I don’t mind discussing EXPERT-EXCHANGE with anyone--but when the question comes up as to how I’m making money from this charity, it strikes a nerve. Firstly, this was launched from the heart and on my dime. Secondly, no one from my team chose to enter nonprofit work to get rich, but to take charitable donations from those who are motivated to share, and empower those who need it most. If I’d wanted to get rich I would have chosen another career, possibly in private contracting or a field aligned with other aspects of my military training which can pay handsomely. But what drives me is doing what’s right and thinking about the future generations. I want to leave the world in better hands than I found it: I firmly believe that the Earth was loaned to us and our responsibility is to leave it in a better condition than we received it. Instead of exploiting it, I will do the best I can to make it a better place for those who come after me. Thirdly - regarding my decision with micro finance to impose a 0% interest rate - I felt it was best to implement a grant-type structure where monies are assigned to deserving families and paid back as and when they can afford and in a gratifying way: anyone who has a student loan knows how exasperating and disheartening it can be to use your hard earned money to pay back interest without making a dent in the actual loan payment. If we want to incentivize people and show them that they can be self-sufficient, we need to give them the tools to lift themselves out of poverty without the lingering effects of interest payments.
Creating a fiscal model without interest was not without its challenges; obviously, using a typical business format was not going to be rewarding to investors at 0% interest, so I decided to establish a nonprofit. The typical nonprofit structure of administering unconditional help was not appealing either (i.e., donation for tax exemption incentive, majority spent on salaries and general operations, small portion is administered to fulfill the actual statement). In the end I decided on a hybrid model whereby donations are turned into micro loans and can be used, hopefully, in perpetuity as families repay their finance.
Most of the people we work with have little experience of handling physical cash, let alone understand the world of banking, so our work begins necessarily with an abbreviated course in business 101. This may seem arduous, but I’m compelled by a life of action and helping communities that desperately need an assist. Typically the most needy communities are in regions most westerners won’t willingly go, but now that I have experienced these places firsthand, I’m hooked (sometimes we forget how good we have it until we’ve seen the flipside). I’ve been careful about not posting photos of the abject poverty I see - perhaps as an idealist I’m reluctant to exploit their pain - but maybe that’s what’s needed to spur larger donations?
I’m grateful to my regular followers who’ve been very generous with their trust in me and in sharing their modest resources, but it’s time to reach farther afield and inspire deeper pockets to get behind the EXPERT-EXCHANGE program, not just for those on the receiving end, but for those who’ll be given the life-affirming opportunity to volunteer on the ground.
The joy of hassle-free giving is a privilege of philanthropy and quite rightly so. Benefactors are making calculated decisions to enable others with their hard-earned dollars and with that should come peace of mind and warmth of heart. The burden of risk or potential failure is on me and my team: we make financial and physical sacrifices to get into the field, expend the energy and resources to build relationships and establish trust, make assessments on communities and the capacity of individuals to kickstart a small business and maintain it; in the end we hope we practiced good judgement and made decisions that truly enhance the lives of everyone. We can assure donors that they not only made an intelligent decision to bank on us, but also (and more importantly) that they made a compassionate, human decision to bank on humanity and the equitable future of this planet. The interest rate is at 100% via a family’s elevation from poverty. That’s wealth indeed.
Executive Director's Blog
Follow Macie through SE Asia as he embarks on a humanitarian adventure and assists inspirational individuals to improve their life quality.