Publication Date

1999

Abstract

Microcredit programs are widely employed as poverty elimination and economic development tools by a growing number of U.S. nonprofit organizations. This paper is an examination of U.S. microcredit programs' organizational operations, their strengths and weaknesses, and their ability to effectively serve today's entrepreneur. A number of U.S. microcredit organizations completed questionnaires, providing information about program goals, characteristics of entrepreneurs served, financial well being of the organizations, support services provided to entrepreneurs, collaborations, types of technologies utilized, outlooks for the future, and methods for monitoring and evaluating success. U.S. microcredit programs often state objectives of serving low income and minority populations. Despite this, the programs studied serve a very diverse clientele in terms of ethnicity, gender, income, and education. As a result of today's complex business environment, and due to a wide variety of the types of businesses in existence, U.S. microcredit programs must offer a wide assortment of technical assistance to their clientele, including technology training. Increased collaborations with businesses and service organizations are needed. Many programs are not working towards financial self-sufficiency despite concerns about the future funding of programs. Microcredit programs need to better define their long-range goals and objectives in reference to local economies and community well being. Appropriate means of monitoring and evaluating success must be developed accordingly. Instead of being solely concerned with raising the income of the poor and adding jobs to the economy, microcredit organizations must strive to comprehend and influence the role of the entrepreneur in shaping social change and community development.

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