We recently read about microfinance in “Connections” from the Southeastern Council of Foundations. For those not familiar with the term, we checked the Grameen Foundation’s web sitefor a definition: “microfinance is an amazingly simple approach that has been proven to empower very poor people around the world to pull themselves out of poverty. Relying on their traditional skills and entrepreneurial instincts, very poor people, mostly women, use small loans (usually less than US$200), other financial services, and support from local organizations called microfinance institutions (MFIs) to start, establish, sustain, or expand very small, self-supporting businesses.” Atlanta’s Rockdale Foundation is an example of a local foundation which focuses on “microfinance for a better world”.
Microlending has been associated primarily with developing countries, but Grameen America, a sister organization to the Grameen Bank which won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, brought the Grameen brand of microfinance to New York City in January 2008. Since then, Grameen America has lent out over $1.2 million in income generating loans to 500 poor families in Queens, New York with a repayment rate of over 99%. After achieving major success with its initial operations in New York, Grameen America is being encouraged by the North Carolina financial community to bring its lending program to North Carolina in 2009.
Joanne Kepics, Regional Training Coordinator, Foundation Center-Atlanta