Grameen Foundation

About this page

GiveWell aims to find the best giving opportunities we can and recommend them to donors. We tend to put a lot of investigation into the organizations we find most promising, and de-prioritize others based on limited information. When we decide not to prioritize an organization, we try to create a brief writeup of our thoughts on that charity because we want to be as transparent as possible about our reasoning.

The following write-up should be viewed in this context: it explains why we determined that we wouldn't be prioritizing the organization in question as a potential top charity. This write-up should not be taken as a "negative rating" of the charity. Rather, it is our attempt to be as clear as possible about the process by which we came to our top recommendations.

A note on this page's publication date

The last time we examined Grameen Foundation was in 2009. In our latest open-ended review of charities, we determined that it was unlikely to meet our criteria based on our past examination of it, so we did not revisit it.

We invite all charities that feel they meet our criteria to apply for consideration.

The content we created in 2009 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about Grameen Foundation and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions. With that said, we do feel that the takeaways from this examination are sufficient not to prioritize re-opening our investigation of this organization at this time.

Published: March 2010


The Grameen Foundation provides technical assistance to microfinance institutions in the developing world.1 Although it takes its name from the well-known Grameen Bank, founded by Muhammad Yunus, the Grameen Foundation is a distinct entity.2

The Grameen Foundation works in a variety of ways with microfinance institutions in the developing world. It appears as though the Grameen Foundation is not directly providing loan capital to borrowers.3 The Grameen Foundation also runs non-microfinance programs focused on economic empowerment,4 such as the Village Phone program (which we have discussed on our blog).

Our investigations of Grameen Foundation to date (details below) have not been able to answer what we consider key questions about an organization working in this area. These key questions include:

  • What impact does Grameen Foundation's technical assistance have on Grameen Foundation's partner institutions (i.e., the banks it supports)?
  • Is Grameen Foundation's due diligence on partner institutions answering the following questions:
    • What are partner institutions' "true" repayment rates? (More on the "true" repayment rate on our blog)
    • What interest rates do partner institutions charge and how do these compare to other available interest rates?
    • How do partner institutions monitor clients' potential over-indebtedness? What steps do partners take to prevent potential intimidation of clients by loan officers?
    • What are partner institutions' dropout and retention rates? (More on the importance of dropout/retention rates on our blog)
    • What are partner institutions' methods for targeting the very poor, and can they demonstrate that they are successfully doing so?

Details of our evaluations

We have evaluated the Grameen Foundation at three times. The Grameen Foundation applied for a grant in late 2009, we reviewed the Grameen Foundation's website in mid-2009, and the Grameen Foundation applied for a grant in late 2007. Details on each follow below.

Table of Contents

2009 grant application

We reviewed the Grameen Foundation in late 2009 as part of our process for distributing $250,000 in funds to an economic empowerment organization in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Our review consisted of reviewing materials Grameen submitted in response to our questions and multiple phone conversations with staff members. Based on our review, we cannot confidently recommend the Grameen Foundation to donors.

Due to a non-disclosure agreement we signed with the Grameen Foundation, we unfortunately cannot share the details of the documents they sent us. Interested donors should contact the Grameen Foundation directly.


2009 website review

In mid-2009, we reviewed the [[charityname]]'s website as part of a process to identify top international aid organizations. (How did we identify charities for review?) We reviewed Grameen Foundation's website to determine whether it met either of the following two criteria, which we believe indicate whether a charity is likely to eventually be able to meet our full criteria for a recommendation: (Why do we rely on information found on a charity's website?)

  • Does the charity publish high-quality monitoring and evaluation reports on its website? A charity meets this criterion if it freely publishes - on its website - substantial evidence regarding impact that (a) discusses how the impacts of projects or programs were evaluated, including what information was collected and how it was collected; (b) discusses the actual impact of the evaluated projects. (Why is monitoring and evaluation so important?) We seek enough evidence to be confident that a charity changed lives for the better - not simply that it carried out its activities as intended. Different programs aim for different sorts of life change, and must be assessed on different terms. We do not hold to a single universal rule for determining what "impact" we're looking for; rather, what we look for varies by program type. (For more, see, What constitutes impact?)
  • Does the charity stand out for program selection? A charity meets this criterion if it focuses primarily on (or publishes enough financial information to make it clear that 75% of its recent funding is devoted to) what we consider "priority programs." These programs have particularly strong evidence bases, enough to lower the burden of proof on a charity running them. (Why do we look for charities implementing proven programs?) Such programs include administering vaccinations, distributing insecticide-treated nets, and treating tuberculosis, among many others. (For more, see our full list of priority programs.)

Grameen Foundation did not meet either of these criteria.

2007 grant application

We reviewed the Grameen Foundation in 2007 as part of a process to provide a grant to an organization working to increase incomes in the developing world. Read the 2007 Grameen Foundation review, which includes a charity response from the Grameen Foundation.

  • 1

    Grameen Foundation, "What We Do."

  • 2

    "Although we are independent organizations, Grameen Foundation and Grameen Bank maintain an enduring relationship." Grameen Foundation, "Grameen Heritage."

  • 3

    "We challenged ourselves to (1) play a central role in making it possible for our global network of partners to reach an additional five million poor people, especially women (2) measure the progress of clients to ensure that they are moving out of poverty, and (3) champion three innovations that advance the microfinance sector." Grameen Foundation, "Annual Report (2008-2009)," Pg 8.

  • 4

    Grameen Foundation, "Empowering the Poor."