For his 35th birthday, famed lifestyle expert Tim Ferriss does not want cars, clothes, or gadgets. He wants you to donate money to Vittana.org, although he will accept homemade brownies as well.
Ferriss is all about impact. His #1 New York Times Bestselling books “The 4-Hour Workweek” and “The 4-Hour Body” deal with achieving maximum results in the most efficient way possible. In 2010, he channeled this ethos towards fundraising for charitable organizations by initiating his Give-Back Birthday campaign.
This year he chose Vittana as his cause of choice, a non-profit startup that raises micro loans for students through crowdfunding. The deadline is tonight at 11:59 pm PST, and Ferris will match every dollar given up to $60K. At the time of publishing, the total was at $94,822. Just over $5,000 to go.
Vittana gives loans to students in developing countries who are seeking to further their education. The emphasis is on one additional year of training that provides specific skills and trade development.
“The difference between basic literacy and being able to put in an IV needle, write a couple of lines of HTML, weld a metal joint, or speak English is profound,” said CEO Kushal Chakrabarti. “It’s a shift from farming in a cassava field to standing in front of a classroom filled with students. I can’t overstate the incredible economic and emotional transformation that occurs.”
On average, Vittana students see a 3x increase in income and have a 99% success rate paying back their loans. It achieves significant results with a small amount of time and money- the Tim Ferriss way.
Ferriss joined Vittana as an advisor last month after meeting Chakrabarti at an event. After hearing about the organization’s ability to turn a micro loan into a lifetime of benefit, he hopped on board and brought over 700 of his followers with him.
Chakrabati was formerly a software engineer for Amazon.com and described Vittana as a non-profit that “thinks like a tech company”. He tapped into Silicon Valley’s resources while fundraising and received money from Google and a team of angel investors.
With these investments, Vittana has grown to 22 programs in 12 countries and has sponsored over 4,000 students. The average loan is between $25 and $50, and users can search by multiple parameters depending on their interests. Some donors may only be interested in funding women, while others may focus on a particular country. Chakrabati chooses to funnel his loans towards aspiring teachers and programmers.
“The story you hear over and over again from parents is that they work so hard so their kids have a better chance at life,” Chakrabati said. “$4 of additional income a day, 365 days a year, for the remaining 40 working years of life is powerful.”
Chakrabati estimates that the $100,000 raised through the Give-Back Birthday will lead to $12 million in total impact.