Give, Like the Gurus Asked

One of Guru Nanak’s three golden rules, Vand Chhako (give before you take), has inspired Sikhs to take care of humanity, and Waheguru’s creation, for over 500 years.  Guru Nanak Sahib wrote about seva in many shabads, notably, “One who works for what s/he eats, and gives some of what s/he has, Oh Nanak, it is that one who knows Waheugur’s path.” (Guru Nanak Sahib, Panna 1245). The idea of sharing what you earn was institutionalized by Guru Arjan Sahib as “dasvandh,” or giving 10% of what you earn to those in need.

Whether it’s through donating money, distributing food to the hungry, or sharing your skills via pro-bono work, to give 10% of your mind (knowledge), body (skills), or wealth (money or things) to help create a better community for all,  is a pillar of Sikhi.

To leverage 21st century technology and to help Sikhs give their 10% to topics they care about, a group of Sikhs created the Dasvandh Network (DVN).

“The Dasvandh Network is a platform that provides Sikhs….a way to engage and support their community in a positive manner,” said Harleen Kaur,  DVN’s education director.

The projects one can donate to on DVN are pretty cool. You can search projects by categories like civil rights, education, or advocacy.  With about 50 different projects, from 1984 Photographic Sikh Exhibition, to the Bhujangan Leadership Retreat for young Kaurs, to Combating the French Turban Ban…there’s something to tickle every donor’s fancy.

DVN  harnesses the power of crowd sourcing: collecting small amounts of donations from a large group of people. The minimum for a one-time donation is $10, and users can opt to donate one time, every month, or every two months.

10351389_867954873237163_859750259078617934_n“When I was younger, I didn’t even know what dasvandh meant, let alone that I could contribute without having a consistent source of income,” reflects Harleen. “Now, with initiatives like the Dasvandh Box, children as young as 2 and 3 are able to select a project that they like and raise funds to make it a reality. The greatest part about DVN is seeing people take ownership over ideas and projects that will serve them and their community.”

A touching impact of DVN donors is that the Khalsa Food Pantry has been able to support nearly 80 families per week with non-perishable goods and produce. “We were able to acquire two refrigerators for food storage which has helped maximize our distribution of produce,” said Natasha Kaur, Khalsa Care Foundation Sevadaar. “We are humbled and grateful to DVN and to all who have supported us!”

For people or organization seeking funds, DVN provides them with the opportunity to pitch their project to the community with personalized profiles and sections for photos, video clips, and text. “We assist organizations and grass-roots community projects in finding new donors through web-based fundraising and communication pages, social media tools, and donation processing,” states the DVN website.

Harleen was inspired to become a part of DVN after hearing about it from her cousin, Manpreet Singh, who currently serves as Treasurer for DVN.  “This was the first time that I was really hearing of anything like this, and the innovation and spirit behind it excited me. I wanted to be a part of something that would drive my community to give back and give forward, allowing small ideas to become big projects, and serve as a foundation for the improvement of our Sikh panth.”

DVN is having its second annual Dasvandh Week (November 8 -16, 2014) during which it encourages donors to give.

“This year’s goal of $80,000 will be achieved not only from power of ten-inspired individuals but also with matching funds from strategic donors within the Sikh community for one-time and recurring donations,” states its press release. “This makes the week of November 8th-16th the most important opportunity to maximize the reach of your donation!”

“Dasvandh Week is meant to serve as an annual reminder that we all can and should be giving,” said Manpreet Singh, Treasurer of the Dasvandh Network. “This year, we are calling upon our community to ask themselves, ‘Can I do more?’”

Note: Dasvandh Network is self-funded and doesn’t charge administrative fees. Donations via paper check are sent without any fees to the designated organization/project. To pay 3rd party payment processing providers, there is a 3.5% processing fee for credit/debit card transactions and $0.50 fee for ACH transactions. However, during Dasvandh Week, these processing fees will be waived, so along with the matching funds, 200% of donations will go to causes listed on the platform.