Pandemic Good Ideas update, March 26, 2020

I’m going to temporarily put the longer-term Wise Economy-type ruminations on hold to share more immediate information.  As some of you know, I am now managing communications for the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), which is stepping quickly into a lead role in the movement to strengthen local economies by building strong independent businesses and communities.  This movement embodies a lot of the issues of local economy resilience, inclusive entrepreneurship, community innovation and more — issues that form the centerpiece of The Local Economy Revolution and the update that I am continuing to work on.  So I was particularly delighted to be able to help accelerate AMIBA’s work.

As part of leaning back into this kind of role, I’ve started doing daily Facebook Live videos with informal updates and what I’m calling Good Ideas — one or two practical tools or strategies that people can start putting to work in their communities right now.   You don’t need Facebook to watch these videos – they’re available through any browser.

I put links to items I reference in the comments after the video posts, but I’m also going to start unpacking them here a little bit.  Most of the time, I write better than I talk.  So if something sounds garbled in the video, you can check here.

TodayI talked about new Kiva and GoFundMe initiatives that some businesses and nonprofits may want to start taking advantage of now.  I know that the news has been almost entirely about the US federal stimulus package that is moving through the approval process now.  As I pointed out in the video, there’s a lot of questions and possibly-inaccurate information floating around now, in part because the proposals were changing so much just a couple of days ago.  I think it’s important right now to take a breather and wait for the dust to clear a bit.  Even if it passes tomorrow as House leadership intends (at least one representative is threatening to gum that up), it will be a few days before we get clear instructions at best.

One very important thing to be aware of, though, is that the programs coming through that bill and the sources that have already been approved is that they’re not a magic bullet — they’re not going to work for every business, and it’s possible that using them wrong could hurt some independent businesses even more.

The biggest concern is that all of the support available for small businesses now appears to be in the form of a loan.  But if a business does not have a credit history, or has not been around long enough, or the owner has had credit challenges (very common among entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds), then these programs aren’t going to help.  And as anyone who has taken out a loan knows…. you have to pay the thing back at some point. And for independent business owners, that usually requires a personal guarantee.  Which means that if your business still fails in this rough environment, your house or other property may be at risk as well.

This is why I chose to emphasize Kiva’s expanded US program and the business and nonprofit platforms available through GoFundMe, even though the GoFundMe/Quickbooks partnership is still uncomfortably short on details at the moment (of course, a lot of things are right now).

Kiva’s platform is a good avenue for businesses that have strong local followings and are trusted by their communities.  As they have for years, Kiva doesn’t ask for any credit history, but they determine whether you are trustworthy by whether you are able to get people within your personal or business network to put up a small amount of money as part of your raise.  You go to your personal network first, and if that is successful you can raise the balance of the funds from the entire Kiva network.  That’s not always easy, and it can be uncomfortable, but it’s also a strategy that allows businesses to leverage their social capital even when they don’t look good to a bank or the SBA.  Also, the loans are 0% interest, which is a savings over the federal loans, which look like they will be in the two to four percent interest range.  Not much, but 0% is definitely less.

GoFundMewas interesting to me personally less because of the Quickbooks small business announcement (like I said, that’s still super short on details) but because GoFundMe also has a charitable fundraise platform.  GoFundMe Charity is the same basic idea as GoFundMe, but it enables monthly donations, embedded buttons and more robust analytics.  I don’t live and breathe the nonprofit world, but I do touch it pretty regularly, and this was news to me.  So hopefully it’s a Good Idea for some of you.

I’m not going to close these by telling you to wash your hands (Please, God, tell me that they understand that by now!).  But what I am going to tell you is that the work you are doing on behalf of the community you care about…it’s always been important.  It’s super important now.  And not just for now, but for how we see and think about and support and take care of our local communities, now and into the future.

So go get em.  You rock.  And stay well.


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