You, Too, Can Be a Microfinancier
Ron Leiber's Green Thumb column in this weekend's WSJ focuses on the growing number of websites which enable individuals to provide small loans to promote social change. These sites use what the WSJ calls "nobel-winning tactics" in reference to Grameen Bank and its founder Muhammad Yunus who pioneered this area known as microfinance.
While the idea of lending a little to make a big change is appealing, the WSJ article highlights the fact that the appeal of these approaches also includes the ability decide for yourself who will benefit:
There are three ways to get in on this: You can give money away, lend it out and charge no interest or make loans and hope to profit. But all of the options have this in common: You usually get to decide which person or group gets your money. It's not up to some nonprofit staffer somewhere.
Gone are the days of the general fundraising drive conducted by United Way and other public charities. Choice is king in the for-profit as well as nonprofit sector these days.
If you want a piece of the action, check out one of my favorites: Donors Choose where you can support requests from individual classroom teachers. The WSJ article also cited the Modest Needs Foundation where individuals in need of one-time assistance (something that often sends families over the edge into homelessness) can apply and contributors vote on and together fund the most compelling needs. (In 2006 all contributions were matched dollar for dollar by a private foundation.)