As a non-profit organization, what do you do when you thrive?  When you’re well established and know what you’re doing, where do you go from there?  ACCION Texas-Louisiana is facing this question right now.

The week after I arrived happened to be when ACCION Texas-Louisiana held their semi-annual conference.  All their offices closed down for a few days, so everyone could convene at the central office in San Antonio.  Usually they’re spread over 14 cities in two states. This conference’s theme was “Our Mission and Vision!” because they’re going through a period of strong growth right now.

ACCION Texas-Louisiana

ACCION Texas-Louisiana

I loved the opportunity to meet the entirety of the ACCION Texas-Louisiana staff. Considering ACCION Texas-Louisiana is the largest microfinance organization in the US, I was expecting a big crowd.  So I was surprised to learn that they do everything with less than 70 people!  And they do a lot.  Not only do they give out one loan every 2 hours (on average), they also support 11 other microfinance organizations nationally by doing the preliminary evaluation of their loan applications!  (More on that in a later post. I’m really excited about it.)  Besides that, they also run a Women’s Business Center which provides technical assistance to women and men.

As Janie Barrera, founding president of ACCION Texas-Louisiana said; “We’re the biggest and the best.  But that doesn’t mean we can sit on our laurels.”  Instead, funded by a grant from Citi Bank, they’re focusing on further refining the way they handle a loan from start to finish.  They intend to polish their process to a point where it’s so good, they can start selling more comprehensive services to other CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions).  ACCION Texas-Louisiana’s vision is to make microfinance in the US more efficient and effective by providing even more services to other microfinance organizations, and by expanding into more markets.  They’re hoping to reach an economy of scale.  So far, it seems to be working.  They’re approved to go into Mississippi and Alabama. But as they grow, they want to make sure they stay high touch as well as high tech.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was lunch.  Not because of the food (which is fantastic here), but because someone from each branch stood and told the story of one of their favorite borrowers.  Like the story of the person who didn’t have enough collateral, but could get a loan always because the loan officer found an alternative way to guarantee the loan.  Or the person whose loan application had to be turned down the first time (because of bankruptcy), but who tried again later and is now has a thriving business.  Or the person who managed to keep her business open (and keep her home) through a divorce thanks to a loan. It was inspirational.

Shirley; Top Producer for September and October

Shirley; Top Producer for September and October

At the conference, they also gave out September and October’s Top Producer Award.  Every month, ACCION Texas-Louisiana recognizes the Loan Officer that exceeded their assigned production goal by the highest percentage with a $100 check.  The production goal is the target number of loans and overall dollar amount the Loan Officer aims to distribute to borrowers that month.  Shirley won for both September and October.  “Shirley exceeded her goal by 183% in September and in October by 186%, she won back to back.  In accepting her award, Shirley recognized and thanked her staff, [and said]it’s all about teamwork.”

So ACCION Texas-Louisiana appears to be doing very well for itself.  Right?  Well, yes and no.  They are growing and thriving, yes.  They have plenty of demand. But they’re always in need of funds.

ACCION Texas-Louisiana’s biggest challenge has long been cash.  They’re not self-sufficient, though they are self-sustainable.  In order to continue offering the services that they do, they rely on grants and donations to complete their budget.  There’s plenty of need for loans, but they can only serve as many people as they have funds for.  That’s where Kiva comes in!

Yep, you know it, here’s where I tell you where to go to support ACCION Texas-Louisiana’s awesome clients and their future growth.

Bridget Lewis is a Kiva Fellow at ACCION Texas-Louisiana in San Antonio, Texas.  To help drive economic development in Texas and Louisiana, join the ACCION Texas-Louisiana lending team!


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