I read about a very interesting organization today. The name is Modest Needs and they're a not-for-profit organization that directly help people with short term but critical financial needs. The article I read is in the August 11th issue of Forbes.
The organization was started by Keith Taylor, an English teacher at Middle Tennessee State University in Nashville. He initially had a small website through which he'd dispense $350 a month, 10% of his income, to people that needed small amounts of money to bridge small crises. Like that little bit extra needed to cover rent, an urgent car repair, hospital bill, etc.
What I find so appealing about this is that you actually can pick who you give money to--and know that the money is immediately helpful. Modest Needs doesn't give the money to the individual, but rather to the creditor that the individual owes money to. And these financial problems are vetted by Modest Needs to ensure that they are legitimate. And, interestingly enough, Modest Needs doesn't fund the truly impoverished. They select for people that can normally pay their bills, but have occasional shortfalls. They don't want to be a crutch but rather the generous friend we all wish we had that can help out in times of critical need.
6 years ago, in 2002, Taylor opened up his website to contributions so that others could help and Modest Needs grew quickly. Right now 100% of contributions go to needy recipients though that could change. Administration costs are currently covered by private grants but when you give money, 80% goes to the recipient you designate and 20% to a reserve that pays money to people whose needs are judged so immediate that the organization immediately pays their bill. Should the private monies that fund the organization ever end, then that 20% would also be used to cover overhead as well as the reserve I mentioned.
If you're interested in helping out Modest Needs, look over this page that gives answers to typical quiestions that potential donors have. For example:
How quickly does my contribution actually get to a person who has been applied for help from Modest Needs?
Almost instantly. As soon as our donors invest all of the points that one of our pre-qualified applications needs in order for us to approve a grant, Modest Needs instantly updates that application's status to 'funded' and places the check necessary to fund that grant request in the very same day's mail.
I gave Modest Needs $50--which might put some people who know me into shock. You see, while I've made a number of loans to people I know when they run into problems, I rarely give money to institutions. But Modest Needs doesn't feel like an institution. I like that 100% of the money actually goes out to people in need and that you can pick who gets that money. Since there's the potential for feedback from the recipients, via the website, which gives you that feeling of satisfaction, this could become a habit. And a far better habit than my candy and soda habits.
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