Thibault Lescuyer


Is supporting microcredit one of the Christmas-time solidarity gestures?

We are seeing an increasing number of acts of generosity over the festive season, with welfare associations being the first to benefit. Microfinance is gradually profiting from this seasonal kindness and microcredit cards are starting to appear in the USA among ideas for “responsible” gifts.

Christmas, a crucial period for donations to associations

For many, the festive season is a time of presents and feasting, for others it is one of loneliness and precariousness. But it’s also a period of solidarity – for a long time now, the end of the year has meant giving donations to the most disadvantaged. Over and above emergency situations, “it’s at Christmas time that people are the most generous to charitable associations,” notes Alexis Vandérivière, whose fund-raising agency Adfinitas helps NGOs collect donations.

For some NGOs, collecting donations at Christmas time is their traditional activity. For instance, the association “Les Petits Frères des Pauvres” needs money for organising hundreds of Christmas meals. However, even for associations that are less directly involved in Christmas, this time of year generates a considerable amount of their annual finances. Alexis Vandérivière points out that many obtain up to 30% of annual donations during the last quarter of the year.

For Jacques Gotbout, a Canadian sociologist who specialises in donations, associations do indeed benefit from this time of year, but donors get a fair deal too. The end of the year, writes Jacques Gotbout, is also “a period of over-indulgence (which the market – always on the lookout for a windfall – cashes in on) for us to break the rules of the game and discover what links us to our fellow humans, to feel the social connection.”

Give someone a microcredit gift card for Christmas

Out of the numerous appeals for donation, a new one has emerged: “Do you dread the folly of end-of-the-year purchases – the queues, the crowds of people, the noisy music…? There’s a better choice available: you can give something to those you care about and at the same time co-finance Kiva borrowers!” This online gift idea is in fact the Kiva Gift Card, a gift card to choose between 25 and 10,000 dollars, giving the beneficiary a free loan on the Kiva website. The donor pays the loan and the recipient chooses the entrepreneur. Kiva Gift Cards are more and more on the front pages of the mass media, hunting for original ideas with a festive twist. And the idea is catching on – although receiving less media attention, there are Opportunity International gift cards, one of the main worldwide microfinance networks.

Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey support microcredit

In the USA, several factors contribute to the success of microcredit coverage in the media: on the one hand, online microcredit is actively supported on a long-term basis by several well-known figures, including former president Bill Clinton. He has been praising microcredit websites since his 2007 book “How Each of Us Can Change the World.” From that time on he hasn’t stopped promoting microfinance.

Microcredit has also been supported by Oprah Winfreh, the undisputed Afro-American TV star. In November 2010, she decided to include Kiva Gift Cards in the very exclusive list of her “Favorite Things”. It had immediate success, to the point of crashing the Groupon website, which offered the gift cards at a discount price.

Unlike in the USA, in France microcredit remains a matter for connoisseurs and committed money lenders. Microcredit is therefore gradually setting itself up as a gesture of solidarity in its own right, but there are still oceans to cross for it to establish itself under European Christmas trees.