Whole Foods has Fundraising Hustle. Who Knew?

Whole Foods is good at solving first-world food problems, like where to find vegan baked goods or organic artichokes. But it turns out the trendy grocer may also prove adept at helping solve a key developing world problem—namely, access to capital for small merchants and farmers.

The company's Whole Planet Foundation recently pulled in $1.1 million through fundraising that is earmarked for its microfinance program.

Whole Planet’s microfinance program isn’t on the scale of say, Grameen, but with nearly $62.5 million in microfinance programs in 61 countries is no trifling matter either. The foundation managed to sweet talk its way into gathering $1.1 million in donations from just 19 companies—including Whole Foods Market, naturally.

Four donor partners wrote $100,000 checks to the foundation, which includes Papyrus-Recycled Greetings which is the first company to become a $100,000 funding partner of the foundation. Sixteen companies including Naked Coconut Water, Rishi Tea, and Seventh Generation were $50,000 donor partners, all adding up to a sizable $1.1 million in donations received.

Whole Planet’s microfinance program provides grants for MFIs in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East. The foundation has committed nearly $62.5 million in funds to over 4.4 million people (nearly 90 percent are women), in 61 countries. As with a good number of microfinance programs, the repayment rates on these microloans is around 97 percent.

The Whole Planet Foundation isn’t huge by any means. Reporting a little under $11 million in assets and typically awards around $9 million in microfinance grants annually. Grants range wildly from a low of $1,300 to a high of $500,000 but most tend to land somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000. It does look as though Whole Planet may reserve its larger grants for bigger organizations like BRAC, Grameen, Aga Khan and One Acre, but smaller organizations aren’t left completely out of the picture.

Finally, the Whole Planet Foundation does concentrate its microfinance efforts in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East, it does pay a little of attention to microfinance programs in the US. In the recent past, the foundation awarded grants to microloan programs in Nebraska, California, Indiana, and Puerto Rico.