Research Release, March 2013:
U.S. Microfinance at the Crossroads
Scale and Sustainability: Can Lessons from International Experience Help Guide the U.S. Sector?
Ira Lieberman, Jenifer Mudd, and Phil Goodeve
SmartSAVER is an initiative of The Omega Foundation that seeks to strengthen low-income Canadian families' ability to save for their children's post-secondary education.
With the costs of enrolment rapidly escalating at a pace in excess of inflation, more and more low-income children and their families see the opportunity to attend college or university as an illusive dream. Yet, even a modest amount of savings set aside for education significantly increases the rate of participation.
With a three-year pilot project now under way in Toronto, the foundation is working with its partners to increase the level of awareness and participation among low-income families in the federal government's Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) program and the supplementary Canada Learning Bond.
Funding partners include the Federal Government through HRSDC, the McConnell Family Foundation, the Trillium Foundation, the George Cedric Metcalf Foundation and ScotiaBank. Program partners include the YMCA, Working Women's Community Centre, The United Way, Royal Bank, and Maytree Foundation.
Prior to 2005, Omega was actively involved with Calmeadow providing financial support to Calmeadow from 1993 to 2004. Calmeadow is a registered Canadian NGO that for 27 years has supported innovative ideas in microfinance; ideas that promote greater levels of efficiency and outreach through the commercial provision of financial services to low-income borrowers and microentrepreneurs. From modest beginnings as a charity founded by Linda Haynes and Martin Connell in 1993, Calmeadow's work has produced far-reaching impact on the global microfinance industry with the organization investing, advocating and participating in several landmark microfinance events over the years. Given the tremendous growth of the microfinance industry in terms of practitioners, funders, and industry organizations, the role of Calmeadow has changed. However, Calmeadow continues to focus on the bottlenecks and frontiers of this rapidly changing sector with the goal of promoting appropriate and efficient financial services for low-income individuals and their businesses provided by commercial financial institutions.
Calmeadow remains a Canadian Charity and operates from San Jose, Costa Rica.
The Toronto Community Foundation
Omega supports the development of social and community financial capital, which in turn addresses the financial needs of community challenges through philanthropic means. Through a long-term grant relationship with the Toronto Community Foundation (TCF), Omega funds have helped TCF build a growth strategy that has led to a more than doubling of assets over the past ten years while creating a strong leadership role in the philanthropic sector of Toronto.
The role of the Toronto Community Foundation is to connect philanthropy with community needs and opportunities in order to make Toronto the best place to live, work, learn, and grow.
It is one of the largest of Canada's 165 community foundations. Established in 1981, it has grown to hold over $210 million in assets and works with hundreds of concerned Torontonians and high-impact community organizations.
TCF is a registered, public, non-profit charity created for and by the people of Toronto.