Solutions to Extreme Poverty:
Micro-Enterprise Development and Micro-Finance
Christian organizations known for effective work in this sector seek to generate far-reaching impacts for individuals and communities by providing simple access to the training, savings tools, and small amounts of capital (often less than $100) needed by countless entrepreneurially minded individuals ready to work their way out of extreme poverty. Efforts in this sector typically focus on women because they are the practical (if often oppressed) drivers of both family and community in poverty-stricken areas. Best practices include service delivery methods designed to strengthen community bonds while creating a broader base for economic opportunity.
Chalmers Center at Covenant … We introduce this organization (though it is outside the parameters for inclusion on our list) as a unique opportunity for those wishing to support the research and development of a cutting-edge alternative to traditional, credit-led microfinance. More >
The players at what is now The Chalmers Center for Economic Development have pioneered the development of savings-led microfinance as a tool for micro-enterprise development and bible-based community development since 1999. Under the direction of Brian Fikkert, co-author of the seminal book When Helping Hurts, the Chalmers Center is currently pursuing an innovative dissemination model (called ASSET) for savings-led microfinance in West Africa. Based on extensive research and preliminary field testing, this pilot project shows enormous potential for truly transformational impact in poor communities.
Founded in 2010, The Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College has not been reviewed by charity ratings agencies for financial and management accountability, and therefore stands outside the scope of our normal recommendations, though audited financial statements and IRS 990’s are freely available from the organization upon request. In size, this would be classed as an “emerging” organization, relying on cash contributions of less than $1,000,000 annually. In 2011, approximately 60% of their funding came from grants, and about 25% from donations, such as those being sought for the ASSET project.
To be clear, ASSET is a pilot project. Certainly, the poor who are reached through this experimental effort will benefit significantly; however, the big pay-off will come in the full-scale development of a powerful and efficient dissemination model, one that would be ultimately capable of impacting millions in an extremely beneficial way. We include the ASSET project here because we have personally witnessed (while observing the work of Plant with Purpose) the remarkable effectiveness of savings-led microfinance delivered in a biblical context – the effects on economic durability and opportunity for families, community cohesion and capacity, and spiritual development were breathtaking. The ASSET project could lead to a much more widespread adoption of this kind of locally controlled, savings-led model for economic development among the rural poor.
(General donations can be directed towards the ASSET project at http://www.chalmers.org/involved/give)
Hope International … This organization takes an intentional, spiritually integrated approach to micro-enterprise development and microfinance, sharing the hope of Christ as they provide training, savings services, and enterprise loans to restore dignity and break the cycle of poverty. More >
Micro-Finance and Micro-Enterprise Development has proven to be a powerful tool for building capacity in communities and empowering individuals to work their way out of poverty – a true independence-creating hand-up, as opposed to a dependency-creating hand-out. Hope International’s work brings first-time access to the financial tools that the ready and willing poor need to take their first steps towards a brighter future. Hope’s tool kit includes village savings groups (often church based), micro-loans for business start-up or growth, as well as critical training. In each of these three areas, Hope’s indigenous staff customizes each program for optimal fit and effectiveness. Hope has recently begun an intensive monitoring and evaluation program that will allow it to further extend its already exceptional results.
What sets Hope International’s efforts apart from many others in this field is the fact that they integrate an intentional focus on discipleship throughout their programs. One example is a recent innovation in the structure of weekly repayment meetings called the 5W’s: welcome, worship, word, work, wrap-up. Likewise, enterprise and financial trainers and loan agents are all well versed in disciple making. Additionally, Hope is focusing on a strategic effort to work through local churches to facilitate village savings groups. By incorporating spiritual development into all phases of their work, Hope Int’l seeks to broaden and deepen its transforming effect in individuals and communities, while helping the local church towards a position of prominence and efficacy in addressing poverty.
Micro-Finance and Micro-Enterprise Development work is well known for its positive spill-over effect on nutrition, education, health, job creation, and community cohesion. Hope International’s programs use excellent, proven effective models for unleashing potential among the poor, empowering individuals and building community-wide capacity for self-generated, sustainable improvement in basic living conditions.
Primary Sector: Micro-Enterprise Development and Micro-Finance (also, Spiritual Development)
Organization Size: Medium — programs are supported by cash contributions totaling
$3,000,000 to $20,000,000 annually
Key Webpages: why microfinance http://www.hopeinternational.org/about-hope/history.html
see also the video “Capable: Finding Dignity and Community” at bottom of homepage.
Program details (click a country) http://www.hopeinternational.org/where-we-work/
Annual Report / Financial Statements: http://www.hopeinternational.org/about-hope/financial-accountability.html
|More information (program and financial) about Hope International
is available from the following organizations:
|X Charity Navigator||Charity Watch / AIP (fee)|
|X Guidestar||BBB / Wise Giving Alliance|
|Ministry Watch||X ACCORD Network member|
|X Intelligent Philanthropy (fee)||X ECFA|
Opportunity International … Founded in 1971, this is one of the most experienced, and largest, microfinance networks in the world; they currently serve over 4 million clients with 2.8 million active loans and 1.1 million active savings accounts. More >
Opportunity International was created in response to the fact that in the developing world, there is simply no way for large numbers of people living in extreme poverty to find jobs; the genius of micro-enterprise development is that these same poor are often willing and able to create their own businesses when given access, even on a small scale, to basic financial tools like small loans, savings, insurance, and training. These tools give the poor the chance to create livelihoods, care for their families, create safety nets for the future, create jobs for their neighbors, and build strength and solidarity in their communities.
With loans of as little as $60, monumental changes in a community can be set in motion. Over 90% of Opportunity’s loans are made to women. Though they make up more than 70% of the people living on less than $2/day, and routinely suffer legal and cultural injustices, women have been shown (through numerous studies) to generate more developmental change per dollar loaned. Notably, the gains that women achieve through small-scale loans are three times more likely to be invested in their children – a powerful generational multiplier that lays the foundation for longer-term economic growth in a community. To help make first-time loans more broadly available to poor women with no collateral, Opportunity pioneered a group-lending methodology called the Trust Group (more info here), which leverages social impact even further. Opportunity Int’l continues to perform ongoing impact studies to further guide and refine its efforts in empowering the poor.
In addition to enterprise loans and savings services, Opportunity provides well developed training modules to help position its clients for success in their undertakings; currently, over 400 different modules are in use. Special micro-insurance policies are also available for specific needs – think subsistence farmers protecting themselves against drought. All of these services are provided through over 17,000 employees (99% are indigenous), of which the majority are loan officers who provide critical support and counseling for every client they serve. Though spiritual development activities are not a formal part of Opportunity’s programs, it is still an expressly Christian organization that is glad to share their faith on an “as asked” basis.
Micro-Finance and Micro-Enterprise Development organizations present donors with the opportunity to leverage their donation dollars, since repayment rates of over 95% mean that the loan dollars are recycled many times. Moreover, “micro” entrepreneurs have proven to be big change agents in the Developing World; as the poor work their way out of poverty (via the cottage industries they borrowed to start or expand), they take their children, their neighbors, and their communities with them.
Primary Sector: Micro-Enterprise Development and Micro-Finance
Organization Size: Large — programs are supported by cash contributions totaling
$20,000,000 to $100,000,000 annually
Key Webpages: transformational microfinance http://www.opportunity.org/about/our-beliefs-about-christian-microfinance/transformational-microfinance/
our work portal http://www.opportunity.org/our-work/
more program info http://www.opportunity.org/media-center/publications/program-information/
Annual Reports: http://www.opportunity.org/media-center/publications/annual-report/
Financial Statements: http://www.opportunity.org/media-center/publications/financial-documents/
Awards and Articles of Note: a Philanthropedia (division of Guidestar) 2012 “Top Nonprofit” for microfinance, here
|More information (program and financial) about Opportunity International
is available from the following organizations:
|X Charity Navigator||X Charity Watch / AIP (fee)|
|X Guidestar *||BBB / Wise Giving Alliance|
|X Ministry Watch||X ACCORD Network member|
|X Intelligent Philanthropy (fee)||ECFA|
|* named a Philanthropedia Top Nonprofit for 2009, 2012|
see also… Many organizations listed under Comprehensive Community Development do effective, significant work in the Micro-Enterprise Development and Micro-Finance sector.
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