Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The neatest thing I've seen all year.

Thanks to a sidebar link on Belladonna's blog, I have found the greatest thing. Probably many of you have already heard about it, but for those of you who haven't...

It's a microcredit website called Kiva.org. I first learned about microcredit almost ten years ago when Mohammed Yunus came to my college campus and several departments went hogwild trying to help further awareness of his movement and measure its effects on poverty. My mother discovered a local woman who runs a small microcredit business, and I have periodically given donations to her to help provide loans to women entrepreneurs in Third World countries who want to purchase pigs and goats to further their home meat and dairy businesses. It's a great feeling to give to something like that, but it seems to me that there are a few things that make Kiva new and exciting in the world of microcredit: 1) lenders are allowed to read about those who are requesting loans, see photos of their farms and businesses, and based on that information choose which specific applicants they would like to help fund; 2) there is no "middle man" whom you have to trust to not misuse your money -- 100% of your money goes to the entrepreneur and as soon as the whole loan is repaid, every lender who contributed to the loan is repaid in full (though lenders earn no interest); 3) periodic updates are given while the loan is still in repayment, providing the excitement of seeing exactly how your financial aid is improving the life of a specific person; 4) the loan repayment rate is currently 100% (the average percentage for other microcredit programs is 97%).

In past years there have been other programs such as "Adopt a Child" that have tried to personalize giving in order to make it more meaningful for the giver, but according to the Kiva website, such programs were expensive to operate and so the money donated was not efficiently used to help those in need. Kiva's overhead costs are currently paid by optional lender donations and by Silicon Valley business, so every penny of your loan goes directly to the person in need. I was also interested to read about how their local loan administrators are chosen and how the responsiblity of potential loan recipients is determined.

According to their website, stories about Kiva have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and on NPR, the BBC, PBS, and CNN. I think it's a remarkable movement because it both works with human nature (the desire to not only do good, but see the results of that good) and is incredibly efficient. And it's open to anyone with a PayPal account. In fact, Kiva.org is the first business for which PayPal has waived their processing fees. It's a great cause, and you can give in increments as small as $25. So if you have a Christmas bonus coming this week, I recommend at least visiting the site. It's really exciting!!! <--- (not one of those exclamation marks is gratuitous)

2 comments:

Dad/Carvel said...

When Carole was writing to Mary Belshaw to thank her for donating money in our name to UNICEF, she asked me to dictate a couple of sentences about kiva.org, which I happily did.
Like you, I feel that kiva.org far surpasses all other microfinance organizations of which I've heard.

Dad/Carvel said...

Furthermore, your beloved brother Steven is, as you may know, very enthused about using kiva.org as the vehicle for his Special Education class' microfinance donation project, because of the superior information about the identity of the borrower, and the feedback (progress reports) later.