Which Microlender Makes Best Use of My $20?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Pardon me, turkey fans, but the real time for thanksgiving is bonus season. It’s tough to muster gratitude in November, when you’re entering the most hassle-heavy months of the year. Come March, though, the holiday horrors have faded, you’ve nearly broken the back of winter, and that Big Check is finally in the mail. Hallelujah! Pass the mustard! You’ll be flush all through daffodil season?until tax time, at least.

We had a banner year in my household, so I resolved to share the take with some worthy charitable causes. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean spreading my largesse further or wider. Numerous experts agree: It’s most effective to give consistently to a few organizations than to spread your dough too thin?that way, you make more of a dent in the cause. Even worse, some charities sell the names of their small-potatoes donors to other charities. That’s your thanks for tossing $10 a year to Save the Abused Monkeys: a flood of orangutan-related junk mail.

Since my charity bucks are limited and divvying them up isn’t ideal, I’m aiming for a tight sweet spot: a small donation with real bang for the buck. When I read about microcredit?the practice of making tiny loans to poor people in the developing world so that they can start businesses and break out of poverty?it piqued my interest. And when the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering microcredit work, I was hooked. As an entrepreneur, I dig the idea of helping another jump-start her kitchen-supply business in Ghana. It also eliminates that pointless drop-in-a-bucket feeling to know this specific woman couldn’t open her tamale stand without my $20?let alone the fact that when the loan is repaid, that $20 can get reinvested into another success story. (Truly the gift that keeps on giving.) Question is: Which microlenders cater to individual donors? And which is the most satisfying place to sink my dime?

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Source: Slate (link opens in a new window)