Micro-Financing Allows Everyone To Be A Philanthropist
Small amounts of money can make a huge difference in the lives of people across the globe or across the street. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following Money Matters report.
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Experts say you do not need to be Bill Gates or a George Soros to be a philanthropist.
One way to maximize the impact of your donated dollar is to support micro-financing. While that often refers to small, low-interest loans, in some cases it can be a micro-grant, which does not have to be repaid and does not have to be substantial.
“It can be $100, $200, $300, enough to buy a second-hand sewing machine, some goats, someone who is selling things in a marketplace to buy the inventory to sell,” says Bill Abrams, president of micro-grant distributing organization Trickle Up.
Trickle Up has been distributing micro-grants for over 30 years. Donors gift anything from $20 to $20,000. Last year, the money helped start 10,000 businesses around the world.
While the recipients of the grants are individuals – 90 percent of them women -- Abrams says the effect of every dollar Trickle Up distributes tends to trickle down, ultimately benefiting about five people.
“So that's a lot of impact for a small amount of money,” he says.
In addition to the grant money, recipients also form savings groups – 15 to 20 women who meet weekly, contribute to a collective savings plan, and, in essence, form their own grassroots micro-bank.
“They're learning financial skills; the discipline and habit of saving every week,” Abrams says. “They're putting together some capital that then they can borrow back from the group, so that's where the credit part kicks in.”
Small amounts of money are also making big impacts in the lives of Americans, perhaps even your neighbors. Keith Taylor is the founder of Modest Needs, which helps people, a majority of whom are working but have no savings, weather a short-term emergency, like an unexpected medical bill or car repair.
“Under circumstances like those, generally what you have to do is borrow from yourself. You have to use your rent money to fix the car or go to the doctor, and that is how people end up on the street,” Taylor says.
The website allows donors to read through carefully-vetted applications and select the specific individuals they would like to help.
In the end, 60 people might donate $10 each to pay for one person's car repair, and that person is not likely to forget it. In fact, Taylor says 68 percent of recipients become donors themselves, even if they can only contribute $1 a month.
“Philanthropy is not about amounts of money,” says Taylor. “It’s about amounts of compassion and you can have an awful lot of compassion with a very small amount of money.”
For more information on Trickle Up and Modest Needs go to TrickleUp.org and ModestNeeds.org.