Wells Fargo Employee Volunteers with Grameen America

Fri, 2013-08-09 17:51
This article was originally posted on Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust website on July 25, 2013. Megan Blanchard is a Client Account Manager (CAM) at Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust (IRT) who received a Volunteer Leave of Absence to work with Grameen America. The Volunteer Leave program lets eligible Wells Fargo team members apply for and take a fully paid leave to work on a project of significant impact at a nonprofit organization or school. Lending a small amount to fund entrepreneurial dreams is the goal for Grameen America. It was a goal advanced through Megan Blanchard’s two-month leave, working with the organization to help expand awareness and capabilities for its newly opened Charlotte, N.C., office. Megan, IRT Client Account Manager (CAM) for the Advisor/Emerging Market segment in Charlotte, has been passionate about helping people secure microloans since her days as a student at Davidson College. While on a summer trip to Honduras, Megan saw the need for an $800 microloan to fund a chicken cooperative that a group of women in the community wanted to start. The money went to a community center project instead, but the unfilled loan request continued to bother Megan once the trip was over. “I couldn’t believe that the organization couldn’t find $800 out of the budget,” she said. “It’s such a small sum. I came home and looked into this concept of tiny lending and found out about Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh, the founder of Grameen. I read his literature and have since followed his career. Later, as I was looking into some corporate social responsibility positions here at Wells Fargo, I ran across a story about Wells Fargo being a strong supporter of Grameen.” It’s an opportunity that affected Megan’s extended team, covering for her while she was out. “It’s not just one person supporting you,” she said. “Your whole team has to collaborate to support you. As soon as I told my manager and then my team they were all on board and excited for the opportunity.”
Megan Blanchard speaks with Grameen America supporters at an event in Charlotte.

Four projects During her leave, Megan focused on four projects to help boost awareness and build connections for the Charlotte office of Grameen America. 1. Resource guide: This major project involved connecting with different organizations and business to compile a listing of services (legal, financial, etc.) that were either free or low-cost for individuals living in the Charlotte area. “I found the most effective way to work on this was to partner with other organizations,” Megan said. “I use their information and resources as a starting point for this task. This was my longest task, something I could pick up and put down as needed.” 2. Community development in partnership with Whole Foods: Last month, Whole Foods announced support for Grameen America through its Whole Planet Foundation. Megan met with leaders in the Whole Foods grocery store in Charlotte to develop some events for building fundraising and awareness. Future plans are to incorporate Grameen borrowers in these events to tell their stories about how microloans benefitted them. 3. Event planning: The CEO of Grameen America visited the Charlotte branch during Megan’s leave. In preparation for that visit, she coordinated all the planning needed for three related events. Corporate and individual donors as well as local foundations and community leaders were invited to come and learn more about the organization through these activities. 4. Wells Fargo banking mediator: Megan explained that Wells Fargo banking stores in Charlotte partner with Grameen borrowers. Each borrower sets up a savings account with Wells Fargo as part of the microlending process. She checked in with bankers, Grameen staff and borrowers on a periodic basis to make sure the account opening process was running smoothly. Since returning to her IRT role, Megan has reflected on how her projects during her leave intersected with and enhanced her role as a CAM. “I’ve said on a number of occasions to co-workers that the leave brings perspective on what I love about my job, which is relationship management and working one-on-one with clients,” she said. “At Grameen America, I got to interact with a variety of clients at different levels from the CEO to other volunteers and borrowers.” Megan also said that the multiple projects managed during her volunteer leave was good training ground for learning how to be even more efficient and manage time effectively.

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