President and CEO: Geoff Davis
What it does: A "global microfinance accelerator," Unitus identifies the highest potential microfinance institutions (MFIs) in developing countries and helps speed their growth with investments and consulting. It wants MFIs to be run as profitable, large-scale, poverty-focused businesses with links to local capital markets, as opposed to organizations that rely on philanthropic dollars.
Results: Two years ago, Unitus MFIs had 228,000 clients. Today, they have more than 475,000. They expect to reach 2.8 million by 2008.
Aspiration and growth: B+
Unitus's mission is to alleviate global poverty by increasing access to microfinance.
Over the past 30 years, microfinance has proven itself as a powerful poverty alleviation tool. More than 80 million poor people worldwide benefit from microfinance loans as small as $50 and other financial services such as savings products and insurance. With the help of these financial products, microentrepreneurs are able to start or expand their own small businesses. These businesses provide a sustainable source of income which transforms the lives of individual clients as well as their families.
Although microfinance is already helping many people, we at Unitus are not satisfied. Those 80 million currently served represent a meager 16 percent of the estimated total demand for microfinance services. Only a few microfinance institutions (MFIs) have grown to a size where they make a significant impact in the communities and regions in which they operate. We must do better, for we believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to improve their lives through microfinance. With this goal in mind, we call Unitus a Global Microfinance Accelerator.
Unitus acts as a social venture capital investor for the microfinance industry. We carefully select and partner with the highest-potential MFIs and help accelerate their growth with significant investments of capital and active involvement in capacity-building. With our support, we empower MFIs to help exponentially more people lift themselves out of poverty. We also aim to demonstrate that MFIs can be run as profitable, large-scale, poverty-focused businesses with links to local capital markets. By transitioning our partners to for-profit organizations, Unitus is helping microfinance evolve from a government-and donor-driven development project to a commercially viable investment proposition.
Our acceleration strategy is working. Of our seven MFI partners--currently in India, Kenya, and Mexico--three have reached the 100,000-client milestone, something that only 2 percent of MFIs worldwide ever accomplish. As of October 2005, our seven partners served more than 500,000 poor clients, compared with the 228,000 clients our partners were serving at the time we entered into the partnerships. Moreover, our partners maintain a record-breaking annualized average growth rate of 113 percent.
But Unitus's impact is actually even greater. Assuming five family members per borrower, Unitus is currently helping to bring microfinance products and services to more than 2.5 million people. For these clients and their families, microfinance means a successful business, better health care and housing, more nutritious food, and, perhaps most important, an education for their children. Microfinance truly is for many people the gift of opportunity and hope.
We have an ambitious goal of reaching 10 million clients by 2015 in India alone, to be achieved by accelerating the growth of our current partners and by selecting new partners.
Unitus is based in Redmond, Washington, USA, with an office in Bangalore, India. We rely on innovative financial instruments, and the financial resources of like-minded individuals and foundations, to fulfill our mission.
The above Winner's Statement was provided by the profiled organization.