The Gift of Microfinance
Kiva.org is a website that provides people with money with those that don’t. More specifically, Kiva has partnered with microfinance organizations around the world to offer a bridge between potential loans with those that would like to "invest" with discretionary cash. I’ll use the word “invest” lightly because Kiva has not started a program in which interest can be earned. If you are looking for a chance to make money then you will want to check out my review of Prosper. There is really not any upside to your investment with Kiva. There are chances that the loans may default. That being said, I would still consider it an investment because the “interest” earned is intrinsic. You can use some extra cash to give loans to people who don’t have access to readily available funds. A business in America can look to banks, angel investors, the show Shark Tank, family and friends, and more; however, a person in Chile, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, etc. have very limited options (and the options that are available charge an interest rate that would be illegal in the United States). There are a couple of things to point out before you look into Kiva.org:
1) The field of Microfinance is expanding rapidly throughout the world as a potential solution to poverty. Unlike in past generations people who have realistic dreams have access to money to jumpstart their small businesses and provide for their families. Microfinance is a relatively new idea so economists are still trying to figure out how to make this a self-sustainable idea. Unfortunately it is difficult to give money to people without an address or education/prior track record. In order to make it a realistic proposition, the interest rates have to be very high. This has caused some to question the microfinance business model.
2) Also, microfinance experts have identified that repayment is higher for women and when they are forced to go to group meetings. In developing countries, women don’t have many opportunities to work within the predetermined workforce, but with microfinance they have the opportunity to start businesses of their own. Secondly, it has been found that there is a higher chance of repayment if borrowers are forced to go to weekly group meetings. By the entire group buying into the loans of fellow borrowers, it makes sure that people don’t pay back or else feel shame to the entire group.
3) Kiva.org facilitates hundreds of lenders and borrowers each day. They function almost primarily on donations so they will ask you to donate while finalizing every loan (although you can choose to not give any dollar amount). Although you don’t earn any interest and there is a chance of losing your money if a loan defaults, I’ve been recycling the same dollars over and over in tens of loans each year. So the loss is relatively low and the dollars can be put in again and again without any transaction fees. There is a minimum of $25 to put toward each loan. Lastly, after you lend money Kiva. org has some great resources to see where your money is going. Within the website, Kiva provides a schedule of repayments, show a large map of all the countries that have been affected by your loans, and a profile page of each investor to see others with similar interests.
Kiva.org is an excellent source to bridge investors with people that have very little resources. If you believe in small business and giving people opportunities, then organizations like Kiva are definitely something to get on board with. It gives people a chance to invest in people. We can get caught up in the politics of poverty, but Kiva is doing something about it. You don’t need to put in hundreds of dollars right away; it can be $25 here and then $50 later. If you feel like you have the capacity and the conviction, then I highly suggest Kiva.org.