I’ve always thought “trickle-down economics” was a nice idea, albeit an unlikely one.

Apparently Glen and Mildred Robbins Leet agreed with me.


The Leets were “frustrated that huge sums of money allocated to top levels of society never reached the world’s poorest,” according to the website for Trickle Up, the organization they founded in 1979.  They decided to turn the tables on the decade’s popular philosophy and founded Trickle Up in response to global poverty. 


Trickle Up works primarily with the “extreme poor” – those living on less than $1 a day and unable to get a microloan – and helps them to launch “microenterprises” (very small businesses with limited profits).


The organization currently starts or expands a startling 10,000+ businesses each year globally.

An African family sponsored by previous Trickle Up campaign. (C) Trickle Up.

An African family sponsored by previous Trickle Up campaign. (C) Trickle Up.


How Trickle Up Does It:


Step 1: The organization identifies a participant by working with local organizations active in the regions where it has a presence.  Trickle Up has more than 50 of these partners in addition to field offices throughout Asia, Central America, and East and West Africa.


Step 2: Staff help the participant create a business plan, i.e. identification of product/service, location of demand, and projected costs/profit.  Plans have been translated into 30+ languages, but the majority of participants are illiterate.  Plans that use pictures to illustrate business concepts were designed to cater to those participants. 


Step 3: The participant is also trained in business functions.


Step 4: The first half of a (roughly $100) grant is released, which covers launch costs (rental of a facility, initial supplies, etc.)


Step 5: After three months, Trickle Up assesses the business in terms of growth, potential success, and proper management.  Trickle Up staff visit and speak directly with participants.  If a business is developing successfully, the second part of the grant is released.  This allows the participant to grow his/her businesses further, and the three month lag time before the release of the second installment allows him/her to develop a sense of what purchases would be most beneficial. 


Step 6: Trickle Up sets up group savings organizations and encourages participants, who were previously “living hand-to-mouth,” to save for emergencies or future expenses.


Step 7: Staff continues to provide ongoing support to successful entrepreneurs, i.e. microcredit.



Trickle Up reports that, after the first year, about 90 percent of businesses continue functioning, while over 80 percent of them expand.



What You Can Do:

1. Donate online, by phone, or by mail.  Donations start at $5, and 78% goes directly to services.
2. Give stocks, bonds, or other assets
3. Establish a fund in someone’s honor.
4. Register a special occasion with the site, and ask for donations in lieu of gifts.




Click to read stories from actual participants.