Mona Foundation is a non-profit organization that partners with grassroots initiatives around the world to educate children, empower women and girls, and enable them to transform their own communities.
Our goal is to alleviate global poverty and contribute to creating a just and prosperous world so that no child ever goes to bed hungry, is lost to preventable diseases, or is deprived of education for lack of resources. We believe that universal education, gender equality, and community building are the keys to achieving this goal.
Mona was founded in 1999 by Mahnaz Javid and a small group of people who drew inspiration from the Baha’i principles of oneness, gender equality, universal education, and selfless service to humanity. We seek to work with like-minded organizations around the world to demonstrate in action that people of all backgrounds can come together in service to the common good.
In 2019, Mona Foundation provided access to quality education, empowerment programs, and training for nearly 430,000 students, teachers and parents through 19 partner projects in 12 countries. Since inception, the foundation has awarded more than $11.6 million to 42 initiatives in 20 countries.
The foundation is named after Mona Mahmudnizad, a 17-year old girl who was executed in 1983 in Iran for her beliefs as a Baha’i and for teaching children’s classes. Mona loved children and volunteered in an orphanage from the age of 12. She was also an outspoken defender of human rights. Her youth, courage, and commitment to education, service, and social justice inspired us to name the foundation after her.
We believe that the key to alleviating poverty and achieving positive community transformation lies in universal education and gender equality. Mona Foundation integrates the following values in all aspects of its operation:
- Oneness and unity
- In our humanity we are one, each endowed with the potential to contribute to building a better world.
- Service to all
- Regardless of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, nationality or economic status
- Supporting social and economic development projects focused on education and improving the status of women and girls
- Fostering unity in diversity
- Preserving the diverse cultural heritage of the people we serve
- Building collaborative relationships & supporting others to develop themselves
- Integrity, accountability and transparency
- Embodying trustworthiness and committed to operational excellence and meeting our commitments
- Operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed and results achieved
- Consultation as a medium of decision-making
- Seeking and respecting the diversity of views
- Searching for truth and arriving at, and rallying around the group decision
- Continuous learning
- Engaging in continuous cycle of consultation, action and reflection to lean from experience and improve year-on-year
Since 1999, Mona has granted $11 million to 42 projects in 20 countries, supporting the education of more than 429,000 students annually. For details please see our Impact page. In 2019, we supported partner organizations in Brazil, Haiti, India, Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Panama, Sierra Leone, Gambia, and the United States.
The focus of all Mona Foundation activities are universal education, gender equality and community transformation.
Universal education: Learning is intrinsic to human reality, and everyone deserves the opportunity to receive a quality education. Mona Foundation finds locally operated programs that educate people of all backgrounds and raise the status of girls and women. We believe that sustainable development is a process in which individuals, communities and institutions build capacity and own and lead their own development plans. Educated communities are healthier, more sustainable, and less vulnerable to economic volatility.
Gender equality: Providing equal educational opportunities to girls and women yield a higher rate of return than any other investment that can be made in our communities. Equality not only guarantees basic rights, it is also vital to promoting the robust, shared growth needed to end extreme poverty. World Bank data demonstrates that gender equality and economic development are inextricably linked and increasing education specifically for girls and women has a direct effect on a nation’s economic development.
Community building: All people have the right and the responsibility to lead their own lives and to contribute to the betterment of their own communities. The individuals most affected are the ones most ready to affect change. Supporting communities in their own self-advocacy promotes empowerment, rather than dependency. Many students we support work with their communities to establish literacy programs, women health centers, parental trainings, cleanliness drives, tree plantations, and many other programs that stimulate harmony and community building in their communities.
We partner with community-led organizations that educate and serve everyone, empower women and girls, improve economic opportunity for all, and catalyze individual and community transformation.
We view education as an ongoing process of learning that develops three inherent and interconnected capabilities of a human being:
- The capability to reason (rational faculty), learn, think, explore, innovate, and discover
- The capability to acquire attributes such as justice and empathy, and create beauty as in music or fine arts
- The capability to love, care, serve the social good, and search for meaning beyond the obvious
This view of education, informed by our understanding that human beings are multifaceted and endowed with hidden potential, has been repeatedly proven through the experience of our partner projects to be a key lever in creating and sustaining more just and equal communities.
Our approach and framework to development act as a guide and influences the way we think of social action and change. At the heart of this framework lie our beliefs about the nature of human beings. These beliefs are Baha’i inspired and universal in their nature and include:
Oneness of the world of humanity – Each person, regardless of economic status, has the right, the capacity and the responsibility to be the protagonist of the process of their own development, and contribute to the betterment of their communities. This view of human beings does not permit us to regard people as helpless victims nor as passive recipients of aid. Rather, development work based on this view tries to tap into the vast pool of capabilities of local people and to empower them to become the protagonists of their own development.
Coherence of material and spiritual dimensions of human reality– Development should not only be defined by materials goals, e.g. the building of the infrastructure or academic achievement, rather, and perhaps more importantly, by the degree to which the participants in the process are commmitted to spiritual values such as justice and equality, and have the moral capabilities such as integrity, trustworthiness, etc. needed to serve their own interests and also contribute to the betterment of their communities.
Equality of men and women – Community development can only happen when men and women have and enjoy equal rights and opportunities and equally participate in this process.
We view development as a process, the main protagonists of which are the people themselves, irrespective of the degree of their material prosperity. We believe that development activity emerges from within a community and belongs to the people and institutions that are implementing the effort. While social action is directed towards visible improvements of some aspect of life, the main function of the project is to develop people’s capacity to make decisions about their development and then to implement them.
At the level of practice, this framework translates into the following essential requirements for sustained development:
- Organic growth – Development is a long-term process. Any development effort must originate at the grassroots level by members of the local community. Over time, through a process of consultation, action and reflection, the community builds its own capacity to implement projects of increased complexity.
- Capacity building – Capacity building is directly related to learning how to work towards goals in a disciplined way, how to foster openness in decision-making by engaging in community consultation, how to build relationships based on collaboration and service to others, and how to develop the skills and commitment necessary to generate and apply lessons learned to build even more capacity.
- Local ownership, local solutions – Every community has their own set of unique challenges and solutions. For every community and every country development needs to be responsive to local aspirations and initiatives. Development ideas and projects should not be imposed from outside the local community. National or international knowledge about proven and well-conceived development approaches can be shared as long as the local community remains owner and creator of their own solutions.
- Action learning – As with any new skill, engaging in learning through a systematic and ongoing process of consultation, action and reflection designed to bring about consistent patterns of change, is essential to developing the capacity and skills we need to build a better world together.
- Service – Development is sustained and sustainable when service to others is the core value that drives our everyday actions as individuals and as community members. Service to others helps us be the best we can be and exponentially increases our impact in whatever step we take for the betterment of ourselves, our communities and our nations.
Our relationship with the organizations we support is naturally governed by the core values that inspire us and the principles that guide our work. As such, we believe that responsibility for managing all aspects of the programs we fund rests with the organizations themselves.
We see our role as the representative and voice of our partner programs, and act as their advocate before our donors. We do so while honoring and meeting our full fiduciary responsibilities to our donors: following grant proposal submission, approval, and reporting guidelines, and providing full transparency and accountability for all our actions and decisions.
Our project selection criteria ensures that Mona Foundation only supports local educational institutions who have a proven capacity to utilize funds effectively, and the ability to interact well with outside donors.
- The program is founded and operated by residents.
- The program addresses a vital and significant deficit in the basic needs of children, needs which prevent the full development of their capacity as productive members of their society. These needs must include education, but also may include housing, food and basic health care.
- The program serves children of all backgrounds, regardless of age, gender, race or ethnicity, religion, and economic status.
- The program has a particular focus on education of girls and women.
- The program seeks to develop human resources for the community.
- The program has a historic rate of success, having been established and functioning for a significant period of time and not less than three years.
- The program enjoys the support of the local community.
- The program administrators of the school have shown a long-term commitment to the development of the program
- The program administrators have the capacity to effectively manage receiving funds from external agencies.
- The program administrators are active participants in developing and implementing plans, and require and enjoy the participation of the community.
In selecting projects founded by Baha’is, we rely on the Bahá’í International Development Organization (BIDO), previously known as the Office of Social and Economic Development (OSED).1 BIDO helps to strengthen institutional capacity in countries where Bahá’í-inspired development efforts exist by fostering and supporting the learning process through community consultation, action, study and reflection, and through the systematization of experience and training.
BIDO (and OSED before it) has been a trusted advisor to the Mona Foundation since its inception. It is in touch with local grass-roots NGOs implementing the development projects and know when these NGOs have the experience and the institutional capacity to receive and manage funds from external sources. Thus, we have the advantage of working together with local partners who have a positive track record, have demonstrated trustworthiness and reliability, and have the capacity to collaborate with external funding agencies.
*Baha’i activity in the field of social and economic development seeks to promote the well-being of people of all walks of life, whatever their beliefs or background. It represents the efforts of the Baha’i community to effect constructive social change. Its purpose is not to teach the Faith nor convert, rather, as an expression of a deeply held set of beliefs, to engage in indiscriminate service to the world of humanity for the betterment of our collective world.
Mona Foundation has worked extensively with an advisory committee and many of our partners to identify relevant indicators of sustained positive change and develop a framework for field-generated evaluation and monitoring. Based on their experience and input, Mona measures the progress of the programs we support by looking at:
Improving access to education as indicated by improved infrastructure and sufficient supplies; increase in number of students enrolled; and increase caregiver and community engagement in education.
Improving teaching and learning as indicated by increase in teachers’ skills and knowledge; increase in number of students who pass national exams and increase in number of students who transition to the next level of education or into work.
Transformed communities, as indicated by most significant change stories as qualitative examples of sustained change, realized a result of improvement in students’ character development, life skills and service to community.
These indicators align with the 2018 World Bank report on “LEARNING to realize education’s promise”. Evidence to-date shows that change is sustained when:
- The development process enables Individuals to become change agents in the development of their own communities;
- Women and men enjoy equal rights and opportunities; and
- Resilient grassroots organizations catalyze social change.
Why is it crucial to ensure that nearly 4 billion girls and women around the world have the same chances to receive an education as boys and men? First, education is a human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Second, girls’ education is a strategic development investment – evidence shows that girls’ education brings a wide range of benefits not only for the girls themselves but also for their children and their communities, as well as society at large in terms of economic growth.
There is also a multiplier effect to educating girls and women. More educated women tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their children, all of which eventually improve the well-being of all individuals and can lift households out of poverty. These benefits also transmit across generations, as well as to communities at large. (World Bank report on education of girls, 2016.)
The administrative cost of Mona Foundation is among the lowest among the non-profits. In 2019, our administrative cost was at 6%. Please see our 2019 Financials for full details.
The Mona Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, non-profit organization in accordance with the Internal Revenue Service codes of the United States of America. All donations made from donors within US are tax deductible. Donors from other countries should consult a certified public accountant registered within their country of residence.
Mona Foundation is officially certified every year by the State of Washington. We embrace nonprofit accountability and transparency. We are recognized as an “Accredited Charity” by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Give.Org, and enjoy the Platinum status granted by GuideStar given only to organizations which meet their extensive accountability and transparency requirements. In addition, we have received several awards and recognitions including:
- Microsoft Alumni Integral Fellow
- Leadership Council member, Brookings Institution Center for Universal Education (CUE)
- Brookings Institution CUE select global partner member to Girls CHARGE initiative
- Best of Western WA Nonprofits
- Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation
Mona Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals. Letters of Inquiry should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 1st of each year. Due to the large number of inquiries we receive, we do our very best to respond in a timely manner. If your inquiry is coming from outside of the United States, please be sure to include an email address.