When Alice Dittman was president of Cornhusker Bank, she often found herself wishing she could give out more loans than she did. Sometimes the business idea looked good, but the credit history wasn’t there. So in 2011, soon after she retired, she decided to start where her previous job had left off.
Dittman donated $1 million to start Alice’s Integrity Loan Fund, a microfinance program to help entrepreneurs, especially minorities and women, get their businesses started. Unlike with traditional loans, getting a loan from Alice’s Integrity starts with assessment of the moral character of the applicant. According to the official criteria, “Alice’s Integrity Loan Fund weights the criteria differently than a regular financial institution would—placing the greatest value on Character and minimizing the need for Capital. It is the fund’s intent to encourage responsible use of credit and work with borrowers who wish to honor their word and keep their reputation sound.”
Loans of up to $5,000 are given out at 3.25 percent fixed interest, for a maximum term of 36 months. If that is repaid, applications for $10,000 loans will be considered. The loans can be used only to start or expand a business. Recipients don’t just get money; they also receive mandatory training and mentoring from retired executives and the Nebraska Business Development Center. Unlike some of the more famously successful microfinance initiatives, which tended to be international, Dittman’s effort is entirely local—only residents of Lancaster County, Nebraska are eligible.
- Alice's Integrity Loan Fund, cdr-nebraska.org/site/financial-products/alices-integrity-loan-fund