Kiva.org is dedicated to changing the world $25 at a time, by letting us put our money where our heart is and take part in making microloans to entrepreneurs around the world. It’s micro-philanthropy at work.
Kiva merges technology and microfinance.
In 2003 Matt Flannery was an engineer at TiVo and his wife-to-be Jessica was working at the Stanford Business School, where she became inspired with microfinance as a way to support people in growing out of poverty.
After traveling to Africa to get first-hand understanding of the challenges of microloans, together they created a website that lets people like you and me lend money, in increments of just $25, through local field partners to entrepreneurs and small businesses in developing countries around the globe.
Since 2005, Kiva has made $282 million in loans through 147 field partners in 61 different countries. That is a lot of bite-sized philanthropy at work.
Shopkeepers, tailors, used clothing dealers, collectives of women making handcrafts to sell, a villager selling plastic buckets for gathering water… these are the most basic of entrepreneurs, and what they can gain from their small loans will help them improve life for their family and their neighbors.
Local field partners manage the qualification and lending process, and offer business planning and support to help guide the borrowers to success.
My loans with Kiva.
It was 2007 when a friend told me about Kiva. I visited the Kiva.org and browsed profiles of people whose loans were being funded; I decided to make four loans, for a total of just $100.
Loan 1 – Inventory for shopkeeper in the north of Sierra Leone
My first loan went to a father of ten in a country with an annual average income of only $903. He is a subsistence farmer who also runs a small general store, which is actually just a rickety shelf on the wall, laden with flashlights, combs, snacks, and cigarettes. I chose him because someone close to my heart came from the same area of Sierra Leone. He had been approved for $350 so he could buy more inventory for his store.
Loan 2 – Expansion into clothing for a shopkeeper in Azerbaijan
Next was a loan to a woman from Azerbaijan whose tidy shop carried painted dishware, teapots and boom boxes, and who wanted to expand into selling clothing, too. She was exactly my age, and I liked her smile, and after looking Azerbaijan up on the map, I put $25 toward her loan of $1200.
Loan 3 – Pots and utensils for a Cambodian fish seller.
My third loan went to a Cambodian woman who sells fried fish, rice and pickles. In her photo, she’s wearing a colorful sarong, and is squatting next to a wood fire in the dirt next to her house. She was borrowing $800 to buy new utensils for her shop, and tools for her husband. Together, they earned $6 a day, and they dreamed of one day having a restaurant.
Loan 4 – Flower shop expansion in Cambodia.
Fourth was another Cambodian entrepreneur, earning $3 a day in her small flower shop, and married to driver for a tourist company who earns $7 a day. Her $500 loan was to purchase more flowers for her shop, and her hope was to buy bicycles for her two children.
The joy of supporting entrepreneurs.
When I made those four loans, I think I called ten people and told them about it.
The process was like traveling to the corners of the globe, and stepping into the reality of people whose lives are so different from mine. I felt connected to them, and to all of the enterprising entrepreneurs whose loans were open for my investment
99% repayment rate.
In the years since, I’ve lent a total of $825 (mostly those same $25 investments being repaid and reloaned), and been part of funding loans for 33 people, and a few collectives in 14 countries including Mongolia, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Mexico and Peru.
Here’s the best part: every single one of my loans was, or is being, repaid on schedule, in full. The default on the 33 loans I’ve made is zero, and across the many millions invested to date, 99% of loans have been repaid.