Crowdfunding via Starbucks

Starting next weeks Americans can help to jump-start the economy sipping coffee at Starbucks. By donating 5 US$ they help to fund community loans to community businesses—including small businesses, microenterprises, nonprofit organizations, commercial real estate, and affordable housing— all across the country committed to creating and sustaining jobs. Donors who contribute $5 or more will receive a red, white, and blue wristband with the message “Indivisible.”

The initiative is called Create Jobs for USA. Loans will be given out by the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), which represents a nationwide network of 180 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) set up to provide financing to community businesses in underserved markets where accessing credit through traditional lending institutions is challenging or not available. The Create Jobs for USA Fund at OFN will be seeded with a $5 million contribution from the Starbucks Foundation.

The donations to “Create Jobs for USA” will not be loaned to the CDFIs. They will be turned into equity that can be leveraged. If that equity can be leveraged 7 to 1, that would result in 350 million US$ loan funding, if Starbucks customers donate 50 million US$.

Wokai preview – donate to enable microfinance

Non profit will allow contributers to donate to give microfinance loans to borrowers in China. Like Kiva and MyC4, Wokai partners with local MFIs which identify and screen potential microentrepreneur clients. Selected clients are then posted on the Wokai website through profiles that outline their business ventures and loan request. Contributers can select borrowers to fund and pay via Google Checkout, the money is then transferred to the MFI who disperse the capital to the microentrepreneurs. Field partners charge interest rates typically ranging from 8-20% to cover the high costs associated with providing loans, training, monitoring and support services to our borrowers. At the end of the loan-cycle the money is collected and re-issued by the MFI for new loans – so there is no payback to the contributers.

See this video for a good overview on Wokai.

The name “Wokai” means “I start” in Chinese.

Wokai has not launched yet, but I could participate in a pre-launch test drive. The platform has more social networking features then other platforms allowing for discussions and users asking questions to the MFIs/borrowers.

Wokai began in the fall of 2006 when Wokai co-founders Courtney McColgan and Casey Wilson met while studying advanced Chinese at Tsinghua University. The idea of Wokai gradually transformed into a plan of action and, with the help of a team of supporters, evolved into a startup nonprofit.

Wokai screenshot (pre-launch 10/20/08)

Wokai screenshot (pre-launch 10/20/08)