Because Wisconsin Microfinance relies entirely on our supporter base for funds, our donors are especially important to us and our success. Any advances made, any people or families lifted out of abject poverty, in fact, any programs at all are made possible only through the support of our wonderful donors. Therefore, on this week of giving thanks, we would like to give a special spotlight to one of our supporters, Alana McKeever.
Alana’s connection to Wisconsin Microfinance begins at the same place our organization did: The University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was the founder of the Ethical and Responsible Business Network (ERBN), a student organization on campus that focuses on promoting and creating businesses that look to improve something other than just the bottom line. Her interest in businesses that formulate positive change led her to meet Tom Eggert, president of the Wisconsin Microfinance board and founder of the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council. Tom was looking for more student involvement in Wisconsin Microfinance and, after meeting the ERBN president, decided to invite her onto the board.
After graduating, she became the marketing director at a local Madison start-up turned national non-profit, YumButter. The company sells a variety of nut butters, and all funds go back into food, education, and medical care for the peoples of Guatemala. In addition, they operate a buy one/feed one program that feeds one child for every package sold in areas where malnutrition is rampant.
The experience Alana gained from managing a nationwide marketing campaign has provided information helpful to our own operations, sharing a variety of valuable ideas including the most recent Wisconsin Microfinance survey. The work done at YumButter reflects a similar affinity for socially responsible business models and the use of profits in an ethical and sustainable manner. According to McKeever, she aims to use capitalism to improve lives rather than buy into the system of global exploitation that, in some contexts, it has become associated with.
She believes in the role that business can play in creating positive change and in the power of microfinance. McKeever states that she firmly believes in the empowerment and autonomy created by microloans. The provision of assets for those who have no access to savings, loans, or banks is a crucial catalyst for community change. For Wisconsin Microfinance, our system of using loan pools means that $20 added in once is continuously recycled as loans are repaid and money is redistributed in a continuous flow. A recurrent loan pool can have a much longer lasting benefit in the economic health of a community rather than other types of aid, like mosquito nets, which may have a much shorter timeframe of use.
In both professional and personal endeavors, Alana McKeever is an individual dedicated to helping others. Unlike some others in the organization, Alana does not have a personal connection to Haiti or the Philippines, only an interest in assisting the less fortunate. Lending time, money, and personal experience, McKeever does not see her work as charity. In her own striking words, Alana summed up both the reason she donates and the goal of any microfinance campaign.
“It is not giving. It is empowering.”