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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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SEG achieves non-profit status

The Student Entrepreneurs of Grinnell (SEG) recently joined the same ranks of organizations such as Amnesty and the Human Rights Watch as an official Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). Making history at Grinnell College, SEG became the first organization to receive the nationally accredited 501c(3) status in September of 2009.

SEG collects money from the entire Grinnell College community, and then distributes no-interest loans to fund various projects all over the world.
These funds are allocated to third party companies that distribute interest free loans to people abroad who have limited or no access to stable banking systems, as well as individuals Grinnellians met abroad. SEG gives out loans to projects such as the development of a farm, the installment of new technology, or to pay for an education, SEG does not impose interest fees on these loans.

As these loans are paid back, the money is reentered into SEG’s funds and in turn can be used to support others in need. SEG’s re-newable structure was the result of intense education on microfinance. “We tried to educate ourselves, we have gone into classes in the past, we have done a bit of community outreach, and have just tried to teach ourselves about microfinance.” Mark Root-Wiley ’09 said.
This degree of commitment both to one another and to their cause was of the essence to SEG as they embarked on their journey to becoming a non-profit NGO. Though a seemingly straightforward process, a single form, the road to completing the application for 501c(3) status, was a long haul.
“The form is daunting but fairly clear,” Root-Wiley said. “We had weekly subgroup meetings. There were eight if us or so who worked on this form for around six months.”
By gaining 501c(3) status, SEG will now be recognized not only by Grinnell College but also by the state of Iowa and the United States of America as a non-profit organization.

“It opens us up to other resources that other organizations have formed to assist non-profits. There is a world of non-profit support resources that this kind of gives us access to.” Root-Wiley said. For example, all donations to SEG will now be tax exempt. This will provide benefactors with a greater incentive to donate.

SEG hopes that the tax-deductable perk that comes with NGO status will help attract more donors, and connections with other organizations and individuals abroad. “I really want to see more direct partnerships, which is a struggle. But I think that it is worth it and now that we have significant backing it will be a lot easier just because we are not going through the school anymore—we are going to have our own resources,” Raderstrong said. “This is definitely something to be proud of and we hope that the campus can recognize this and that the administration can recognize this and start working with us as a partner instead of as a student group.”

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