Microfinance Fund offers matching support, new model for giving

University Park, Pa. -- Two Penn State supporters are challenging other alumni and friends to join them in an innovative approach to helping students in need. Through the Microfinance Match Fund, Tom Sharbaugh, a Class of 1973 graduate, and his wife, Kristin Hayes, will provide a two-to-one match, up to a total of $100,000 in matching support, for any gifts to the fund. The fund will be used to make small, low-interest loans to undergraduates facing extraordinary and unexpected challenges in earning their degrees.

“Sometimes just a little support can allow students to overcome unexpected hardships, stay in school, and receive their diplomas,” said Sharbaugh. The Microfinance Match Fund will offer loans of $1,500 to $2,000 at interest rates below the current market. All payments, which students can defer until after graduation, will be returned to the pool of funds available for making new loans. As a result, the impact of a gift to the fund will continue to grow over time -- a model, said the Philadelphia couple, inspired by microfinance programs in the developing world.

“The success of these programs abroad inspired us to apply the same principles here in the U.S. for Penn Staters,” said Hayes. “The initial response from our fellow Penn State donors has been overwhelmingly positive, especially among recent graduates who are familiar with microfinance programs and who are anxious to start making a difference at their alma mater.”

Sharbaugh stressed that gifts at any level will earn the two-to-one match.

“We believe that the Microfinance Match Fund will demonstrate the power of grassroots giving,” he said. “Because the recipients will repay these loans with interest, every contribution will increase in value over time, and the fund will be a sustainable and sustaining resource for students over many years to come.”

The Microfinance Match Fund is a powerful example of how partnerships between supporters and the University can yield exciting new philanthropic approaches, said Rod Kirsch, senior vice president for development and alumni relations.

“The success of our current fundraising initiative, For the Future:The Campaign for Penn State Students, is being driven by the vision and enthusiasm of our donors,” said Kirsch. “We’re deeply grateful to Tom and Kristin for their commitment to our students and their personal engagement in creating a new model for higher education support.”

To learn more about the Microfinance Match Fund, please visit http://giveto.psu.edu/microfinancematch online.

Last Updated April 19, 2011