim alone. Then a man from Samaria (the Good Samaritan) comes upon the man, and even though the two different groups hated each other, he stops to render aid. The Samaritan takes pity on the victim, bandages him, pours oil and wine on his wounds, then puts the victim on his donkey and takes him to an inn and takes care of him. The next day, the Good Samaritan gives the innkeeper two dineri (this was two days wages at the time) and tells the innkeeper, “Look after him, and when I return I will reimburse you for any extra expense you have.” (The story is from Luke 10:29-35).

    Now let’s apply modern performance measurement and outcome techniques to this story. With 2000 years of history the story still resonates, how many people have been helped because someone remembered the story of the Good Samaritan and acted in a way that was not perhaps their first impulse? We will never know, and to the performance management crowd, this incident would be recorded today as “too expensive” and “ineffective” – after all, the Samaritan only helped one person. We don’t know if the Samaritan ever came back and paid those extra expenses, and it was two day’s earnings to help just this one person.

    It would also received the rating of : “Results Not Demonstrated” – we don’t know if the victim ever recovered, was permanently injured, or had mental impairment due to his injuries. All we know is that he had the crap beat out of him, multiple people walked by, until the “unclean” Samaritan stopped to help.

    According to the performance measurement tools, the Good Samaritan “program” was a failure and had no impact.

    I think not.

    Copyright Bill Huddleston, All rights reserved.

  3. […] me to look at information and opinions from a different perspective. I wrote a post for the Jolkona Foundation and received a thoughtful response for a reader, […]

  4. sandy clark says:

    Another group that is making great inroads into donor value is Givewell. You can find them at What has impressed me is that they are asking the hard questions on accountability and outcomes along with cost effective strategies. Worth checking out their site.

  5. sandy clark says:

    A follow up comment to my previous one. As I mentioned I had recommended GiveWell as a valuable blog to follow. Shortly thereafter I joined the staff at VillageReach which was rated as one of GiveWell’s top charities. Although at the time I did not work for VillageReach, thus my endorsement of GiveWell was not related, I want to fully disclose any perceived conflict of interest.

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