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A publication of Opportunity International






Transforming lives


Serving Poor Families


The changes that arise from innovation and leadership

with Microfinance


F o u n d e d

1 9 7 1



2 From the CEO’s desk

The power of innovation.

5 Powerful women leaders photo graph BY Ron l onden


Innovative technology is making a difference for some of Opportunity’s poorest customers. Outside the capital city of Lilongwe, Opportunity International Bank of Malawi uses biometric technology to offer customers a secure identity.


pportunity International has proven time and again that by offering a hand up, not a hand out, every person has the capacity to build a better life. Clients of Opportunity International are then empowered to drive their own holistic transformation process, fueled by cutting-edge programs and services. Transformation requires innovation For lasting change to take place in the lives of Opportunity International clients, they must have access to innovative tools — tools that enable them to improve their lives. These tools are not innovations by virtue of being new themselves; they are innovations because they enable clients to accomplish something new: an expanded business, better health care and

nutrition, educational opportunities for children, or a safety net in times of crisis. Opportunity’s microfinance innovations are the direct result of listening to clients and their needs. Opportunity International does this in two ways. First, through its Client Impact Information Management System, Opportunity uses an extensive survey to generate a steady flow of data on client satisfaction. Second, Opportunity hires exceptionally talented loan officers who maintain strong relationships with their clients. Their regular, face-to-face interactions are an important source of feedback from which Opportunity can design new products and services. Sometimes, these innovations are simply a (continued on page 2)

Blessed are they who have regard for the poor. – PSALM 41:1

Cultivating the potential of this powerful half of the world.

6 Teaching our children


Two families speak of their life-changing trip to Honduras with Opportunity.

Gates Foundation contributes total of $15.4 million to Opportunity International In February 2007, Opportunity International received a $5.4 million grant and a $10 million loan from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The $15.4 million of capital will fund start-up microfinance banks to serve the poor in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and also fund expansion of banking operations in Ghana. Opportunity operates in 28 countries and is the world’s largest microfinance organization serving the very poor. The Gates Foundation estimates that more than 90 percent of the world’s poor who need access to basic financial services do not have them today. “We thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for providing its second significant (continued on page 4)

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(continued from page 1)

From the CEO’s desk

christopher a. crane

President & Chief Executive Officer


pportunity International was founded on a bedrock of

innovation. The very idea of microfinance to relieve poverty was new in 1971 — and Opportunity was there in those earliest days of the microfinance revolution. The innovation that characterized Opportunity from the beginning still inspires us today. A continuing desire to serve more people in better ways moves Opportunity

forward. Our clients’ progress with simple loans drove us to develop formalized banking as a way to serve them better. Our specialized banks for the poor gave

common-sense answer to a critical need. For example, Opportunity International found that clients desperately needed a safe place to save their money. Since traditional banks required a much larger initial minimum deposit than most clients could afford, they were relying on insecure locations to stash their hard-earned funds, such as under mattresses or in empty canisters. As an answer to this critical need, several Opportunity programs now operate as formally regulated banks that are able to accept deposits. They offer savings accounts with a low minimum balance and pay interest on the accounts — a benefit these poor clients have never before experienced. Innovation is often synonymous with technology. Opportunity continues to harness new technologies to address everyday barriers that the poor confront on the road from poverty to security. For example, many impoverished people in Malawi have difficulty proving their identity, because documents such as a driver’s license or passport are too expensive. Now, using biometric technology, a client’s fingerprint is all that is needed. Their personal print is embedded into a “smart card” and this card becomes their secure identification. Technology has also broadened Opportunity’s reach into remote, rural areas that seem impervious to poverty-relief efforts. Using cellular technology, customers who lack physical access to a bank can transact business with microfinance banks or merchants by using text messages.

“Unlike many insurers, Opportunity provides coverage even for death following AIDS.” Opportunity also expands its services to rural areas through mobile branches and ATMs, and through point-of-sale devices at retailers. Poor people in remote villages also have limited methods of earning money, so they often survive by begging. To address this issue in the Philippines, Opportunity International developed a Community-Based Enterprise Development Program that encourages members of poor communities to work together on a single business. In the Philippine village of Salngan, Opportunity helped several women form a community-based weaving enterprise to make and sell fabrics, sharing the fruits of their combined labor. Opportunity also helps entrepreneurs expand their businesses through its Business Development Services program, which provides business planning, marketing, product development and production assistance. The most common vocation of the rural poor is agriculture, so transforming the lives of the poorest means serving farmers. In Malawi, healthy crops depend on unpredictable weather, and a drought may spell disaster for farmers and their families.

us the ability to serve clients in innovative ways, such as biometric technology, mobile banks and cellular-based transactions. This commitment to fresh thinking on behalf of our clients stems from a deeper source: a vision of millions of poor people around the world able to work themselves p hotoGRAPH BY Ron l on de n

out of poverty through their own passion for a better future and through the power of new ideas.

Opportunity International is harnessing the power of individuals working together in a single business. Through its Community-Based Enterprise Development Programs, Opportunity encouraged Virginia Macaya and others to start a joint weaving enterprise in their small village of Salngan, Philippines.


IMPACT | M a rc h / A p ril 2007

With the help of loan officer Gift Livata (left), Edward Yohane was able to use Opportunity’s innovative cropinsurance program to purchase higher-quality seeds that yield a better crop. Yohane supports 15 family members and relatives in his small village in rural Malawi.

helping families build a better future in the midst of this devastating pandemic. INNOVATION REQUIRES LEADERSHIP These leading-edge products and services exist because Opportunity International has a strong culture of innovation. Opportunity microfinance banks for the poor are places where innovation and learning are expected and rewarded. Employees are passionate about transformation and about serving the poor, making them ideally suited to think creatively and boldly when it comes to clients and their needs. Translating great ideas into transformational products and services requires intelligent, creative and resourceful leaders. For this reason, Opportunity International is focused on leadership training and development as the key to its organizational growth and effectiveness. Currently, the greatest barrier to providing more poor people with financial services is lack of human capital. Microfinance institutions in developing countries have difficulty filling middle- and senior-management positions. Welleducated people typically work for higher-paying commercial enterprises or leave their home country in search of better opportunities overseas. Also, cultural norms in parts of the developing world deny women equal educational and economic opportunities, excluding half the potential pool of talent. This is a vast untapped resource.

In order to significantly expand the organization’s leadership, Opportunity International has launched a global leadership initiative known as the LEAD Campaign. This multi-faceted strategy includes recruiting leaders from the commercial sector by offering a meaningful career path that transcends financial remuneration, and by actively developing and promoting leaders from within. Through its programs in the Philippines, Opportunity has even developed an advanced

p hotoGRAPH BY Ro n l o nde n

Insurance helps manage risK Managing risk is not an issue just for farmers. A single catastrophic event can quickly derail economic progress for any poor entrepreneur and her family. Such catastrophes may take the form of a tsunami, an earthquake or the death of a loved one. Research conducted in Africa revealed that, on average, 40 percent of Opportunity’s clients could expect a death in the family within a year, and funerals may cost as much as three months’ disposable income. To keep clients moving up the ladder to economic security, Opportunity International began offering microinsurance in 2002, beginning with a pilot program in Uganda. Unlike many insurers, Opportunity provides coverage even for death following AIDS. Today, Opportunity microinsurance policies cover more than 2.7 million people in 10 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. “We were the first microfinance network to provide our clients with insurance,” reports Richard Leftley, president of Opportunity International Microinsurance Agency. “Today, we are the only microfinance network that is looking at insurance on a global level. “It’s important for Opportunity International to offer clients insurance, because they face a huge number of risks on a daily basis. And without insurance, they have no safety net to stop them from slipping back into abject poverty.” One of Opportunity’s most important innovations is its in-depth client training, led by loan officers in conjunction with group-lending programs. These training programs cover a wide variety of life and business skills. Most recently, Opportunity started offering HIV/AIDS prevention training and support in Africa to help poor clients who are caring for sick relatives or supporting orphaned family members, or who are at risk for the disease themselves. This supportive environment is

ph otoGRAPH BY Ron l on d e n

Opportunity International responded by developing an innovative crop-insurance product in partnership with the World Bank — one that will pay out if there is insufficient rainfall to support crops. Without such insurance, banks were unwilling to lend to farmers, knowing that those farmers likely could not repay their loans in the event of drought. With this insurance, farmers are not only considered creditworthy but are also able to secure financing to purchase higherquality seed that resists drought and disease while improving crop yield.

Patricia Amarquaye (left) and her sister, Margaret, count money for their deposit at Opportunity International - Sinapi Aba Savings and Loan in Accra, Ghana.

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It comes down to transformation For Opportunity International, innovation and leadership development are the means to achieving holistic transformation in clients’ lives. Through innovative products and services that are delivered by transformational leaders, Opportunity clients are able to achieve their dreams for their families. Opportunity International plans to mobilize $1 billion by 2012 to reach 100 million poor people with microfinance services. This is a bold plan — but with innovative leaders grounded in faith, Opportunity will succeed. ●

Once a primary-school teacher, Gertrude Umali owns a poultry farm outside of Lilongwe, Malawi that employs seven and enjoys a 42-percent profit margin. Through her farm, Gertrude supports her husband and two children, as well as her siblings and two orphaned nephews.

By April 1, 2007 Opportunity International expects to be serving 1 million clients around the world, impacting 7.5 million lives.

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grant to Opportunity International,” says Christopher A. Crane, Opportunity’s president and CEO. “This grant will enable us to more quickly provide critical financial services to the poorest of the working poor in Africa.” In November 2005, the foundation also gave $2.2 million over three years to fund rural banks in Malawi and Mozambique. The new $5.4 million grant is made in combination with a $10 million loan for program-related investment (PRI), which will be repaid over 10 years at only one-percent interest. The Gates Foundation grant will be matched with $28.8 million from Opportunity International individual and corporate donors over the next five years — all with the goal to

help the banks become fully sustainable. It costs between $4 and $6 million to open one bank, depending on regulatory requirements in each country. “Expanding access to basic banking and insurance services is a critical tool to give poor people the resources and opportunities to help lift themselves and their families out of poverty,” said Sylvia Mathews, president of the Global Development Program for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Opportunity International is one of the most capable and innovative organizations working on these issues worldwide, and we are very pleased to be able to help them expand and scale up their operations across Africa.”

Point-of-sale devices enable clients to access bank funds in remote areas.

p hotoGRAPH BY Ron l o nde n

Gates Foundation

photoGRAPH BY Bruce S t ro n g

education program to allow potential leaders within the organization to obtain MBA degrees while continuing their work. Scaling up its leadership capacity is essential for Opportunity International to achieve its ambitious outreach goals. According to Lt. General Claudia J. Kennedy, U.S. Army (Ret.), a member of the Opportunity International board of advisors, “Opportunity International plans to serve 100 million people by the year 2015. For this kind of growth to be sustained, new leaders must be developed — quickly. “Opportunity’s objective is a bold one, to grow the organization significantly in a very short time. In order to serve many more poor people, we need to have an increase in our staff, and we want to emphasize talent rather than numbers. To do that, we are focused on leadership training.” (See page 5 for an article by General Kennedy on leadership development.)

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Women’s Opportunity Fund

AS K  th e e x p e r t

For more information about the Women’s Opportunity Fund, visit

Opportunity International's Director of Planned Giving

Making a difference while selling your business The sale of a business can be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in the life of an entrepreneur. One of the opportunities most frequently missed during the sale of a business, however, is the chance to make a significant charitable gift and to reduce taxes at the same time. With careful planning, the business owner can realize substantial reductions in capitalgains taxes and income taxes. This is achieved by a well-timed charitable gift of either stock or assets in the company to be sold. However, the charitable gift must take place before any formal (usually written) negotiations with a potential buyer take place. The business owner has several charitablegiving options that can achieve both financial and philanthropic goals: » An outright gift to a specific charity. » An outright gift to a Donor Advised Fund — a charitable fund operated by financial-services companies, community foundations and individual charities such as Opportunity International.

» Agift to a Charitable Remainder Trust — a

special, tax-exempt trust that allows the donor to bypass all capital-gains taxes on appreciated assets placed in the trust. A CRT also provides lifetime income back to the donor, a current federal-income tax deduction and a gift to charity at the conclusion of the trust. » A gift to a Charitable Lead Trust, which provides lifetime gifts to a charity, and either a federal income-tax deduction (if the trust assets return to the donor) or a federal gift/ estate-tax deduction (if the trust assets are passed to children). If you anticipate selling your business in the immediate or distant future, Opportunity International can help you maximize these benefits. Please contact Chuck Day, Opportunity’s attorney and director of Gift Planning at 800-793-9455 ext. 4136, or at

by Lt. General Claudia Kennedy, U.S. Army (Ret.)


he Women’s Opportunity Fund of Opportunity International is charged with cultivating the next generation of leaders as part of its ambitious $10 million LEAD Campaign. This initiative will dramatically expand leadership capacity throughout Opportunity, from CEOs to managers to loan officers, with a special focus on women. Why women? The female half of the population in many countries is a widely overlooked pool of talent. These women face culturally sanctioned educational, social and political exclusion that undermines their leadership skills and opportunities for professional advancement. This is incredibly shortsighted. According to “Women’s Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap” — a report by the World Economic Forum — countries that do not capitalize on the full potential of one half of their societies will misallocate their resources and undermine their competitive potential. When I attended the Army War College, Jack Welch spoke to our class about the importance of workplace diversity and the advancement of women. As the CEO of General Electric, he valued diversity not simply because it was a fair course of action, but because it was good for business. Opportunity International also believes that cultivating the leadership potential of women is good for business. To maximize its recruiting and professional-development capacity,

photoGRAPH BY Ron l on d e n

Chuck day

Investing in the next generation of women leaders

Loan officer Elvie Bellin leads a training session at a Trust Bank meeting in the Philippines.

Opportunity wants to tap into a country’s entire pool of talent. That means putting women on an equal footing with men. Cultivating women as future leaders is part of Opportunity’s competitive advantage. The Women’s Opportunity Fund is developing its leadership force to meet the enormous challenge of ending world poverty and is firmly committed to attracting leaders who embrace its core values and standards. This is a sound investment in Opportunity’s future and one that I am proud to support. ● Lt. General Claudia Kennedy, U.S. Army (Ret.) is a spokesperson for the Opportunity International LEAD Campaign and a member of Opportunity’s Board of Advisors.

Employment Opportunities Do you know a marketing or sales professional with a heart for the poor? Would this person like to use his or her expertise to make a difference in the world? Director of Marketing (Bay Area - Calif.) Director of Marketing (Los Angeles, Calif.) Director of Marketing (Pasadena, Calif.) Director of Marketing (New York City, N.Y.) Director of Marketing (Minneapolis, Minn.) VP of International Business Development (Washington, D.C.) ● For full job descriptions, visit our Web site ( under “Get Involved.”


IMPACT | M a rc h / A p r i l 2 0 0 7

BOARD OF G OVERNORS For more information about the Board of Governors, visit

“Our eyes were opened”


embers of Opportunity’s Board of moved out and started her own sewing business. Governors are generous with their The Fabrys will never forget what they experienced in Honduras. “The trip opened time and treasure, because they are passionate about seeing lives changed among the our eyes,” say Joy and Grace, “to realize that poor. They also long to convey their passion and not all people live like we do in the U.S., but philanthropic spirit to their own children. they still want a lot of the same things — like Opportunity International has found a unique friends, family and a purposeful future. way to help them do so: the Board of Governors “Opportunity gives people a chance for that Family Week Insight Trip. Each year, governors future by giving them small loans to fund their and their families travel with several Opportunity hopes and dreams. It was amazing to see what a staff members to a country where Opportunity is little money can do for a family.” John and Kathryn Hart were also part of providing life-changing services. This year and last, they traveled to Honduras Family Week, along with their children, Colin, 20, and Elise, 16. “We speak quite often about for Family Week — meeting clients and their Opportunity and Honduras,” they say now, even families, visiting Trust Banks in action, and watching transformation at work. months later. “It dominates our thoughts and On the June 2006 trip, after visiting a school was a meaningful life and family event. that several clients’ children attend, the five “Our eyes were opened wide to the power of participating families even rolled up their sleeves capital employed in a way that changes lives.” The Fabrys and Harts both unanimously and helped the children paint the school building. Steve and Blair Fabry joined the trip, recommend Family Week for other families as along with their daughters Joy, 15, and Grace, a combination of spiritual insight, fun and life13. One of their highlights was meeting Ana changing purpose. ● Rosa Pacheco, a seamstress who is a founding member of the New Dawn Trust Group, in the city of Tegucigalpa. Ana Rosa had moved to the city with her four sons after her husband died, and she needed to make a living. “She and her children sat on a bench in the park for days, not knowing where to go,” Blair recalls. One afternoon, a woman took pity on them and hired Ana Rosa to do cleaning and cooking. She also agreed to let the entire family live in a hut behind her own house. That small start was pivotal. With a loan from Opportunity The Fabry family, above, met Opportunity client Ana Rosa International, Ana Rosa eventually Pacheco in Honduras, where they saw transformation firsthand. BOARD OF G OVERNORS 2 0 0 7 CALENDAR Governors Annual Conference October 5-6, 2007 Ghana Insight Trip November 30 - December 9, 2007 For more information, contact Wendy Cox at 800-793-9455 x4180 or


IMPACT is a bimonthly publication of Opportunity International, 2122 York Road, Suite 340, Oak Brook, IL 60523 800.793.9455 The Opportunity mission is to provide opportunities for people in chronic poverty to transform their lives. Our strategy is to create jobs, stimulate small businesses and strengthen communities among the poor. Our method is to work through indigenous partner organizations that provide small business loans, training and counsel. Opportunity International’s commitment is motivated by Jesus Christ’s call to serve the poor. Statement of Intent Regarding Poverty and Women Opportunity International–U.S. strives to reach the world’s poorest people through its microenterprise development programs. Recognizing that the large majority of the world’s poorest are women and that they contribute decisively to the well-being of their families, Opportunity makes it a priority to support programs that serve the particular needs of women. Opportunity International serves women and men of any faith and no faith. Opportunity International has partners in Albania, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Macedonia, Malawi, Mexico, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Serbia, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Editor Janna Cosby Design & production Journey Group, Inc. © 2007 by Opportunity International

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Impact 2007 Spring  

Y E A R S The changes that arise from innovation and leadership pportunity International has proven time and again that by offering a hand u...

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