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Hey all. Just so you know this will now be the only place for these blog posts.

As we transition Change You Can Afford into a charity, that site will be dedicated to the charity and no longer host the blogging archives.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Microfinance week: Nest

The final installment of this week is an organization called Nest; "a nonprofit organization that empowers female artists and artisans around the world. Using a unique combination of interest-free microfinance loans, mentoring from established designers, as well as a market in which to sell their crafts, Nest helps its loan recipients create successful small businesses. Nest instills pride of ownership, preserves ancient artistic traditions and successfully moves women from poverty to self-sufficiency." A important aspect of their model is their interest-free loans, which is different from many microloaning operations which charge exorbitant rates on their loans that I disapprove of and try not to support those organizations.

It helps preserve the traditions of handmade products from women worldwide and uses a system of bartering to repay their loans. This idea connects microfinance with fair trade practices. Their approach allows them to "act as a collaborators with women artisans rather than simply consumers or importers. By knowing where our product comes from and supporting those who create it we are able to use the arts as an avenue to reduce poverty."

In addition to the funding for the women's businesses, Nest also teaches the "loan recipients basic business skills, product development, financial literacy, marketing, appealing to a Western consumer, environmentally-sensitive production, professional presentation and pricing—all essential skills for craft-specific businesses." They help them with the merchandising of their products and work to create a marketplace and contacts for them to sell their crafts out of. I like their focus on creating connections for their loan recipients to be able to wholesale their products.

And even if you do not support them with a donation, you can still support their work by shopping in their store. They have one store of the artisans work and another store of US based designers selling their work. Purchases at either help support Nest's work with Guatemalan women.

Nest Overview from Nest on Vimeo.

This week I was running a contest, the microfinance organization whose post received the most comments will receive $25. If you like the microbartering system of Nest, then comment below. Originally, I was going to close voting Saturday at noon PST, but I think that some people were waiting to vote until they read all the options. Voting is extended through Saturday and I will announce the winner Sunday morning. So get to voting and we shall see who the winner is. :-)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Microfinance week: Friendship Bridge

So, today's organization is Friendship Bridge, a microloaning organization which offers loans and non-formal education to Guatemalan women. They believe that:

- "Microcredit helps impoverished women reach economic independence.
- Education for women and children is an important tool for development.
- Health education enhances personal, family and community well being.
- Respect for the spiritual and cultural roots of communities is fundamental.
- Participatory techniques incorporate each client’s voice.
- Women are leaders for change in their families and communities.
- Effective programs are created through listening"

I like that they have a well encompassed vision of their work, not only do they want to educate, but they want to make sure the women and their families are healthy. Charities which work with the local communities and listen to their concerns has always been one of the aspects I most admire. Additionally, I think a well run charity can help an area more by valuing the history of the region and respecting the communities beliefs, instead of imposing their missionary/religious beliefs which is all too common with some organizations.

"Friendship Bridge borrowers typically start or expand small businesses such as weaving, embroidery, raising livestock or poultry, basket making, roadside vending, or growing fruits and vegetables for sale at the local markets. Profits from these businesses boost overall household income. As loans are repaid, they are re-loaned. The reinvestment of loan funds multiplies the impact of each dollar loaned."

Overall, another well run organization, whose mission statement, I truly admire and respect. If you agree and want me to donate to them, comment below. We are having a bit of a contest this week, rules found here. The post with the most comments will receive $25 for that organization, you can vote multiple times so if you are torn between different organizations, just vote for both. But you only have until Saturday at noon, so make sure you vote before then...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Microfinance week: Vittana

I think, this might be my favorite organization of the week. Vittana is a global student microloaning organization, which is organized through peer to peer lending. You put money into your account, then you find a student to loan money too, after the student graduates they begin repaying their loan, once you receive the money back the process starts all over again. While looking the company up, I came across a short article in the Economist talking about student loans, microfinance, and Vittana, and if the Economist thinks this is a good idea that is good enough for me.

In many countries, their is no access to student loans because they are risky and their is no government program either. A student might be accepted to school, but unable to pay so they will not have the chance to learn and contribute, which is just not acceptable. That is why I think this organization is so wonderful, it is helping a person achieve a livelihood. They tend to target second year students with a record of attendance or children of those benefiting from other microloans as they will have a family history of repaying the loan to lower the risk. The Vittana community has lent $516,452 and has an excellent repayment rate of approximately 97%.

"When you invest $25 in a student on Vittana, we promise you that your full $25 loan is given to the student. Neither Vittana nor our local microfinance partner subtracts any fees or any other surcharges in any form from your loan. Vittana also charges no interest or fees in any other form from the student or local microfinance partner. After making a loan to a student, you have the opportunity to donate as much (or as little) as you want to Vittana itself. This donation is completely optional — you are under no obligation whatsoever." -How it works

This week, we are running a bit of a contest. Whichever organization's blog post for the week has the most posts is the microfinance organization that I will donate $25 to. So far this week, Vittana is my favorite, but what do y'all think?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Microfinance week: Microloan Foundation

The UK based MicroLoan Foundation is another microfinance organization that does great work across the globe. Their mission is "Giving a hand up, not a hand out to women in Africa." Which really goes well with my thoughts on charity, I prefer organizations which help people to improve their lives instead of merely giving them temporary aid. So, I already like this organization and that is just on the front page.

Unlike some direct microloaning programs, you do not choose individuals to loan your money to, instead you donate to them and they will automatically reinvest funds when they are repaid. One of the nice aspects is that you donate you money and allow the organization to be in charge of the funds and you do not need to continue monitoring it like you do with direct lending.

The MicroLoan Foundation works by loaning to groups of women and "each group has its business ideas appraised and receives eight training sessions covering topics such as book keeping and cash flow." The groups meet with to make sure they all stay on target to repay their loans and get business advice, as well as with a loan officer. "And here's the real beauty in MicroLoan - because we offer a hand up not a hand out, when the women repay their microloans, we give it to another woman....when she repays it we give to another....and so on...your donations keep on helping women in Africa over and over again" -How we work.

Here is a video made by the organization, you all know how I love these. I feel sometimes that words spoken directly by those impacted by a charity can have so much more affect than 1000 flowery words written by me on this blog.

Don't forget, this week is a challenge, whichever blog post gets the most votes for the week is the microfinance company that I will give $25 to. So if you like MicroLoanFoundation, comment below. :-) P.S. Was distracted by the State of the Union and its coverage, sorry for the late posting today.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Microfinance week: Kiva

The first microlending program I am going to talk about will be Kiva. In my opinion and personal experience, the success of Kiva, brought the idea of microlending into the mainstream. With the huge growth of Kiva, the number of people who had heard about and participated in microfinance multiplied exponentially.

Microfinance is a range of financial services to the very poor, and I am focusing on microcredit. Microcredit is the "extension of very small loans (microloans) to those in poverty designed to spur entrepreneurship. These individuals lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history and therefore cannot meet even the most minimal qualifications to gain access to traditional credit." It is banks, organizations, and/or individuals who give small loans, often just a few hundred, to people who are trying to start their own business, grow their business, or learn a new trade. It has been shown to be very effective and has very high rates of repayment compared to traditional large loans.

My favorite of these is the ones that are set up like Kiva, where you get to loan money to individuals and when they repay it, you can choose another person to loan too. It is a very wonderful feeling getting to look through different people and finding one that you want to support.  Here is a lovely video by them explaining how they work:

A Fistful Of Dollars: The Story of a Loan from Kieran Ball on Vimeo.

So if you want to vote for this one to be my choice of the week, comment below and let me know. This week I am doing contest and will give $25 to whichever post gets the most comments through out the week. :-) Details here.

Microfinance week

This week I want to focus on microfinance  programs, however, due to the way these organization function giving them a dollar would be near useless. Instead I will be giving $25 to one of the  microlending program which I write about this week and y'all get to choose which one.

I will write about five different microlending programs throughout the week. When you like the organization or their work you can leave a comment, which will count as one vote for that organization and the organization which receives the most comments will be the winner. You can only vote once for each organization, but you can vote multiple times throughout the week. In the event of a tie, I get to choose the organization. The voting will be closed at noon Pacific Standard Time on Saturday, so don't forget to vote and check back throughout the week.

Any questions, just leave a comment below. :-)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Suggestions!

This week I was thinking of focusing on different micro loaning programs. I have two or three in mind, but if you know of any, please let me know. :-)

Thanks and hope everyone had a great weekend.