Lend With Care – a revolution in charitable giving

Have you ever wanted to help others but felt slightly put off by the, quite frankly annoying charity chuggers who accost you on the street when you are hurrying along and in no mood to talk?  You know exactly who I mean.  They are the people who rudely interrupt you and ask you for some of your hard earned money for this or that charity.  I’m sure we have all had this experience at some stage, and it is really rather annoying. The sad part is that it turns away people from donating to worthwhile charities. With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised by my recent discovery of a brilliant new innovation, Lend With Care that the Co-operative is running with Care International.


For the past 60 years Care International has been helping the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, and in 2011 they partnered with the Co-op to establish Lend With Care. The initiative is a new and innovative way to help people in the developing world transform their futures by setting up their own business funded by loans from us. By us I literally mean US, you or me, your neighbour or friend, not publicity ready super rich philanthropists or well-known business men and women, but ordinary Joe Bloggs who have a penny or two they would like to spend on a worthwhile cause and help an entrepreneur in the developing world. It gets better, you even get your money back at the end to re-invest, keep or give to the organisation. The power is literally in your hands.

You may well wonder how it works. Well, as is the process with most investments, the entrepreneur approaches a financier – in this case the local microfinance institution or MFI who has an existing relationship with CARE – with their business plan. This is then reviewed and if approved – this stage moves pretty quickly as a lot of the entrepreneurs business plans are for seasonal businesses which are time sensitive – the entrepreneurs profile is uploaded to lendwithcare.org which is where we, as potential lenders, come in.

The website has profiles from entrepreneurs from all over the world,  you as a potential lender can choose which of the businesses you think are promising and worthy of your investment.  You then decide how much you want to contribute towards getting the business plan off the ground, in injections of £15 or more, or if you’re feeling generous and optimistic, you can invest the full amount being asked.

As the entrepreneur grows their business you can track how they are doing through the regular updates on the Lend With Care website. If the business succeeds the entrepreneur then pays back your loan, which is available for you to reclaim to re-invest in another entrepreneur’s business plan or you can take the loan back for your own use. If you are feeling ultra-generous you can disregard the previous two options and donate to Lend With Care so they can continue running the organisation.  There is always the possibility that the business does not succeed and you might incur a loss of investment. That said you would have still supported a very worthwhile cause.

It’s a pretty fantastic idea, accessible to many people and rewarding in numerous ways, one that I will consider.  Napoleon Hill’s quote is an apt summation of how the venture works sums up my thoughts on this project “If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.”


The man with ideas for energy

When people are asked to “name a high profile entrepreneur” the usual answer is “Richard Branson” or perhaps Stelios. Maybe even Bannantyne.

But a new businessman is blazing a trail for the hottest PR profile around. Dale Vince has ideas for energy. His company Ecotricity has invested millions in green energy since its set-up in 1996, and is championing solar power and wind power in a way that is rattling the cages of the traditional energy providers. Ecotricity is now the seventh-largest retail supplier of electricity in the UK and one of the biggest builders of wind turbines. Vince, founder and owner, could be worth up to £100m.

Increasingly, Vince is creeping into the public consciousness, an anoraked, surfer-haired, wind-swept visionary for a greener, slightly less smoggy future, and he must be driving the power giants mad. Firstly there’s the copyright war with EDF over the green Union Jack. Then there’s the ongoing battle with local councils to resurrect more of his awe-inspiring wind farms.

What about the press ads challenging Sir Richard Branson to discuss his green plan for the future and lobbying government to use the money spent on fuel poverty allowances to build the Severn Barrage energy generation scheme?

What Vince demonstrates to me is the often-touted maxim that a good idea without the right execution is, well, a bit of a waste of time really.

Ecotricity is offering consumers something genuinely different – but more importantly, its founder is championing a singular, consistent message in a challenging controversial way. He’s built his brand around his persona in a direct snub to the faceless energy brands and acknowledged that a business with a personality will always be more compelling than a conglomerate with a logo – whether that logo is green or not.

It’s a lesson to us all in how to wake up and disturb a complacent market, and a case study in launching a personality brand.