Frequently Asked Questions
What is Grameen Foundation?
Grameen Foundation is a leader in the fight against poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and the Americas. We help the world's poorest, especially women, improve their lives and escape poverty by providing them with access to appropriate financial services, life-changing information and income-generating opportunities. Through two of the most effective tools known – microfinance and mobile phone-based technology – we work to make a real difference in the lives of those who have been left behind.
We do this by helping local microfinance institutions (MFIs) and other poverty-focused organizations become more effective and efficient, enabling them to reach more poor people with microsavings, small loans and other financial services. We work with these organizations to help them find financing, and provide tools and services that help them better understand their business and demonstrate that their efforts are reaching the poor.
Working with local and global allies, we also create mobile phone-based solutions to address the devastating effects that “information poverty” can have on people. We help the poor to better manage their health, their crops and their finances, and even to find new income-generating opportunities, enabling them to improve their lives and break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.
Grameen Foundation began in 1997 with a bold charge from microfinance pioneer Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, and the energy and commitment of President and CEO Alex Counts, who’d studied as a Fulbright Scholar with Prof. Yunus in Bangladesh.
Grameen Foundation’s high standards and efficiency have earned us Charity Navigator’s highest rating for three years in a row (which fewer than 9% of non-profits achieve), as well as certification by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
Why do MFIs focus on women?
Women have proven to be the best poverty fighters. Experience and studies have shown that women use the profits from their businesses to send their children to school, improve their families’ living conditions and nutrition, and expand their businesses. When they use their profits to make better lives for their children, women help break the generational cycle of poverty.
Microfinance also gives women a sense of purpose outside the home, encourages friendship among others in the community, increases self-sufficiency, and improves self-esteem. Microfinance has helped to elevate the status of women throughout the world.
Where does Grameen Foundation work?
Grameen Foundation’s products, services and resources are available globally. We have chosen to focus specifically on regions where the need is the greatest. Our activities in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas and Asia are directed and managed through our regional offices. Our activities in the Middle East and North Africa region are directed and managed through Grameen-Jameel Microfinance Limited, also known as Grameen-Jameel. Grameen-Jameel is the first social business in the Arab world, born from a partnership between Grameen Foundation and business group Abdul Latif Jameel Group (ALJ) to eradicate poverty.
What is the difference between Grameen Foundation and Grameen Bank?
Grameen Foundation shares and supports the philosophy of Grameen Bank. We are strong strategic partners and work closely together to reduce global poverty among the poorest of the poor. We pursue a common vision by sharing knowledge and success models, accelerating the rate at which the world's poorest people can access microfinance and begin their journey out of poverty.
That said, we are independent organizations with separate management, staff, funding sources, and governing boards. Grameen Bank operates in Bangladesh only. As one of the largest and most successful microfinance organizations – and one of the first to be established – it strongly influences the direction of microfinance globally, while Grameen Foundation is a U.S-based microfinance- and technology-focused organization that works locally with organizations around the world to help them reach and serve poor people more efficiently and effectively.
What is the difference between Grameen Foundation and Grameen America?
Other than sharing a common heritage rooted in the philosophy of Grameen Bank, Grameen Foundation and Grameen America are separate and independent organizations. Grameen America is a microfinance institution (MFI) that makes small loans in the United States. Grameen Foundation works to strengthen the microfinance sector throughout the developing world, but it is not an MFI and does not make loans to individuals. In addition, our efforts to fight poverty are focused outside the U.S.
How did Grameen Foundation get started?
Credited with launching the global "microfinance movement," Professor Muhammad Yunus first experienced the promise of microfinance in 1976 by making very small loans to very poor women in Bangladesh with money from his own pockets. He discovered that these so-called "micro-loans" were a remarkably effective way to make a significant difference in the lives of poor families. This discovery lead to the founding of Grameen Bank, an institution that now serves more than 8.3 million borrower-owners with loans, savings, insurance and other services. The bank is fully owned by its clients and has been a model for microfinance institutions around the world.
Grameen Foundation was established by Alex Counts, our current president and CEO, who had studied for six years with Professor Yunus in Bangladesh as a Fulbright Scholar. When he helped launch Grameen Foundation in 1997, Professor Yunus challenged us to deliver the promise of microfinance around the world. We continue to highly value our rich heritage. Professor Yunus was a founding member of Grameen Foundation’s board of directors and currently serves as director emeritus.
What are Grameen Foundation's products and services?
Grameen Foundation’s products and services, which are designed to measurably reduce poverty, span the areas of financing, technology and social performance. Our products, such as Growth Guarantees and the Progress out of Poverty Index™ (PPI™), are widely used across the microfinance industry. Our mobile phone-based solutions, such as our MOTECH and Community Knowledge Worker initiatives, are establishing Grameen Foundation's reputation as a leader in innovation in using mobile devices for development, combining the power of the mobile phone and local human networks to serve the poorest in hard-to-reach rural areas and helping them fight the burden of "information poverty."
How do you help MFIs get the funding they need to make a difference in the lives of poor families?
Grameen Foundation’s Capital Management & Advisory Center (CMAC) supports the rapid expansion of poverty-focused MFIs by tapping into financial and capital markets for funding. Its signature product, the Growth Guarantees Program, provides guarantees to local banks so they will make loans to local MFIs and other organizations in their own currency, avoiding the risk of international currency fluctuation. CMAC also advises MFI management teams on financing options, investment readiness, negotiation and long-term planning. Since 2005, the Growth Guarantee Program has leveraged $48 million into more than $200 million for 24 MFIs from local banks, enabling them to create approximately 1.2 million additional micro-loans for poor women and men.
Do the poor repay their loans?
Yes. The repayment rate for microloans has consistently been between 95 and 98 percent – higher than the repayment rate of student loans and credit-card debt in the United States. Poor entrepreneurs know that microfinance is the best tool they have to lift themselves out of poverty, so they are extremely determined and focused in their repayment.
How do you use technology to increase the effectiveness of your work?
We bring information and communications technology to rural communities, local poverty-focused organizations and the international development arena. Our teams work with local and global partners to use mobile phones and other devices to create new business opportunities for the poor, while improving their access to financial, health and agricultural information.
How can you ensure that the organizations with which you work are actually reaching the poorest people?
Grameen Foundation is a leading advocate for assessing organizations’ work by measuring their financial and social performance (i.e., how well they are achieving their goal of improving poor people’s lives). Working together with the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and the Ford Foundation, we commissioned development of the Progress out of Poverty Index® (PPI®) to help poverty-focused organizations more accurately track the poverty level of their clients over time. This enables them to adjust their programs and services to be more effective. The PPI is quickly becoming an industry standard, a tool that MFIs can use both to improve their operations and to prove to the outside world that they are achieving their stated social goals.
Can individuals get a loan from Grameen Foundation?
Grameen Foundation does not provide loans to individuals. We work directly with local organizations that provide financial and other services to poor people, to help them increase their efficiency and effectiveness, and scale their operations. We believe that this approach enables us to help the most amount of people possible.
How can I be sure you are performing the work you claim?
Grameen Foundation has been honored for its innovation, efficiency, and effectiveness with several industry awards, including a Charity Navigator Four-Star Rating for three years in a row (which fewer than 9% of non-profits achieve), the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance seal, the Fast Company/Monitor Group Social Capitalist Award, the Pro-Poor Innovation Award, and the Tech Museum Award.
What can I do to help?
To extend the reach of microfinance and technology to more of the world’s impoverished families, Grameen Foundation relies largely on private donations. Grameen Foundation’s community of individual donors, foundations and institutions is a tremendous network that we encourage you to join. Find out how you can take action against global poverty.
Why should I donate to Grameen Foundation instead of donating to the organizations directly?
By donating to Grameen Foundation, you can help improve MFIs and other poverty-focused organizations around the world, meaning that your donation helps extend the benefits of microfinance and technology to millions of people – giving you the best "return" on your charitable investment. You can rest assured that your donation goes to the people who need it – before we work with any organization, we conduct a substantial vetting process to ensure that our donors’ funds are going to groups that use their money wisely. We welcome your support.
Is my contribution tax-deductible?
Grameen Foundation is a non-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, and charitable donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Find out more how you can take action against global poverty.
Can I direct my contributions to a specific country, region or organization?
Yes, you can direct your gift to a particular region where Grameen Foundation works and, in some cases, to a specific country. However, because we focus on serving a broad array of poverty-focused organizations, you will not be able to designate your gift to a single organization. Our Development office can discuss your particular needs. For more information, please contact Kari Hammett-Caster at 202-628-3560, ext 209.