The last two days at Grameen passed quickly. I had finished my research, so after the 9AM call conference with Musoni, Kate sent me over to Development to get to know another part of the organization better and to help them with some end-of-year filing work and mailings. I spent a day and a half with a wonderful lady named Jacqueline who first talked about the importance of the Development department and then answered a pile of questions I had. I am amazed at how patient she was with me – according to another lady in Development, Lusille, the most valuable skill of someone who works at Development (at least if they work for her) is to ask as few questions as possible and to complete as much work as possible! But since Jacqueline also handles all the bookkeeping that goes around donations, it is important to ask questions to make sure that every check and thank you letter goes to the right place when filing.
Development essentially has three sections: one that deals with grants from international corporations, foundations and the government, one that handles middle-sized donations, and one that handles donations smaller than $25,000. Apparently, the smallest donation made to Grameen is a monthly 10-dollar check from somebody in Minnesota. Every donation counts, and each donor gets the appropriate acknowledgement as well as a tax exemption notice (also very important).
People at Grameen Foundation tend to wear many hats. Besides being in charge of smaller donations, Jacqueline also organizes fundraising dinners. She also goes to events to talk to potential donors about Grameen's work. Grameen obviously cannot attract every large corporation or a generous philantrophist, but it gets donors based on mission alignment (there is that word again! It seems to be extremely important in the NGO world). So maybe Nike, a sportswear company, will not fund Grameen, but JPMorgan Chase, the MasterCard Foundation and Google, Inc will. The reason is simple – Grameen helps the poorest using strategies that appeal to banking and technology companies. In terms of mission alignment, these types of companies are the best fit for Grameen. In addition, there are international funds such as USAID, Fund for the Poor etc. Grameen makes sure that their donors' money is spent in the way they have requested. For example, the donors can ask for their money to be used towards a specific program or a specific region. In addition, Grameen's assets and expenses are publicized annually. For the 2010-2011 fiscal year, 82% of the donations go directly to programs, 17% goes to cover overhead expenses (was that the right term?), and 1% goes towards fundraising. The sources of donations are: 50% foundations, 24% corporations, 26% individuals. 15% of the funding comes from in-kind donations, which means services in any other form besides monetary (e.g. volunteering).
Overall, I am really fascinated with the microfinance industry. I feel that it is really reaching out to the people, going past a lot of bureaucracies and being efficient with its funds. For inspiration, I would recommend everyone to see some of the success stories: http://www.grameenfoundation.org/our-impact
The story I find most inspirational is this one: a strong woman who does business and cares for her children, all of it while dealing with HIV/AIDS.
So this was my week at Grameen Foundation, at 1101 15th and L Street, Washington, D.C. I would like to thank again all the people whom I interacted with during this week, and of course, my biggest thanks and respect go out to Ms Kate Griffin who supervised everything I did this week and was generally supportive and insightful. Her work is truly inspirational, and so is her attitude towards it, all of which had a great impact on me. Thanks also to Kenyon's Career Development Center for helping me set up this externship, and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation for the financial support!