Give a guy a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and he starves to death. Ah, but loan him the money to buy his first fishing rod and not only do you set him and his family on the road to prosperity, you get your loan repaid. Which you can then re-loan, if you choose, perhaps to a woman who needs to buy a sewing machine. Or seeds.

One of my best investments yields just 2.5% interest (taxable, no less), but allows Shared Interest to catalyze hundreds of micro-loans to poor South African women.

Another group Charles and I support is FINCA, ‘providing financial services to the world’s lowest-income entrepreneurs.’ Already working with 700,000 of them in 21 countries, it seeks your help to do more. Click here. And don’t miss its donation calculator. See the astounding impact $50, let alone $5,000, can have. (Gather the kids around to work through the numbers with you.)

And here’s another great one, backed by eBay: Microplace. You can choose to back a micro credit effort anywhere in the world (even the U.S.). You’ll see ‘examples’ of the kinds of borrowers your investment will go to fund, but not be at risk on any specific micro-loan. What fun! I just funded a bunch of loans like this one (charcoal) and this one (baking) in Ghana and this one (pig s—) in Costa Rica. In 21 months (in the case of the Costa Rican investment, some are longer-term, many shorter), I’m even quite likely to get my money back with 1.5% interest. But if the interest seems silly, another way of looking at it is by comparison with charitable giving, where you not only get no return on your money, you get no return of your money.

Mike Hanlon: ‘Yet one other good place for microloans is Kiva.org. They allow you to choose to whom you will lend and you get updates on how the people are doing. Be sure to check out their press page – the group is endorsed by Bill Clinton and has some wonderful videos (follow CNBC’s John Larson as he goes to Africa and meets some of the people who receive his loans). We decided to join as a family – my wife, two sons, and I chose two or three recipients each. So far, by rolling over repayments, we’ve made 24 loans. I also oversee a campaign at work: Our building collected used ink cartridges, traded them in for cash and used the cash to set up a Kiva account. We’ve helped seven entrepreneurs, from Cambodia to Afghanistan to Nicaragua and thanks to repayments, we’ll help more.’


Paul Krugman writing in The New York Review of Books. Well worth your time.


This is even more self-indulgent than usual, but I had to share this profile of my pal Howard, who made his screen debut this week – after more than 30 years in the business – opposite Sean Penn in ‘Milk.’ What a kick.

CBS Sunday Morning showed footage of the real Harvey Milk . . . and his fellow San Francisco City Supervisor (now Senator) Diane Feinstein 30 years ago announcing to a shocked crowd that Milk – and Mayor Moscone – had been assassinated by yet another of the five city supervisors, Dan White (who would get just five years for the double murder because a jury chose to buy his attorney’s ‘Twinkie defense‘). I couldn’t find the clip on-line, but did find this transcript. And in looking for the video, found this. Can you believe that Fox reviewed ‘Milk’ without ever mentioning that he was gay? How about a profile of Michael Phelps never mentioning he’s a swimmer? Or Amelia Earhart without ever mentioning she flew airplanes?


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