Millennials are big on microfinance, and microphilanthropy.
Microfinance is most simply thought of as providing — and managing — small loans or financial services to poor individuals or small communities who otherwise wouldn’t ever get on a regular bank’s radar screen.
Microphilanthropy is similar — philanthropy aimed at helping meet the needs of poor individuals or small organizations that otherwise might get the attention of many large non-profit, humanitarian organizations.
There’s a crisis of confidence in microfinance right now, usually, inaccurately, personified in the recent trials and tribulations of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus.
The real crisis is not so much about Yunus as it is due to the rising commercialization and emphasis on profits in this financial scheme. Yunus has criticized some microfinance organizations for acting like “loan sharks,” for losing their focus on the true mission of microfinance — to help people get themselves out of the cycle of poverty.
Here are a few young people in Seattle who remain focused on the true mission.
1) Using tech-industry know-how to help the smallest needs: Nadia and Adnan Mahmud.
The Mahmuds are two impressive and almost accidental microphilanthropists. Their organization is called Jolkona, Bengali for “drop of water,” and until this past March was being run on laptops out of the Mahmud’s kitchen and assorted Seattle coffee houses.
Jolkona was created, I’m not kidding here, partly because Nadia didn’t want to walk back to her dorm room at UCLA and partly because Adnan didn’t want to deal with a lot of email. I’ll get to that in a second, but first let’s talk about what Jolkona does.
In a nutshell, Jolkona helps fund those kinds of projects or individual needs that are so small that the cost to administer them at most large non-profit organizations would be more than the amount of money needed. Jolkona also provides direct feedback so donors can see how their support makes a difference.