Funder Guide Series

These brief publications - four pages or fewer - aim to help donors better understand the industry, its challenges, and where investments could be most effective.

Issue 17 - Is the Price Right? The Role of Pricing in Microenterprise Lending. Explores the pricing of nonprofit microlenders, providing insight into the challenges and the dynamics influencing pricing schemes. This guide presents a current glimpse of pricing and sustainability levels of U.S. practitioners, and also provides recommendations for funders as they consider pricing as part of an investment.

Issue 16 - Microenterprise Programs and Job Creation. FIELD research shows that microenterprises create jobs. Some microenterprise programs are developing more business development services focused on growth-oriented, job-producing enterprises. This guide details some of the research findings and offers several possible ways funders could support programs, including encouraging development of additional services, supporting incubators, and helping programs to increase capacity for data collection on jobs and job creation.

Issue 15 - Scaling Microlending in a Changed Economy. Presents lessons learned from the scaling microlenders in the Scale Academy for Microenterprise Development. Also outlines some of the key steps they have taken in organizational development and infrastructure to lay the groundwork for future growth, and discusses the implications of their experiences for funders interested in supporting greater scale.

For a more in-depth look at the experience of these microlenders, see FIELD's Dollars for Dreams: Scaling Microlending in the United States.

Issue 14 - Microenterprise Programs as Credit Builders. Explores new roles that microenterprise programs are taking on to build the credit of entrepreneurs. Co-authored with the Credit Builders Alliance, the guide explores key challenges in building credit, describes new products being offered by microenterprise programs, and identifies opportunities for funders.

Issue 13 - Encouraging Entrepreneurship: A Microenterprise Policy Agenda for a New Political Era. Presents policy recommendations created by members of the Microenterprise Anti-Poverty Consortium in 2008, describes some philanthropic initiatives that support the underlying policy ideas, and outlines how funders can support policy development.

Issue 12 - Saving for Microenterprise Development. Explores Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) as a tool for microentrepreneurs to accumulate savings that can be tapped for certain business expenditures. The guide addresses why microenterprise development programs are offering this innovative savings mechanism, what has been learned about the accomplishments and challenges of IDA programs, and how funders can help expand use of this strategy.

Issue 11 - Social Enterprise and Microenterprise: Understanding the Connection. How the microenterprise industry is connecting with the emerging social enterprise field. This guide takes an in-depth look at microenterprise programs that have started social enterprises, identifies the lessons from their experiences and pinpoints specific investment opportunities for donors.

Issue 10 - Microenterprise Programs as Asset Builders. How microenterprise development programs are joining forces with corporations, financial institutions, government and an array of community development organizations to promote matched savings accounts, financial literacy, better access to credit, and tax benefits for low-income families. The guide also points out ways funders can support these asset-building strategies.

Issue 9 - Making the Economic Development Connection. Explores strategies used by microenterprise development programs to more directly connect their work to economic development efforts. The guide also suggests specific ways funders can invest to help expand the use of microenterprise as an economic development tool.

Issue 8 - The Emerging Immigrant Market and Microenterprise. Explores the role immigrants are playing in the U.S. economy and especially in microenterprise. The guide examines how microenterprise development programs are assisting this emerging business market and identifies opportunities for funders.

Issue 7 - Going Faster and Farther: Harnessing Technology for Microenterprise. Explores the role technology can play as microenterprise development organizations struggle with the challenges of: increasing their organizational efficiency; reaching out to geographically-dispersed entrepreneurs; and helping clients to improve their marketing and sales. The guide describes what funders interested in supporting technology projects should look for, and profiles some interesting work undertaken by funders.

Issue 6 - Scaling Up, Achieving More. Explores the various factors that affect an organization's ability to reach scale - including the need for market research, a diversified product line and capable staff, as well as the importance of tapping into new geographic markets, investing in infrastructure and considering various forms of strategic restructuring. The guide features two microenterprise programs that found different ways to meet the challenge of scale, and offers specific recommendations for funders interested in the issue.

Issue 5 - Microenterprise Development Programs: The Entrepreneur Within. Explores why programs should emulate their clients and become more entrepreneurial as part of a strategy to attain greater sustainability. The guide features two programs that have made strategic changes to build more sustainable organizations and describes opportunities for funders to support such efforts.

Issue 4 - Performance Counts.Presents a clear picture of what high performance looks like in the microenterprise industry and offers concrete strategies funders can pursue to drive improvement in performance.

Issue 3 - Moving Forward: Industry Challenges, Funder Opportunities. Explores current challenges facing the microenterprise industry, and suggests specific approaches funders can use in their grantmaking to help the industry respond.  

Issue 2 - Microenterprise: Making a Difference. Examines the microenterprise industry's accomplishments and its value with respect to poverty alleviation, economic development, asset development and ownership, and increased access to financial services.

Issue 1 - Fulfilling the Microenterprise Promise: Background for Funders. Lays out economic trends that have sparked a growing interest in self-employment and describes how microenterprise development programs are responding.