With over $30,000 in matching funds, the Dasvandh Network’s new Executive Director, Amrit Kaur, is excited to encourage donations to panthic causes during this year’s Dasvandh Week.
A pillar of Sikhi, “vand chako” (give before you take), has inspired Sikhs to take care of Waheguru’s creation for hundreds of years. Guru Nanak Sahib wrote about seva in many shabads, notably, “One who works for what one eats, and gives some of what one has, oh Nanak, it is that one who knows Waheuguru’s path,” (Guru Nanak Sahib, Ang 1245). The idea of sharing what you earn was further institutionalized by Guru Arjan Sahib as “dasvandh,” or giving 10% of what you earn to those in need.
From this idea, was born the Dasvandh Network (DVN). Established in 2013 by group of Sikhs in Detroit, MI, DVN is an online giving platform where donors and organizations can actively participate in the spirit of dasvandh.
Earlier this year, DVN welcomed its first full time employee and new Executive Director, Amrit Kaur. Drawing form her background as a New York City teacher, fundraiser, accountant, and Sikh camp counselor, Amrit is excited to inject new enthusiasm and growth into the organization.
Amrit’s journey with DVN is deeply connected to her sangat. For instance, she was introduced to DVN by a friend. “Someone emailed me a project to check out on DVN and that’s how I started using it,” she said. “I use the platform as a donor for its capabilities for scoping out projects.”
Her desire to apply for the executive director position also came from her sangat. “I felt like the conversation around the concept of dasvandh was slipping away from my sangat,” Amrit said. “The idea of giving back financially wasn’t a conversation we were having and I wanted to play a part in raising awareness of dasvandh.”
When defining dasvandh, Amrit references the Gurus. “We constantly look at the Gurus as examples of how to live, and we see how they gave back in so many forms,” she said. “To me, dasvandh means giving 10% of yourself, of your time, of your money, of what you are. I want to bring that idea to the forefront, at least for my sangat. If I can change the thought process of the people around me…that would be most important.”
Amrit’s role as the executive director is broad and varied, including connecting organizations with donors, raising awareness around dasvandh, and developing activists.
“The idea of inspiring activists excites me the most,” she said. “I feel like as a community we have a lot of resources and people should be encouraged to start projects. I want to have conversations with our youth to encourage them to post initiatives on DVN. I want to get retreats, camps, and SSAs to think outside the box and tell them that they have the support to create a movie, a book, a magazine…whatever they want!”
DVN not only makes it easy for people to start projects, but they make it easy for people to donate too. “We want to remove the worry of donating. We want to make sure you feel like you know your money is going to the right place so, we do the vetting and governance for you,” Amrit said. She explained that each project and organization goes through an application processes where the DVN board of directors and approval team review its budget, goals, leadership team, and panthic alignment.
“If a project is approved and posted, we stay in contact with the organizations to make sure they are delivering on their promises,” she said. “We also provide project updates to the donors.”
Currently there over 60 different Sikh organizations and projects one can donate to via DVN. Areas you can donate to include civil rights, community service, public relations, advocacy, education, scholarship, camps and much more. Some women-specific causes include:
- Bhujangan: Kaur Leadership Retreat
- The Mata Bhag Kaur Education Fund
- Combating Violence Against Women & Girls in the Pacific
Amrit is looking forward to overseeing her first Dasvandh Week this November 12 to 20; a week where all donations are matched.
“It’s the one time of year that we are out in the gurdwaras to bring awareness to DVN,” Amrit said. “The week is meant to reignite the spirit of dasvandh and to get people to donate and to think about their community involvement.”
DVN has $30,000 in matching funds this year. “If someone gives a one time donation up to $500 we will match it. Or, if they give a recurring donation of $50/month, we will match it for the rest of the year,” she said. “Hopefully, the matching fund will encourage people to give, in the spirit of Dasvandh, as the Guru meant it.”
“If you’ve never used DVN before, this is a great opportunity to learn about a new project. If you’re already a donor, it’s a time for you to encourage someone else to get started.”
So, what will your dasvandh support?