Together, we create momentum
It is fitting that we celebrate creating momentum with our clients at this exciting juncture in Opportunity’s history. I am truly grateful to all who supported Opportunity’s growth, innovation and impact in 2013. Together, we strengthened our organization and expanded the possibilities for how we can serve clients going forward.
With greater effectiveness for our clients in mind, we streamlined and focused the organization after a top-to-bottom review of our global governance and operations. We embarked on a bold roadmap for the future, driving efficiencies and expanding our services to even more people in need around the world.
We’re creating innovative services like Opportunity International’s Mobile Money, which makes banking as fast and convenient as a text message. Africa, for example, has about 700 million mobile phone users, and we’re harnessing the power of that technology in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation and many individual supporters to bring—for the first time—life-changing financial services to even the most remote areas. Among other benefits, farmers and others in these rural communities can now bank entirely by phone, including applying for a loan and getting a response in as little as 10 minutes.
We energized our global operations and launched a dynamic new brand identity in 2013 to underscore our renewed commitment to growth and client transformation. There is tremendous power in the word “opportunity” in every language and our call to action—Invest in Opportunity—is a simple yet powerful statement inviting everyone to join our movement to break the cycle of poverty.
We led in our sector last year by instituting Social Performance Management (SPM), a set of management standards that gauge the true impact of our initiatives and promote an even higher level of transparency and accountability. SPM keeps clients front and center in everything we do and allows us to continually improve outcomes for those we serve. We aren’t looking for quick-fix, band-aid solutions but rather comprehensive, sustainable ways to help families excel for generations. Among other initial successes from implementing SPM, Opportunity Bank Serbia received the Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) 2013 S.T.A.R. Award for “being socially transparent and responsible.” SPM is making us a better, more effective organization.
From our experience over the last 43 years, we know that every client has the power to create positive momentum for others. To foster this multiplier effect, we focus on areas with the greatest potential for generating momentum across a community. Education, for example, is one key to breaking the cycle of poverty. That’s why we’re working to put more children in classrooms around the world. Among our many initiatives, we created more than 10,000 new student loan accounts to help families pay for tuition, books, school uniforms and other expenses.
Our agriculture program focuses on helping small-scale farmers increase their crop yields, expand their profits and feed not only their families, but their entire communities. We work with farmers at every stage of their businesses—from planting to harvesting to selling crops—to ensure success. As part of our program, we distributed 75,000 agricultural loans to help farmers grow higher quality crops and become more successful.
We had an exceptional year for fundraising with revenue up 27 percent to $45 million in a tough economic environment. More than 50 percent was donated by thousands of generous and caring individuals around the world. We are also thankful for the strong support from corporate and institutional donors such as the Caterpillar Foundation, Credit Suisse, John Deere, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Mastercard Foundation.
Nothing compares to seeing the impact of that support in person. I traveled to Africa and Australia last year to meet clients and see our programs in action. In Rwanda, for example, I met up with Opportunity International’s lead Agriculture Finance expert John Magnay to visit maize farming cooperative Twihangire Umurimo Maize. When the co-op opened two years ago, only 800 of its 1,100 members could afford to open a savings account, which is required for membership. So those 800 farmers pooled their money and helped the other 300 members open accounts.
When the co-op opened, members were growing 200 tons of maize seed a year. Over the next two years, Opportunity International gave the co-op four loans so members could expand their farms and buy higher quality seeds and fertilizer. We also provided technical and financial training to farmers. Today, I’m happy to report that the co-op has tripled its crop yield to 600 tons and is lining up financing to create a dry storage facility to hold all of the maize! This is a remarkable story and a great example of the kind of life-changing lightning that strikes when opportunity meets hard work, talent and determination.
We’re proud of our achievements in 2013 and are focused on a strong future, including achieving our goal of creating 20 million jobs by 2020. Our motivation is simple—to continue answering Christ’s call to love and serve the poor by creating momentum with the world’s entrepreneurs.
Thank you for joining us on our journey to bring dignity, opportunity and hope to people everywhere. “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” (Proverbs 11:25)
In service together,
Global Chief Executive Officer