November/December 2010

In This Update:








Borrowers gather at the WMI building for a Thanksgiving celebration in Buyobo


Non-profit fundraising professionals agree that holiday newsletters should begin with an appeal for a tax deductible donation; but, WMI is run by volunteers, so in our year-end message we can lead with our hearts and say first and foremost: THANK YOU! Through your generous support WMI has taken giant strides in 2010:

  • This year WMI issued 980 loans amounting to $148,000. To date WMI has issued 1,660 loans. In January 2011, WMI will make its 2,000th loan.
  • Within the first 6 months of entering the loan program, 80% of borrowers doubled their incomes and their savings rate. They reported feeling more self-confident and organized. Reports revealed that families are pulling together to support the businesses and husbands are helping their wives not just with their businesses, but with household chores as well. Children are eating more nutritious food and school fees are being paid.
  • Expansion-wise, WMI added 5 new village hub locations to its Buyobo, Uganda headquarters location, expanding into Kenya for the first time.
  • In program development, WMI graduated its first group of borrowers to PostBank issued loans which are guaranteed by WMI. In January 2011, the first borrowers will move on to independent borrowing, completing the cycle of WMI's 36-month transition to independence program.
  • On the fundraising front we have had our best year, raising over $150,000. Added to the totals of $58,000 for 2008 and $106,000 for 2009, the grand total for funds raised to date is over $315,000.
  • WMI was fortunate to have 10 talented college interns in Bethesda this summer and their research and data analysis provided a wealth of information on how the WMI loan program is changing lives. The fall project in Buyobo includes a detailed survey of WMI's most experienced borrowers and, for the first time, lengthy face-to-face interviews with borrowers.
  • WMI sponsored 22 volunteers in Buyobo this year, including the 14 summer interns from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, MD.
  • This year saw the addition of an Internet Cafe in Buyobo, complete with lap tops donated by Discovery Communications. PostBank donated a high quality copier/scanner/fax so that the WMI building is now a full-service telecom outpost for borrowers and villagers alike. Utility electricity was also added to the WMI building in Buyobo.

By any standards, it has been a very good year for WMI and that translates into more impoverished women in rural corners of East Africa being given a chance to change their futures and improve the standard of living for their families. We estimate that each WMI loan impacts at least 10 people, including the borrower's family, relatives, suppliers and customers. Thank you for being a part of WMI's continued outreach to bring hope and opportunity to the world's poorest families.

New WMI Donation Options

As you know, none of WMI's volunteers are professional fundraisers, but we are trying to incorporate features into the WMI web site that make giving more convenient and meaningful. This year if you would like to share a gift of hope with someone there are a few new options.

First we have added a page where you may make a donation to honor someone special. Just click the "In Honor Of" selection under the Donation tab and you'll be able to see the first listings. Please feel free to expand on the description of the person you are honoring. We all like to know about the people who have been important in our colleagues' lives. You can also click here to link to the "In Honor Of" section of the web site. Click.

If you would like to make a donation as a gift, you can download a gift card from the WMI web site and send it out to the person you have selected to acknowledge in this way. Just click on the Gift Card selection under the Donate tab or you can click here to link to the gift card. Gift Card

WMI Borrowers Continue to Excel

Many of you have been following the blog of WMI's fall project managers in Buyobo, Montana Stevenson and Ainsley Morris. Blog They have now conducted 120 surveys of WMI's most experienced borrowers as well as face-to-face interviews with half of the women surveyed. The results are startling: many of WMI's first borrowers have now increased their household incomes by 1,000%!

And, even more startling, they are able to maintain these increased income levels, expand their businesses, and develop a sound work ethic that involves all family members in business operations.

Check out the new slide show that Montana and Ainsley have posted to the WMI web site. It will give you some first-hand insight into village life and how the women manage their businesses. The slide show is listed under the Media tab on the web site, or you can click here to watch it: Slide show.

WMI Joins Combined Federal Giving Campaign for 2011

After 3 years of operation WMI just became eligible to join the CFC and has submitted its paperwork to register for 2011. This is great news as it increases WMI's opportunities to educate federal workers about the opportunities made possible through a gift to WMI. Federal employees will be able to invite WMI to speak at brown bag lunches at their agency. We will circle back to this opportunity next fall when the CFC 2011 campaign kicks off.

Microfinance In the News

Microfinance has been receiving some negative publicity in the news lately, with for-profit MF companies singled out for particular criticism. Articles question the effectiveness of microfinance, its lack of regulation, and whether too much capital is tied up in large MF operations. WMI has a unique economic model designed to avoid the most frequently cited pitfalls.

WMI is a non-profit so there is no inherent tension between its mission and investors looking for profits. In certain cases, non-profits are better suited to address social justice issues and we believe introducing impoverished, uneducated, rural populations in developing countries to financial services is one of those situations. Non-profits can focus on financial literacy education and business training so that poor borrowers become responsible users of credit, and so that credit becomes a tool that facilitates their escape from poverty and not an albatross around their neck. WMI routinely surveys its borrowers to make sure that the loans are being used in businesses that generate significant income and that the impact is a measureable improvement in the families' living standards. The WMI program is designed to help poor women bridge to the formal banking sector.

The benefits of this approach are that the formal economy has more regulations and oversight and therefore more consumer protections. WMI's approach, combined with its results, tells a very compelling story about the positive impact microfinance can have in fighting entrenched poverty - especially for women and children.

First Audit Completed

In connection with its submission of a grant application to the International Monetary Fund's Civic Program for 2011, WMI engaged a CPA to conduct an audit of its operations. The audit was successfully completed and should allow WMI to compete for grants from additional foundation sources.

Vote for WMI in The Ashoka Change-makers Competition

This fall WMI entered the Ashoka Changemaker's Competition entitled: Property Rights: Identity, Dignity & Opportunity for All. A $50,000 grant will be awarded to the winner. Ashoka received 300 entries and selected 19 semi-finalists, including WMI. The finalists will be selected by popular voting.

Please take a minute to click on this link and vote for WMI's project in Mbale, Uganda entitled: Property Rights for Progress. http://www.changemakers.com/property-rights

Happy Hoildays!

Thank you for all you have done this year for the women and families who have benefited from the WMI loan program. Your ongoing interest and support is helping to change the face of poverty, one loan at a time.

The WMI Board of Directors

Robyn Nietert rgnietert@aol.com
Betsy Gordon betsygord@mac.com
Deborah Smith deborahwsmith@yahoo.com
June Kyakobye junekyaks@verizon.net
Trix Vandervossen bvandervossen@imf.org
Jane Erickson ericksonjn@verizon.net
Terry Ciccotelli teresa.t.ciccotelli@saint-gobain.com