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Monday, February 23, 2015


Amanda Conklin | VP of Credit

As seniors Greg Florio and Kristina Flathers have observed in previous JIFFI blog posts, our organization has come a long way in a short period of time. As a sophomore, I missed the founding period of JIFFI, but have still been lucky to learn from and work with some of the nine members who began the initiative. This upcoming year, however, marks a turning point. As Jake Bebar, our current CEO, noted to some of us after a meeting last week, 2015-16 will be the first year in which JIFFI will be led by students who were not part of the organization’s start. While at first glance that statement is a bit daunting, it also marks an extremely exciting transition.
In a short period of time, JIFFI has grown from an idea to a completely student led 501(c)3 nonprofit organization independent of the University of Notre Dame. I am proud to be a part of this organization, and am even more proud that JIFFI is sustainable enough to continue in full force next year even after the remaining founding members have graduated. Under the leadership of Jack Markwalter as CEO, we hope to continue to grow the organization to interact with even more people in the South Bend community. Jack has already begun emphasizing expanding our client base and placing an increased focus on our impact in the community. The future of JIFFI looks bright, and I am confident that we will continue to strengthen the organization.

The next few months will be a marked transition in JIFFI’s story. The seniors we are losing have had an incredible impact on our organization and have made it all that it is today. I am confident that their leadership and lessons will continue with JIFFI even after they graduate, and that we will be able to apply the lessons they have taught us as we move forward and continue to grow.

*To read Greg's and Kristina's previous posts reflecting on JIFFI: 
Starting off right by Greg Florio
Let's see how far we've come by Kristina Flathers

Amanda is a sophomore from Huntington, New York studying International Economics and Poverty Studies. Aside from JIFFI, Amanda spends her time working with Building Tomorrow and Unleashed Impact Investing clubs, as well as the Triathlon club.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Devon Roura | Associate of Devlopment

As I enter my second semester with JIFFI, I cannot help but reflect on what an incredible journey it has been. I started as an Associate of the Development Division, which seemed incredibly daunting at first. As a member of this division, I was tasked with helping to raise money to keep JIFFI running smoothly. Despite my initial worry, I could not imagine myself anywhere else. We have an incredible team that has been hard at work since the beginning of the year. This semester, we are kicking off our biggest venture yet: our annual crowd funding campaign. After comparing several crowd funding websites, we decided to stick to Indiegogo, the platform we used for last year’s campaign. 

This year’s campaign, which we affectionately call JIFFIgogo, seeks to raise $7500. As I am writing this post, we have raised nearly 15 percent of our goal! There is, however, still plenty to go—which is why we need your help. We are encouraging members of the community to reach out to their personal networks to help raise awareness for our campaign. Any contribution helps us alleviate the pain of predatory payday lending in the South Bend community. Not to mention that there are also a series of perks, including a football signed by Brian Kelly and a biography signed by Fr. Hesburgh, that you can receive as a thank you for your donation. 

If you would like to contribute to this year’s campaign, visit our page here. Thank you for your support!

Devon is a sophomore from Miami, Florida studying Finance and Economics at the University of Notre Dame. Aside from JIFFI, Devon is a part of the Consulting Division in the Student International Business Council and does graphic design work for the Notre Dame Gender Relations Center.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Good and the Bad

Victoria Velasquez | Community Relations Associate
The interactions that I have had with JIFFI clients have been overwhelmingly pleasant and humbling. I have met hardworking people who are determined to alter their financial situation with the help of JIFFI. Unfortunately, not all interactions have been this way. Reflecting back upon a relationship that I developed with a potential client, I can now look at it as a learning experience. 

At the time, however, I was not able to see it as such. Upon having the Initial Client Contact meeting, I concluded that our client would be a great candidate for a loan because of her high discretionary income. The credit team did not agree after further analyzing her outstanding debts, and we were unable to extend a loan offer to the client. Our goal at JIFFI is to end cyclical poverty in South Bend, and sometimes we are unable to give loans to clients because them taking on an additional debt would not be in their best interest.

Most clients understand that we are doing everything we can to best serve them, and they do not let their loan decline set them back. They continue to work hard and act financially responsible, and some even return to JIFFI in the future to try applying for a loan again. This client was not at all happy about our decision to not offer her a loan, and she proceeded to insult my partner and me for our lack of knowledge about micro finance. It was a tough experience for me to endure, but it motivated me dedicate more time to my role as an associate in Community Relations. Hopefully our division can continue to strengthen our relationships with community organizations so that we can serve more clients and eliminate any more similarly negative experiences such as this one.

Victoria is a sophomore from Moorpark, California studying Management Consulting and Political Science. Aside from JIFFI, she is a student recruitment coordinator through the Office of Admissions, working to recruit minority, first generation, and low income students to come to Notre Dame. She also teaches English as a New Language classes to immigrant adults in the South Bend community, volunteers on a congressional campaign for Joe Bock, and enjoys running around the lakes or getting an iced coffee at Starbucks with her friends.

Monday, February 2, 2015

To Bangladesh and Back

Vince Vangaever | Associate of Financial Empowerment
This October break I had the opportunity to travel to Bangladesh alongside JIFFI’s Internal Consultant, Agustin Garcia, to research the work of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Grameen Bank. Grameen for those of you, who don’t know, is the world’s first microcredit organization. Mohammed Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist who didn’t understand why banks refused to loan money to the poor, founded Grameen in 1983.

He began to distribute loans of less than $100 US dollars to poor Bangladeshis so that they could start their own businesses, and effectively build their way out of poverty. The bank not only alleviated poverty, but also improved gender relations by offering 50 percent of its loans to women, an idea considered offensive to many Bangladeshis at the time. Yunus’ work revolutionized international development and today Grameen provides loans to millions of Bangladeshis annually—97 percent of them being women.

Agustin and I were lucky enough to receive a Grant through the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE) at Notre Dame that empowered us to make the very long journey over such a short period of time.

We left Chicago late Saturday night, taking off just after the third quarter of the dreaded FSU vs Notre Dame game, and landed more than 20 hours later in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. When in the country we spent two days at Grameen’s international headquarters and three days at one of their regional field offices. We were both exposed to previously unseen levels of poverty, with a majority of the borrowers that we spoke to unable to read, write or do basic math.

When we actually met with borrowers, it was clear Grameen’s loans were clearly changing lives for the better. The difference in levels of education and income between those new to Grameen and the older members was astonishing. A loan officer working in the regional field office told us that in five years, 65 percent of all Grameen members break the poverty threshold and that as borrowers stay even longer their quality of life increases significantly.

The visit showed us the power that microfinance can have on the poor, improving people’s lives and positively contributing to their families futures. We were lucky enough to meet a young woman during our visit to the village who was the first of her family to be attending a university the following fall; she spoke of how thankful she was to Grameen, for without the organization, this longtime dream of hers would not be possible.

While we only spent a total of seven days in Bangladesh, we learned an enormous amount that we have since brought back to Notre Dame.
JIFFI is an organization that assists similarly disadvantaged people to escape the evils of poverty much like Grameen, and for that reason I am proud to be a part of it. My trip to Bangladesh only strengthened my resolve to continue to work to make JIFFI a source for those in South Bend in need, providing them with the necessary capital to improve their lives.

Vince is a sophomore studying Finance and Political Science. Aside from JIFFI, Vince is a tutor at the Robinson Community Learning Center, plays on the Notre Dame Club Squash team, and is a member of the Impact Investing Club. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Starting off right

Greg Florio | Senior Associate of Accounting
In my opinion, one of JIFFI’s best practices is our All-Staff Meetings. It is a time where everyone from every division in JIFFI gets together during the week in order to discuss important matters that have happened since our last meeting, but most importantly, (and thus our main focus) we look ahead to the future. This includes future events for JIFFI, be it fundraising or conferences, as well as deadlines coming up. Our kickoff meeting for 2015, however, started off slightly different. Firstly, the meeting was held in JIFFI’s office in downtown South Bend, giving a lot of the newer hires the opportunity to see our office space for the first time. Also, the content of the meeting was different than what we usually do—something that I thought was a great way to start off the upcoming year.  
For me, both of these changes were very welcomed. Getting acquainted and comfortable with our office space is very important, in my opinion, as we try and make sure that JIFFI members are prepared when they meet with their clients in the office. The familiarity with their surrounding can only help things go smoothly when they meet with a client for the first time, and can ensure they are focused in dealing with their client. However, I think the best part of this first meeting was the change in content. Instead of looking ahead to a slate of deadlines and future endeavors, we took some time for everyone to reflect on JIFFI. We went around the room, and one by one we said what we thought JIFFI did well and how we think JIFFI could improve. Everyone really did a great job with this exercise, and JIFFI has already made changes in order to improve on what it seems were the most commented on matters. This meeting was an ideal event for JIFFI, as we were able to look back on our past and use what we have learned to take steps to help make 2015 JIFFI’s best year yet.

Greg is a senior studying Finance. Aside from JIFFI, Greg is involved in SIBC and Interhall sports and enjoys playing pick-up sports with his friends.