Spreading the word: MFIs and Publicity
By Julie Pachico, KF9 Mexico
A big part of the loan officers’ work load at FVP is “prospectando,” or heading out into the field and reaching out to potential clients. When I was first invited to come along I was a little nervous, as my career as a canvasser lasted for all of one day and I hate pushy sales people, no matter how good the cause. However my fears were rapidly relieved within minutes of accompanying the loan officers on their door-to-door visits. Their attitude isn’t that of aggressive marketing, but rather stems from a genuine concern and desire to help. Their message isn’t so much “invest in this program,” but more along the lines of “here’s this really great microcredit service offered by this organization, have you ever heard of it?” Here is a simple video I made of “prospectando” with the FVP loan officers in the Voluntad y Trabajo neighborhood , on the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo. You can read more about FVP’s method of finding new clients behind the cut.'
Loan officer usually head out to “prospectar” two or three times a week and work for anywhere between three to six hours in different neighborhoods: handing out fliers, explaining FVP’s interest rates and repayment plans and setting up appointments with people interested in taking out a loan. I was very impressed by the professional yet personable way with which the loan officers publicize FVP’s microloan program. Loan officers always start off by asking how the family is dong and really express a genuine concern on the status of a person’s business. Many times when we met someone who worked as a foreman, the loan officers would tell him that they could help him get in touch with families who have a housing loan with FVP and needed a foreman for their construction project. It was really moving and inspiring to see this small yet important gesture, helping people find badly-needed work!
The loan officers aren’t the only ones out and about promoting FVP; there’s also Don Pedro. Don Pedro has already had two loans out on Kiva and his third one is set to appear very soon, so be sure to keep checking!! He works in the publicity business, which is to say that he drives one of those ubiquitous cars with the loudspeakers that blare a recorded message enthusiastically espousing how amazing their product is and yes, ladies and gentlemen, it would really be a huge mistake for you not to purchase it right away. (This type of publicity is very common in Nuevo Laredo; instead of needing an alarm here I’m usually woken up by a man selling vitamins driving by my apartment around 7 AM.) Don Pedro used his Kiva loans to purchase his sound system equipment as well as the vehicle he currently uses; he is definitely putting it to excellent use. It was really awesome to see FVP employing one of their own clients to help publicize their services; it really proves how they like to keep things in the “FVP family.” As another example of this, the voice you hear in the video praising FVP’s virtues is that of Don Pedro’s granddaughter, who also is also a Kiva borrower and works for a radio station. She’s only in her early 20′s and I hope you’ll agree with me, she has a very long and successful career in publicity and voiceover work ahead of her!
In almost every case I’ve seen during the “prospectando” trips, people are genuinely interested in learning about FVP (when they’re not it’s usually because they already have a loan!). The loan officers usually ask “Have you ever heard of FVP before?” and unless the person has a neighbor or family member that already has an FVP loan, the answer is almost always no. This lack of knowledge among the peripheral communities of Nuevo Laredo reinforces the need for the loan officers to be on the ground and spreading the word from door to door. If they weren’t doing this then I honestly have no idea how these families would learn about FVP’s microfinance program. Usually the people who haven’t heard of FVP (the folks who live in the outlying, underdeveloped neighborhoods) are the people who need a loan the most. These are the neighborhoods that didn’t exist ten years ago, the ones with the unpaved streets, where hardly anyone works in the formal economy, instead finding work as foremen (in the case of the men) or selling herbal remedies (as the women do). In these areas a loan can go a long way in helping a woman start another business from her house, so that she can still take care of her children but generate some extra income at the same time. But before you reach that point, you’ve got to get out and spread the word first, so that people can know that microfinance is a genuine option for them!
You can help SPREAD THE WORD about Kiva by inviting a friend and family member sign up today and make a loan! Don’t forget to check out FVP’s currently fundraising loans and join our lending team, the FVP Incredibles!/>