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The most exciting strategy that we advocate here in Fooldom is Rule Breaker investing. It seeks out innovative companies with new technologies and new ways of doing things, aiming to invest in them early and profit handsomely if they really take off.
There are other kinds of Rule Breakers, though -- the non-profit kind, for example. Consider the Grameen Foundation, dedicated to eradicating poverty from our planet. Inspired by the work of Nobel Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, Grameen Foundation supports microcredit organizations around the globe as they make tiny loans to people (typically women), enabling them to build businesses (such as selling milk or sewing) and lift their families out of poverty. (We've supported the Grameen Foundation many times, via our Foolanthropy campaigns.)
Grameen's latest venture is "Growth Guarantees." They're seeking not large investments, but sums of money offered as guarantees, permitting microfinance organizations to access commercial lenders and finance loans to the poor. Citigroup (NYSE: C ) is one such guarantor. The program is innovative in that it uses a lot of leverage. Each dollar guaranteed can generate as much as four or more dollars in loans. In just two years, the program turned $20 million in guarantees into more than $112 million in loans. That's roughly 600,000 loans to the poor! (Learn more here.)
What to do
Depending on your financial circumstances, you might consider becoming a new donor-guarantor to support global microfinance. Instead of making a direct cash donation, you'll pledge some of your assets (such as stocks) as collateral to guarantee loans for at least a three-year period. You might alternatively offer a standby letter of credit from your bank.
Regardless of your financial sturdiness, you'd do well to learn more about microcredit. You might, for example, read Yunus' new book, Creating a World Without Poverty, which has been recommended in JPMorgan Chase's (NYSE: JPM ) summer reading list. Many major companies are also getting involved in microcredit. Deutsche Bank (NYSE: DB ) sees a $250 billion global demand for microfinance loans, 10 times more than has been loaned so far. IBM (NYSE: IBM ) is working on developing software for microcredit enterprises. And Thomson Reuters (NYSE: TRI ) has begun offering market news and prices to rural farmers in India and Bangladesh, for a modest price.
Whether you're looking at stocks or charities, consider seeking out organizations doing things in new ways.