Savings groups help rural communities grow out of poverty through their own resources. As members gain the opportunity to save their money, that money is then lent out to reinvest back into the community through small businesses, livestock, education, and other means.
Alongside that activity, however, groups also gather a social fund. These funds help unify communities to solve problems. A social fund creates the means for group members to tangibly love and serve their neighbors.
Here’s a bit of an explanation of how these work:
What is a social fund exactly?
While most group members invest their money into the group, they also have the option of contributing a little bit to the social fund. Many who are able to do with regularity. This allows a lateral fund to slowly grow and accumulate. When it is large enough, it can be disbursed to help meet the needs of community members who are going through a difficult time.
What motivates group members to contribute to the social fund?
It is an act of generosity on their part.
It’s one of the most amazing things we have the opportunity to witness and participate in. As the rural poor grow out of poverty, they don’t just have the opportunity to make their own lives better, but the lives of others as well.
So many of the people we’ve partnered with have already demonstrated generosity with the resources they have. As their resources grow, they offer others even more. Generosity is also an outcome of the spiritual components of our program. Through church partnerships, Plant With Purpose enthusiastically promotes the value of helping your neighbor.
Where does that money go?
This varies a bit from country to country, but the short answer is that these are used to cover for emergencies and immediate community needs.
In Haiti, social funds have been disbursed to help people repair their homes after receiving damage from natural disasters like 2016’s Hurricane Matthew.
In Thailand, social funds have helped hilltribes without access to citizenship rights meet various needs. Funds have been spent to assist with travel to hospitals or travel in the process of gaining citizenship. They have also been used to help community members afford weddings and funerals.
Are there any examples of this in action?
When a savings group member passed away the social fund made a big difference. As her husband grieved the loss of his wife, the social fund helped the rest of the community to gather around him with gifts and comfort.
The surviving husband described the presence of the group as nothing short of a miracle. “These are the kind of people who can come together and carry out activities in savings groups. Beyond that, they offer me such a gracious gesture of solidarity,” he expressed. He received an invitation to join the group, which he passed along to his son. He wanted him to help manage his late wife’s shares so the group could continue doing good work.
What happens when the social fund isn’t enough?
Sometimes the social fund is inadequate, or the need is too high. Certain hospital expenses, for example, may exceed the capacity of a social fund. In this scenario, groups often give interest free loans to help their members in need.
How does this reflect growth?
We believe one measure of spiritual growth is the way groups respond to the needs within their communities.
This is inspired by the Greatest Commandments in Matthew 22- to Love God with all your heart, as well as to love your neighbor as yourself.
As communities grow spiritually, savings groups and social funds provide an opportunity for them to act out their faith in practical ways.