About Us

Our Mission

Bottom Billion Fund is a new nonprofit that economically empowers the extremely poor at the bottom of the pyramid through proven microfinance solutions.

Our Mission is

  1. to invest in sustainable, scalable and replicable market-based microfinance solutions that effectively include those living in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 a day: the Bottom Billion
  2. to provide financial incentives to MFIs to include  Bottom Billion people and document measurable client progress
  3. to build awareness and advocacy for best-of-class microfinance solutions that can effectively help the Bottom Billion leverage their own skills and leave extreme poverty

Our vision is a world free of extreme poverty where everyone has access to client appropriate high-quality financial services that help them improve their lives.

The Challenge

Extreme poverty is the largest humanitarian crisis on the planet today. 

It may be the largest humanitarian crisis of all human history, given the sheer number of preventable human deaths incurred.  More than 10 million people are killed by extreme poverty and its related causes every year.

That’s 24,000 deaths every day, 1000 deaths every hour, or one death every three seconds for a human being not having enough money or economic opportunity to afford food or basic medication.

This is more deaths than by any other cause.

This is death by extreme poverty.  

Most of these deaths occur amongst the most vulnerable of the extremely poor: children and women.

One of every five people on the planet lives in extreme poverty, defined by the World Bank as living on less than $1.25 a day. These are the Bottom Billion: individuals dying at alarming rates, trapped within a cycle of extreme poverty. Read more...

The Opportunity

Ending extreme poverty is possible.  Like Nelson Mandela has said,   poverty is a manmade problem with manmade solutions.

Manmade solutions effectively decreasing extreme poverty are already at work.
extremepoverty, timing is critical.  Read more…

Why Microfinance Need be Part of the Solution

"We have to get out of this mindset that the rich will do the business and the poor will have the charity." Muhammad Yunus

The BBF invests in Bottom Billion people to help them build their own fishing industry, or whatever industry they choose to build, to help them improve their lives.

Many non-profit charitable and development organizations advertise the opportunity to alleviate the suffering of those in extreme poverty by providing food to a poor child. This is truly good work.  But hunger is caused by poverty. What if there was a way to help eliminate the root cause of a child’s hunger, extreme poverty, so that her mother and father have the tools to feed her and her siblings for all their childhood?  Keep them healthy? Work productively to make sufficient improvements in their lives, so that their children grow to work productively and make tangible improvements in their own lives, just as they have seen their parents do?

If we can help one family in a short term way, isn’t it time to systematically help all hungry and extremely poor families in a way that is sustainable and operates on a scale that ends extreme poverty once and for all?  This is the kind of solution that the Bottom Billion Fund supports with investment.  Investment that is lent not spent and used over and over again until extreme poverty is ended.

Microfinance has helped millions of people worldwide leave extreme poverty and it can help millions more. It is a proven tool that has been at work for over four decades and has been scaled and replicated across 100 countries. Though microfinance alone cannot singlehandedly end extreme poverty, it is an essential part.  Read more…

Why the Current Microfinance Market Alone is not Enough

Just as mainstream financial services have evolved to primarily serve the wealthiest 20% of people in the world,   the growing microfinance industry tends to serve the “middle” poor,   or “global middle class” – the middle 60%.   

In 1995, the microfinance industry consisted of less than 500 microfinance institutions, serving less than 10 million clients.  By 2010, over 10,000 microfinance institutions existed globally within the industry, serving over 150 million clients worldwide.  This tremendous growth has resulted from microfinance’s increased profitability and the resulting increased use of commercial investment capital.  This growth using commercial capital has also resulted in some significant financial incentives for microfinance institutions (MFIs) to not include Bottom Billion clients since they are more costly to serve, and hence usually less profitable.

The majority of microfinance-directed foreign investment currently flows to institutions where the “middle” poor live.  A much smaller portion of investment flows to regions where most of the Bottom Billion live.

The traditional market investment model results in the majority of microfinance investment continuing to serve more of the “global middle class”: the four billion people living above $1.25/day and up to $25/day or more.  This is great work.  It does not address the needs of the Bottom Billion.

Given the imperative of ending extreme poverty and saving human lives, however, it’s time for a new market investment model to reward MFIs for successfully including more Bottom Billion people and helping them exit extreme poverty. Read more…

The Bottom Billion Fund Solution

Bottom Billion Fund is a new microfinance investment fund (MFIF) designed to deliver both financial and social results in the lives of the Bottom Billion people. We bring donors,   social investors,   impact investors and MFIs together to make traditional microfinance investments go farther and expand microfinance that does the most to serve more Bottom Billion clients effectively.

Like commercially oriented traditional investment funds and commercial investors, we lend to MFIs at competitive market rates.
Unlike traditional investment funds and commercial investors, we apply the profit generated by the interest payments on our loans toward the creation of financial incentives for our MFI investees.  When our investees use a Bottom Billion Fund investment to achieve measurable financial and social gains in the lives of their Bottom Billion clients, Bottom Billion Fund rewards the MFI with an interest rebate.  This way, MFIs and their Bottom Billion clients can generate additional funding for Bottom Billion Microfinance by demonstrating exemplary work and posting documented progress-out-of-poverty results. 

As the Bottom Billion Fund works to help more of the Bottom Billion take greater financial control of their lives, we look to encourage the market with a new investment model that can help accelerate the market’s power to fuel the provision of effective microfinance services for more Bottom Billion people. By doing so,   Bottom Billion looks to help save lives, and help more families exit extreme poverty. Read more…

History

The Bottom Billion Fund is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization incorporated in 2009 by Thomas Coleman, a financial economist with deep financial market expertise, with the help of 3 business minded colleagues. Tom spent the first half of his career as Vice President of Research and Product Development at the Chicago Board of Trade, and the last decade and a half of his career consulting to microfinance institutions around the world, helping bring the best of finance to the poorest microfinance clients.