About Us FAQs
What is microfinance?
Originally the industry was based solely providing of small or ‘micro’ loans to people not served by banks because of their poverty, lack of collateral, illiteracy or lack of formal identification documents.
The industry has grown and evolved. While still based on the provision of small loans, Microfinance now encompasses a broad range of financial services for those living in poverty such as credit, savings and insurance. These products are designed to assist people in poverty, who lack access to financial services in the mainstream banking sector, to develop their small businesses, save their earnings, and guard against risks.
How does microfinance help fight poverty?
Rather than send aid overseas in hopes benefits trickle down, microfinance takes a bottom-up approach, directly supporting families living at the bottom of the economic pyramid. It is one of the only “methods of development” people in the developing world are asking for.
Microfinance directly addresses one of the primary root causes of chronic poverty: underemployment. The cumulative impact of our job creation strategy is compelling. First, microfinance helps create or expand a single job. Then, training and income from this job improves housing, education, and health care for a whole family. A typical first microloan – just $200 for Opportunity International – impacts five people.
Better still, the repayment rate on our loans is 99%, meaning a single loan is recycled and multiplies into the community for years to come. Savings accounts create additional stability against future crises and help entrepreneurs save for longer-term goals.
We've repeatedly seen a single loan can increase a family's income by 40% (can be much higher)! Microfinance is a powerful tool in the fight against poverty. It provides poor people with the means to work their way out of poverty and is more secure and sustainable than many aid projects, with a longer lasting impact.
“Access to financial services does allow people to improve their human capital (schooling, health care) and provides the potential for improved social capital as clients become more empowered and integrated into markets. Whether they save or borrow, evidence shows that when those in poverty have access to financial services, they choose to invest their loans, additional earnings, or savings in a wide range of activities and assets that benefit not only their businesses but also their households.” (CGAP)
Why don’t people living in poverty go to regular banks for financial services?
The financial infrastructure we take for granted in North America doesn’t exist in most developing countries. Almost two-thirds of the world’s population have no access to financial services. If aspiring entrepreneurs in developing countries don’t have assets to get started, they can’t access secure financial services either.
If financial services are available, they are predatory: In most cases, entrepreneurs must borrow from loan sharks who can charge up to 100% interest per day or require outrageous collateral.
That’s why microfinance is so vital. It provides an equitable and empowering way to give business-makers a chance. We are their banks. We exist to provide working people with the opportunity they need to transform their lives and break the cycle of chronic poverty with dignity.
Why are 95% of our loan clients women?
Ninety percent of women reinvest their earnings into their families and communities despite unique obstacles such as forced labour, gender violence and legal/cultural inequities.
Entrepreneurial success helps them provide for their families, create jobs for their neighbours and build a safety net for the future.
What countries does Opportunity International serve?
Opportunity International serves clients in 22 countries.
How is Opportunity International funded?
Opportunity International receives charitable contributions and government grants that are sent to our local microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the form of grants, loans and equity investments. A portion of these funds goes toward fundraising, along with general and administrative expenses.
We also raise equity and debt from third parties, which we invest directly in our MFIs.
How can I make a donation?
At opportunityinternational.ca, you can find out how to donate to a specific entrepreneur or a general ause, start or join a fundraiser, or create an ongoing giving plan. We also accept donations via telephone, fax or mail.
What happens when I give?
When you give to Opportunity International, you’re not giving to a funding aggregator that pools funds for redistribution to actual microfinance organizations. Rather, you are giving to a bona fide microfinance provider in the developing world – one that’s been serving people in the developing world for over 40 years.
When a client first enters into a relationship with us, it is usually with a group of fellow borrowers called a Trust Group. When a loan is given, the group receives counsel and coaching in business, leadership and other life skills from our loan officers. As the loan cycle continues, clients make payments and typically end their first loan cycle within four months. Once they have repaid their loan, many of our clients go on to secure further loans, build up a savings account or obtain insurance.
Once an initial loan is repaid, your gift is recycled to fund additional loans in the community that create more jobs and lay the foundation for a vibrant local economy.
Do my donations earn a tax credit?
Yes. Opportunity International Canada is a registered charity in Canada (#87751 6385 RR0001). Donations generate tax credits to the extent allowable by federal and provincial law. Tax receipts are sent out in February of the following year.
How much of my gift to Opportunity International is tax deductible?
Your gift to Opportunity is tax deductible to the extent allowable by law. Please consult your tax advisor regarding the deductibility of any specific gift.
Can I donate if I live outside of Canada?
Donations can be made online or through Opportunity offices in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom.
What are Opportunity International's methods?
We support local microfinance organizations that provide innovative financial solutions to empower people, create jobs and build vibrant communities.
- Our products, services and training enable clients to develop businesses, to save and to insure against an uncertain future.
- We strengthen and influence value chains to benefit our clients, connect them to viable markets and drive economic progress.
- We create innovative partnerships to provide complementary services to our clients.
- We seek to impact the lives of our clients, staff and supporters.
Are interest rates fair and affordable to clients?
Our rates are competitive and considered fair and reasonable by the people we serve. The short-term nature of group loans in particular means that the actual amount of weekly interest paid on a loan relative to principle is less than one dollar per $100 borrowed. Based on 47,150 client tracking surveys, 4 out of 5 clients said Opportunity International charges fair interest and fees.
Why does Opportunity charge interest on its loans?
Interest is charged on loans for three reasons:
- To cover the costs of running a microfinance programme so that it becomes sustainable
- To help clients become financially independent under normal market conditions
- To avoid distorting the local economy.
Interest rates vary between countries and types of loan.
From a developed world point of view interest rates charged by microfinance institutions may seem to be high. “Microfinance organizations charge these rates to cover their costs and keep the service available. But even these rates are far below what poor people routinely pay to village money-lenders and other informal sources, whose percentage interest rates routinely rise into the hundreds and even the thousands” (CGAP)
The fact that client numbers are growing and loan repayment continues to be an outstanding 99% shows that the rates are appropriate for our clients.
What are Opportunity International's Values?
Commitment to our clients and their transformation.
Humility a spirit of serving in all we do.
Respect 360 degrees of consideration and teamwork.
Integrity living our values with transparency and consistency.
Stewardship accountability, innovation and urgency.
Transformation our ultimate goal in ourselves and others.