In areas where there are no banking institutions participating in loan programs such as Kiva or Oikocredit, the Unity Women’s Desk will offer loans to the women directly. Although we occasionally loan money to individual women to start or expand businesses, we prefer to lend to groups of women in “Lending Circles.”
A Lending Circle is a group of women in an area with a similar interest in starting their own businesses. The Lending Circle may start one business in which all members participate or they may start individual businesses while supporting other women in their Circle as they start their own businesses.
How to Form a Lending Circle
To form a Lending Circle, choose five to ten women in your area who are interested in starting businesses. After prayerfully considering how the Lending Circle will proceed (one commonly held business or individual businesses), determine how each woman in the group will support the group. Each woman should invest some of her own money in the group, perhaps $5.00-$10.00 per person.
Develop a business plan (or plans if there will be individual businesses) and submit it/them to the Provincial Coordinator. After she checks the information, she will submit it to the Sub-Desk Coordinator in your Region and also to the Unity Women’s Desk. Four times each year, the Advisory Board will meet and determine which applications will be approved. (See Forms & Documents, below, for specific documents to use.)
UWD Board Approval
There are two ways in which the Advisory Board may approve the application:
- If the business is a total group project, the Advisory Board may approve the total amount needed with a one-to-five year repayment plan on an interest-free loan. Twice yearly reports to the Advisory Board will be required with one repayment amount due each year.
- If there are to be individual businesses, the Advisory Board will match the investment made by the Lending Circle members. The members of the Lending Circle will decide who may borrow the money first to start her business. When she repays the loan, the Advisory Board will once again match the investment made by the members and then loans may be made to two or more additional members so that they can start their businesses. When these loans are repaid, the remaining members may borrow the funds that are repaid. When all members of the Lending Circle have started their businesses, the Lending Circle may decide whether to re-apply to the UWD to allow members to “re-borrow” money to expand their businesses or whether they will repay the loans so that other Lending Circles may be formed and borrow the money.
Each Province, Mission Province, and Mission Area may borrow a total of $5,000 (if funds are available in the Loan Fund of the UWD). Until loans are repaid, no further loans will be made to that P/MP/MA. If loans in a P/MP/MA are in arrears, no additional will be made in that P/MP/MA until all loans are current in repayment.
The UWD encourages Lending Circles to meet monthly to discuss how the businesses are going and to encourage their sisters in their endeavors. We also encourage Lending Circles to bring in consultants or take business management courses to learn better skills in running their businesses. We can supply small supplements to pay for such consulting expertise
“Lending Circles” encourage accountability among the women and encourage them to support one another in their endeavors. By supporting one another’s businesses and encouraging prompt repayment, additional funds can be made to other Lending Circles and individuals to start additional businesses.
Forms & Documents
If you are interested in forming a Lending Circle or would like to request a business loan, download the following documents from the Application Forms page.
- Lending Circle Business Plan–English
- Lending Circle Business Plan–Swahili
- Loan Request Form — English
- Lending Circle Covenant Agreement
The Covenant Agreement form should be signed by the members of a Lending Circle at a group meeting and given to the Provincial Coordinator of that area. The Provincial Coordinator will forward copies to the UWD.