Microfinance clients rank Friendship Bridge high for access, business impact, client protection, and resilience in Latin America
As a microfinance institution (MFI), we don’t just distribute small loans to impoverished people—we pride ourselves in building strong relationships with our clients, so they can in turn increase their resilience, grow their businesses, create generational change, and experience greater empowerment.
But how well are we achieving these goals, compared to other MFIs? 60 Decibels’ Microfinance Index strives to answer this in its newly released 2023 report. By listening to more than 32,000 microfinance clients globally from 114 microfinance institutions, it addresses the following questions in the world of MFIs, that often have nuanced answers:
- What institutions, and what practices by these institutions, are creating the strongest social outcomes for clients?
- How can we uncover which institutions are making the biggest difference for clients?
- How can we compare outcomes between institutions in ways that increase transparency and maximize well-being for clients?
In four of six specific indicators—Access, Business Impact, Client Protection, and Resilience—Friendship Bridge was the top performer among all MFI clients surveyed in Latin America. Here are the details on how we measured up.
77% of Friendship Bridge clients surveyed said they could not easily find good alternatives to their financial service provider.
In a competitive MFI space, the data shows that we are serving clients with greater economic disadvantages—those who need it most—to a greater degree than other MFIs in Latin America. We are proud that the programs we have developed to help improve clients’ lives are actually working for them.
So many of our employees, too, have fond memories of working alongside our clients as they create change in their lives. Friendship Bridge Credit Analysis Coordinator Marta Julia Vicente was greatly impacted by Magdalena, a client for 14 years, who now owns a large handicrafts business. “I feel proud of her because I was her loan facilitator—I gave her Non-Formal Education, and I guided her to make good use of her loan,” Marta Julia says. “Today she is a successful woman.”
51% of Friendship Bridge clients say that their income has very much increased.
The programs we offer to our clients in addition to their loans give them the tools to earn more money for their families. For example, through our Women’s Agriculture Credit & Training program, farmers learn how to implement a drip irrigation system, apply fertilizer, and properly prune their plants to prevent disease. “I implemented what I learned in my plots, and it is working,” says Candelaria, a farmer and Friendship Bridge client. “There are improvements […] in my tomato and green bean crops.” Quite simply, a higher crop yield for Candelaria means more produce she can sell.
87% of Friendship Bridge clients have a strong understanding of their loan, including fees, interest rates, and penalties. In addition, when it comes to repaying their loans, 86% of Friendship Bridge clients say loan repayment is “not a problem” for them.
In order to help ensure our clients are not creating a cycle of overindebtedness, our Credit and Education Facilitators provide many checks and balances, including:
- A thorough credit analysis and background check of each potential client
- A visit to the client’s business to ensure their income is sufficient to pay the loan
- Required monthly Trust Bank meetings, during which time clients pay back their loans together
- Education on how to borrow responsibly and compare lender’s options, a training module offered through our monthly Non-Formal Education sessions, held during Trust Bank meetings
“[Friendship Bridge] has helped me […] [learn] how to manage everything regarding finances, such as daily, weekly, and monthly balances,” says Lucrecia, a client who owns a distribution company. “This has helped me [see] growth month after month. I see the profitability of each month. And each week in sales, [I’m seeing] if they have dropped. […] Sometimes we doubt our abilities, but [Friendship Bridge] is always there to accompany us.”
23% of Friendship Bridge clients say their savings has “very much increased.”
This means our clients are more financially prepared for unforeseen economic circumstances, and they have a greater ability to manage their finances in order to save money. “The training received throughout the years has helped,” says Norma, a farmer, mother of six, and Friendship Bridge client of 12 years. “Sometimes we think that no one understands us, but when we come to the [Trust Bank] meeting, we realize that many of us face similar situations, and we comfort each other. Many organizations do not give us loans because they say it is risky, but we also have the right to get ahead.”
60 Decibels 2023 Impact Awards and performance rankings are based on the 60 Decibels 2023 Microfinance Index. Ranking is determined based on companies evaluated in Africa, Asia, Latin America and globally. For more information, visit 60decibels.com. 60 Decibels is a registered trademark of 60 Decibels, Inc.