2021 Report from 60 Decibels
Friendship Bridge strives to be a learning organization that responds quickly to the evolving needs of the women we serve in Guatemala. In an effort to constantly improve and diversify our offerings and ensure we provide the most appropriate loan products and services to our clients, we continuously collect social performance data, which informs our strategic decisions. Our partnership with 60 Decibels, a global impact measurement company that quantifies social impact as well as provides benchmarks of impact performance, is an integral part of this process.
Following up to research conducted in 2019, 60 Decibels conducted a study between April and May of 2021 that provided us with invaluable insights into our clients’ perspectives, sentiments, and experiences with Friendship Bridge. A total of 203 clients participated in phone interviews in which they were asked questions related to their profiles and the impact Friendship Bridge has had on their life. The study highlights that the majority of clients have seen increases in their income, quality of life, ability to plan their finances, frequency of participation in important family decisions, and spending on home improvements since joining Friendship Bridge.
Key Findings from the 2021 Report
94% of our clients reported earning more money because of Friendship Bridge.
When asked how they use this increased income, our clients said that they primarily use the money to cover household expenses, followed by investments in their small business. These results align with what we know: women invest the majority of their income back into their families and communities.
85% of our clients reported there were no alternatives available to them of comparable caliber to Friendship Bridge.
This emphasizes the strong value Friendship Bridge has for women in Guatemala and how our unique mix of loans products and services sets us apart in a saturated landscape of microfinance institutions (MFI).
46% of our clients reported never having used any of their loans to cover non-business expenses.
For those who did report occasionally using their loans for non-business purposes, the top expense was school. Even though the loans are principally meant to enable our clients to start, maintain, or grow their businesses, the women we serve are prioritizing their children’s education. Very few reported ever using the loan to pay off other debts, which reflects controlled over-indebtedness.
64 (excellent) is our Net Promoter Score® (NPS), a standard evaluation mechanism to client satisfaction.
The NPS is a widely used index that measures clients’ willingness to recommend an organization’s products or services. Anything above 50 is considered very good (64 is considered excellent). This score, along with the following words from a client answering whether she would recommend Friendship Bridge to others, attests to our clients’ sense of satisfaction:
3 Key Takeaways About Friendship Bridge’s Impact in Guatemala
In addition to the above findings and statistics, we have identified three key takeaways from the report which underscore the connection between what we do and what matters to our clients:
- Improving Quality of Life
- Supporting Financial Autonomy
- Fostering Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic
1. Improving Quality of Life
Of those surveyed, 97% said that the quality of their life had improved. Clients were asked to elaborate on their perception of participating with Friendship Bridge:
- Among those who reported improvements in the quality of life, 36% reported increased income as the main driver of this
- 31% talked about expanding or improving their businesses
- 14% mentioned their ability to access a loan when they need it, a critical element to managing cash flow and their daily lives.
Among those who reported no change in perceived quality of life, the majority attributed this to declines in business, small loan sizes, and the COVID-19 crisis.
Clients provided additional examples when reflecting on how their involvement with Friendship Bridge has improved their quality of life. Thanks to this involvement, they have been able to:
- build a kitchen
- construct a little house
- allocate additional funds to cover family expenses
- buy a motorcycle for transportation, rather than traveling by foot to sell products
- cover school expenses
Exactly 42% of clients surveyed said their level of stress related to their finances has decreased thanks to Friendship Bridge. Another 43% said their stress level stayed the same, which is notable considering the timing of this evaluation was during COVID-19 and during a time when the country was virtually closed.
2. Supporting Financial Autonomy
Questions were included that aimed to gauge the potential financial resilience of our clients. When asked to imagine having to cover an unexpected emergency and come up with approximately $450 within a month, 22% of clients said that this would be “very difficult” and 44% “slightly difficult.
Assessing financial resilience also involves gauging clients’ ability to pay back their loans. Positively, the evaluation revealed that two out of three clients do not consider their loan payments a burden, and four out of five clients report never needing to reduce their household consumption to make a Friendship Bridge payment.
- 94% of clients say their ability to plan their finances has increased.
- 84% have increased their savings balance.
Clients were also asked to speak to particular financial goals they might have. One out of three clients said her top financial goal was to improve or expand her business, and 91% said that their ability to achieve their goal has improved thanks to working with Friendship Bridge. This perception truly aligns with our vision of empowered women choosing their own paths.
Along with mentioning their financial goals and the increased feasibility of these thanks to their involvement with Friendship Bridge, clients indicated their perceived fairness of the loans. Three out of four clients considered the cost of the loan to be “fair,” and more than three out of four “strongly agree” that they understood all the loan terms.
3. Fostering Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Again, this research was conducted in April and May of 2021, a time in which the effects of the pandemic were still fresh and relevant. We wanted to understand how the pandemic had impacted our clients. We learned that three in five Friendship Bridge clients reported that their household financial situation had gotten worse because of COVID-19, with the main reason for the decline being an interruption to their business model.
When asked about how they were able to comply with their financial obligations during the COVID-19 crisis, clients answered:
- Use savings (54%)
- Borrow from friends or family (15%)
- Reduce household’s consumption of something (14%)
- Sell an asset (8%)
- Remittance support from friends/family abroad (6%)
- Borrowed from somewhere else (2%)
The financial resilience of our clients was evident considering that more than half the clients reported having sufficient savings to draw from, despite the heightened economic hardships they experienced, to make the loan repayments during the pandemic. In fact, of the loans that we provided to more than 29,000 women during 2020, we had a noteworthy repayment rate of over 95%. This result, however, does help us understand that our clients are likely in a more precarious financial situation now than they were before the pandemic. Read: Our Response During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As a whole, there are many strong and favorable results within this study. But we know there are still improvements we can make to best support the women we serve. We invite you to learn more about our strategy for the next five years and how our work will result in a multiplier effect by serving two distinct client segments and opening new branch locations, thus exponentially impacting an even greater number of Guatemalan women, families, and their communities.