Forget Flowers -- Here's the Best V-Day Gift You Can Give

OK, I'm not normally in favor of commercial holidays like Valentine's Day, especially considering the environmental impacts and the impacts on water resources from the cut flower industry, but I can't pass up an opportunity to urge people to think differently when it comes to giving. And, when times are tough economically at home and across the globe, we should be hoping our dollar makes the biggest splash it can.


Here's how.

This Valentine's Day, MicroPlace, a website that enables everyday people to make investments in the world's working poor, is offering a different way for people to demonstrate their love on Valentine's Day through Invest With Your Heart, a program where people can make investments in honor of loved ones for as little as $20.

Anyone can log onto MicroPlace and invest as little as $20 "in honor of" a loved one. The honoree will receive a specially wrapped box of fair trade chocolate hearts from Divine Chocolate -- co-owned by a fair trade farming co-op of microfinance borrowers in Ghana -- along with a personalized gift card highlighting the impact of microfinance.

Because MicroPlace investors can reinvest their dollars over and over again, they can help an exponential number of the working poor lift themselves from poverty. Worldwide there are 100 million hardworking poor entrepreneurs who have benefited from microfinance while nearly 1 billion could benefit if given the opportunity. Invest With Your Heart aims to meet this need with the power of love.

Nothing says I love you like helping the working poor right?

If you're familiar with the idea of microfinance already, then I'm sure you get how huge this project can be. If not, here's the quick run down. MicroPlace, launched in 2007, was the first website to help people get involved in the amazing concept of microfinance -- giving small investments to people (or micro-loans) to help lift people out of poverty. To so many of the world's poor who live on a dollar a day, it is impossible to save money to start a business, grow more food, get the education needed to improve their circumstances, etc. But with small investments, you can change the life of a family and a community.

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