Knoxville banker invests time and money in his Rwanda-based nonprofit

October 02, 2019 | GET MORE : Social Responsibility

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Joram Kimenyi (pictured above on left), a project analyst at U.S. Bank subsidiary Elavon, writes about what it has taken to found and sustain Tools for Hope

I invest for my children, but not just for the typical things like their first cars and college funds. Instead, I also make investments for the future success of Tools for Hope, a Rwanda-based nonprofit I founded in 2015 with Richard Trevillian, a friend from church. 

I grew up in Rwanda and have always wanted to find a way to make a positive impact on my home country. Now that I am a dad, the importance of these efforts has multiplied exponentially. Leading up to starting Tools for Hope, Richard and I had closely followed successful agricultural projects in impoverished areas in Sub-Saharan Africa. He shared my passion for helping others, and we knew we had to do something to help make an impact on families in Rwanda. We began researching ways to help people learn how to grow produce in less than ideal farming environments. This desire to make a difference quickly unfolded into the development of the nonprofit.

Funding a dream 

To get Tools for Hope off the ground, Richard and I wrote grants, gained government funding, began hosting fundraisers and covered expenses out of our own pockets. 

Having grown up surrounded by family members working in the financial industry, I knew my personal contributions to the nonprofit would stretch further if I made some sound investments. I decided to meet with a Knoxville-based financial advisor to invest in stocks. 

Our advisor helped us estimate startup costs and pointed us toward resources to help educate ourselves on our responsibilities as the day-to-day operators of the nonprofit. 

Financial planning allowed us to look ahead and make a budget before officially starting. It also helped us to start thinking about how to manage normal business tasks like bookkeeping, marketing, responding to donors and scheduling meetings with subject matter experts. 

Building a future for families in Rwanda 

Through the nonprofit, we hired an agri-business professional in Rwanda to teach farmers how to use specialized farming equipment developed to work in the Sub-Saharan Africa terrain and pesticides to save their crops as well as how to manage the business side of their operation with accounting and planning for future profitability. 

Training and assisting the farmers to become independent entrepreneurs, generating diverse sources of income through farming and selling crops has helped enhance their overall economic development. We’ve been happy to be part of this life-changing experience for the farmers and their families.

When we first started Tools for Hope, the group was made up of 15 subsistence farmers, who did not have a food security method in place or many of their basic needs met. Today, the group is a government-registered cooperative with 80 members. There are plans to expand to a total of 100 members over the next year.    

Financial planning advice for starting a nonprofit

As often as I can, I meet with financial professionals to discuss making the most out of our investments and plan for the future. Also, Richard and I partner with government officials and equipment providers to secure the necessary support and tools for the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit. 

I highly recommend meeting with a financial professional to discuss ways to achieve your goals. Working with a professional can help you make the most of the money you are investing in the nonprofit. At a minimum, it's always a great idea to have a budget and know what kind of financial support you afford to give to the cause of your choice. Also, many nonprofits will meet with you and share lessons learned to help on your journey. If you have an organization that you admire, send them an email with your questions.

A heart for helping others

Keeping Tools for Hope going strong in Rwanda while living in the U.S. is a big dream, but it is achievable. I have learned a lot about leading an organization from my managers at Elavon and have used these skills to help continue growing the nonprofit. And I have been able to use my paid U.S. Bank volunteer hours for hosting awareness events in Knoxville. I am grateful to work for a company that supports my efforts.

October in National Financial Planning Month

Whether there’s a cause you’re longing to support, building a college fund for your children is at the forefront of your mind or you’re hoping to retire oceanside, there are many options to plan ahead. U.S. Bancorp Investments offers Automated Investor, which was created to be an easy-to-use tool for investors of any level that design portfolios based on life stages and events. Current investment options include: retirement; specific goals such as major purchases or expenses; and general investing. You can talk to a financial professional about Automated Investor and other ways to start investing by calling 866.758.8655. Information is also available online and through the U.S. Bank mobile app

After developing a plan for reaching your financial goals, estate planning is another important step in ensuring your family’s long-term financial stability. This can be a difficult conversation to have with your loved ones. The Big Know has partnered with U.S. Bank to share training to help make the planning process easier for families. And as family members age, it is important to protect their financial security.

Learn more

Join U.S. Bank Wealth Management for the 30-minute Creating a Retirement Paycheck that Lasts financial planning webinar at 11:30 a.m. CT on Oct. 9.