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Updated Recommendations for Giving

Women Leading Change for Samburu County
October 18, 2019
Can the Holy Grail Be Found in a Hindu Temple?
December 18, 2019

Last year I posted my recommendations for giving on Giving Tuesday (for those not living in the US, this is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving).  This year I am updating my list, adding two Chicago-based nonprofits that I have been honored to get to know.

The Soul of Finance site deals with people and organizations that use finance for good.  So, on this Giving Tuesday, I am making my recommendations for organizations that deserve your gifts.  My criteria for these organizations:


  1. They focus on people living in extreme poverty.
  2. They provide long term solutions.
  3. They measure the results of their work.
  4. They use that information to improve their methods.
  5. They’re creative in their work and share what they learn.


I have visited the programs and/or worked with the leaders of all the organizations listed.



Soul of Finance Giving Recommendations




Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives  – CNI’s hallmarks are creativity and leverage. Stores like Whole Foods and Maggianos come to food deserts in Englewood and Bronzeville through the work of CNI. Gotham Greens and Method Soap create factories and jobs in Pullman. Minority-owned small businesses receive loans to take advantage of growing opportunities on the South and West Sides. And returning citizens start a pathway to entrepreneurship before they even leave prison.    

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Breakthrough – Some organizations focus on one activity and seek to deploy it across the largest geography possible. Breakthrough takes the opposite approach. It focuses on one small area, 40 blocks, and provides a set of services designed to help the community thrive. Breakthrough has created transitional housing for women, men and families affected by homelessness. It provides gold-level preschool education for children. For older students, it offers Science, Technology, Engineering and Math courses. It has evening sports leagues that channel youthful energy into teamwork and competition. Its block-by-block anti-violence program is being replicated throughout the city.   Breakthrough’s staff combine deep knowledge of the East Garfield Park neighborhood with deep love for its residents. It enables women like Latoya to get back on her feet.

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BRAC – Selected as the World’s Best NGO by NGO Advisor, BRAC developed the Ultra Poor Graduation Approach to reach families left out of their programs in health, education and microfinance.  BRAC has served 2 million people with this approach in Bangladesh and has developed training programs to  other organizations implement the approach.   BRAC has  invited research organizations to analyze the results, which show a 90% success rate.


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BOMA Project – Through its Rural Entrepreneurs Action Project, BOMA applies the Ultra Poor Graduation Approach in one of the world’s most difficult environments – the arid regions of Africa.  Through this program they enable women and their families to gain food security, develop sustainable livelihoods, prepare for shocks (like droughts), and educate their children.


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Concern Worldwide – Concern combines the Ultra Poor Graduation Approach and Climate Smart Agriculture to programs in Rwanda, Burundi and Malawi.  It has scaled these programs by involving government officials in Concern’s demonstration projects and thereby convincing the governments to implement the approach nationwide.  Concern also operates programs in health and nutrition and emergency response in 51 countries of Africa, Asia and the Americas with severe levels of hunger.


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Fonkoze – Fonkoze works to end the cycle of poverty in Haiti by providing financial and development services that help women lift their families out of poverty.  As Haiti’s leading microfinance provider, Fonkoze became an early adopter to the Ultra Poor Graduation approach to reach those whose poverty and vulnerability left them unable to utilize microfinance loans.


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Fundacion Capital – Fundacion Capital’s Founder, Yves Moury, has been selected by the Schwab Foundation as Social Entrepreneur of the Year.  His organization shows great creativity in scaling solutions to extreme poverty.  His team has trained governments throughout Latin America and now Africa in how to help families receiving government social payments to build assets over time. This includes teaching Social Welfare Ministries how to apply the Ultra Poor Graduation Approach.


Learn                                                     Contact


Fundacion Paraguaya – This microfinance provider’s commitment to helping people lift themselves out of poverty is shown in its innovative Poverty Stoplight methodology.  This system monitors the progress participants make along key indicators, such as nutrition, sanitation, housing and empowerment.  Participants rank themselves on these indicators and then can see their results compared to others, turning a monitoring tool into a motivator for positive change.  Fundacion Paraguaya is now training other nonprofits and businesses how to use this methodology.


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Hope International – A Christian organization, Hope leverages the existing infrastructure of churches in developing countries, helping them form savings groups in their communities.  These groups provide a safe place for people to save and a way to combine their capital to make loans for business and educational opportunities.  This extensive network allows Hope to reach the extreme poor in rural areas at minimal cost.  Hope also creates or partners with microfinance institutions and small enterprise lenders in countries of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Eastern Europe.


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Opportunity International – Since its start in 1971, Opportunity has always focused on providing financial assistance and training that enables people to move themselves out of poverty.  As a Christian organization, Opportunity seeks to follow the example of the Good Samaritan.  In more recent years Opportunity has adapted its methods to work with those in extreme poverty, who now make up a majority of its clients.  Opportunity also has a pilot project implementing the Ultra Poor graduation approach in partnership with the government of the Philippines.  (Full disclosure: I worked with Opportunity for 23 years.)


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RESULTS – Dollar for dollar one of the most effective organizations, RESULTS advocates with governments (especially those of the US, Canada, France, UK, Australia, Japan, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, and India) and global multilateral organizations like the UN and the World Bank to prioritize and fund programs that help to eliminate extreme poverty.  Every year RESULTS helps to secure and protect hundreds of millions of dollars for effective programs and policies that provide education, health care and economic development to those in poverty in developed and developing countries.  (Full disclosure: I am currently a Senior Fellow in Economic Inclusion for RESULTS.)


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TrickleUp – Among those living in extreme poverty, Trickle Up focuses on the most vulnerable – women, people with disabilities, people from rural areas, indigenous populations and refugees.  They train local organizations, global institutions and governments in how to apply the Graduation Approach to help these people build capabilities and assets so they are able to provide for themselves.


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Village Enterprise – Village Enterprise works with local partners in remote and rural areas of East Africa to implement the Ultra Poor Graduation Approach.  Through this they help communities build sustainable businesses, long term assets and resilience to shocks.  They have also created an innovative method for financing the scaling of their work by creating the first Development Impact Bond in sub Saharan Africa.  This is a pay-for-performance bond that provides Village Enterprise with more funding if independent verifiers find they have met clearly defined measures for success.


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