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December 16, 2011

The Savvy Girl's Guide to Giving Back

women in front of car

Photo Credit: Bill Diodate

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DO-GOODER: Nadia Khawaja Mahmud, 29, Seattle, WA
Cofounder and CEO of Jolkona Foundation, an organization that connects small donors to global development projects

Job: "In 2006, my husband came back from visiting family in Bangladesh. He couldn't get over the poverty there — people couldn't afford medical care. So we began supporting a local clinic with small gifts of $150, which was all it took to buy a prosthetic limb and rehabilitation therapy for one polio amputee. We loved the feeling of giving back, so we launched Jolkona, named for the Bengali word for drop of water, in 2009."

Background: "My sophomore year at UCLA, a friend invited me to tutor with her at a South Central L.A. high school. The kids couldn't even do basic math. It prompted me to get involved. By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted a career addressing social problems."

Reward: "We've raised almost $200,000 in micro-donations for more than 60 partner organizations in 42 countries, from Guatemala to Kenya. Our goal is to show the next generation of philanthropists that small donations make a difference."

DO-GOODER: Lydia Fenet, 34, New York, NY
Auctioneer, senior vice president, and strategic partnerships international director at Christie's

Job: "In 2001, I trained to become one of Christie's six charity auctioneers; the company provides us free to nonprofits to lead international charity auctions. I do up to 80 events a year and have about 20 black-tie dresses hanging up at home!"

Background: "When I was growing up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, my parents always emphasized philanthropy. On the Christmas I was 10, they bought my siblings and me sponsorships for kids in Haiti instead of gifts."

Reward: "The most I've ever raised in a night was $12 million for the Naples Children & Education Foundation in Florida. It's great to be a woman in this job, since men bid more often — I'm not threatening to them. I've had guys say at the end of the night, 'You owe me $15,000. I wasn't even going to raise my paddle!' But it's for a good cause."

DO-GOODER: Halleemah Nash, 30, Chicago, IL
Founder and CEO of Legacy Venture Consulting (LVC), a firm that manages charity initiatives for celebrities and athletes

Job: "I founded LVC two years ago to connect star athletes with at-risk communities. I saw the impact when I worked with underserved teens in Durham, North Carolina. When I invited the Duke basketball team to talk to the kids, they suddenly became attentive."

Background: "I grew up in Compton, California; there were lots of gangs and guns. Both my parents struggled with drugs, and in 1997 my brother was hit by a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting. I graduated from Howard University in 2002 — the first in my family to go to college — and I wanted to assist people from troubled backgrounds like mine."

Reward: "I helped Dwayne Wade from the Miami Heat renovate a high school girls' basketball court. I'm also the director of youth opportunities for the Chicago Housing Authority, where I develop career programs for more than 8,000 kids in public housing. One of the girls in the program just graduated from Yale."

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