December 2, 2008

I Desperately Need Your Help With This

Filed under: Projects, School — Robert John Ed @ 3:06 am

Over the last month or so, I’ve been working behind the scenes with some very cool, very caring folks from around Carlson on a new project.  The Microfinance Alliance is an organization oriented around education and promotion of microlending.  At first, I went to a few meetings in order to get involved with some new programs.  I’d heard of microfinance consumer to consumer sites and thought it was an intriguing concept a while ago, figured it was worth looking into.  Well, as it turns out, they were looking for people to get involved.  At which point I jumped.  Lo and behold, I get to help out on the marketing and communications team as well as with their BIG NEW IDEA!

This year, MA is building a fund to serve multiple purposes.  The first (and most important) are to provide micro-loans to needy entrepreneurs both locally and internationally.  I can’t really stress how good I feel about this, it’s easily the most altruistic of projects I’ve ever worked on and I think we will really make a huge impact over the long term.  The other reasons for the fund are to give students a chance to practice due diligence, consulting and portfolio management.  A crack team of MBA’s will undoubtedly be researching and choosing and assisting in the provision of micro loans within the Minneapolis/St. Paul region for years to come, as well as providing a great deal of loans for less fortunate people in need around the globe.

The current plan is to choose one local business per semester (or year) that students can research and provide a small loan for, at which point they will consult with the business.  The rest of the fund will be allocated internationally, potentially through a site such as KIVA, but that’s yet to be determined.

So…where do you come in?  Well today is the first day of our marketing plan.  It’s a long term plan, but the initial aspect is to raise enough funds for the inaugural micro loan to be carried out very near the Carlson School.  The first loan is absolutely crucial to the success of this program as a whole! The reason is that the first loan is going to be leveraged as proof of the program’s viability.  We plan on building a fund to the tune of 100-200k.  Those funds will most likely be corporate donations.  That’s where the tough part of this marketing plan comes into play.   Differentiating our cause and showing the validity of micro-lending through an initial endeavor will go a long way for the MA Fund.

I mentioned today was the first day of our marketing plan.  Throughout December, we’ll be fund raising from fellow students, faculty, friends and family in order to provide a small loan (under 5k) to a local entrepreneur around March of 2009.  We are looking for small donations ($20 and under) in order to reach the goal.  For me, this project is as much about awareness as it is the initial funding.  I don’t want large sums from people so much as a small contribution and hopefully some interest in these kinds of projects, spread the word.

This is a great thing to do.  This is an easy way to give something small that will have a large reciprocal impact.

So here’s the rub:  if you’re a good friend or someone I respect, I’m probably going to contact you and ask if you’d be interested in a small donation to the Microfinance Alliance Fund this month. Notice how now it’s practically an insult if I don’t ask?  I’ve got my work cut out for me.


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