Volunteerism: An Old Concept, a New Business Model for Scaling Microfinance and Technology-for-Development Solutions

Managing volunteers strategically
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This paper explores the role of volunteers in microfinance and technology-for-development (T4D) initiatives. It discusses challenges that prevent the microfinance sector from leveraging the supply of skilled volunteers.

There is an ample supply of human capital ready to be deployed in the microfinance sector through short-term volunteering projects or ongoing involvement. The paper emphasizes the need to leverage the skills and time of these volunteers to maximize volunteers’ experience and benefits for the organization. Volunteers can be viewed as valuable business capital because they can:

  • Turn challenges and risks into opportunities;
  • Help tide over funding problems;
  • Impart technical skills to MFIs and T4D initiatives;
  • Be skill-anthropists who rate making a difference higher than making money.

The paper uses examples from Grameen Foundation’s Bankers without Borders (BwB) program and other initiatives to illustrate the impact of volunteerism. It lists eight common roadblocks to realizing the potential of volunteers and presents BwB’s solutions for each of these issues. The paper observes that a volunteer-based mechanism for MFIs reinforces the civic underpinnings of the global movement to eradicate poverty.