The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Thursday December 11, 2014 | Filed under: Community

Considering the whopping success of the ALS ice-bucket challenge, it’s clear online fundraising is here to stay. If you haven’t already, I urge you to also consider, an online community that helps people like you and I loan small amounts of money to entrepreneurs throughout the world.

So far, I’ve given out 199 loans, putting me in the 99th percentile of users. I’ve lent to people in 42 of 85 countries available, but mostly to business people in Pakistan, Nicaragua, Philippines, Bolivia and Peru. And 69% of my loans have been to women. You can also fund tuition and supplies for schoolchildren and people right here in the U.S.

Anyone can do this, including school kids. Most of my loans have been in the $25 range. The great thing is that all those small donations really add up. Since Kiva was founded in 2005, it’s facilitated loans of over $644 million from over a million lenders.

On Kiva’s website, you can choose a borrower by browsing their online profile, make a loan, watch as it’s repaid – and repeat as often as you like.

It’s easy to pick people whose business ideas, personal stories and photos resonate. My mom and her sister were both quilters. And for much of my young life, my mom was our family’s sole breadwinner. So when I see profiles of women like Gladys, a crafter from Colombia (where the average monthly salary is about $475) and Zainab, an embroiderer from Jordan, I happily click and lend (plus, my mom was named Gladys!).

I can only imagine how something like Kiva could have helped the women in my family had it existed way back when. And when I consider how much thread and how many needles $25 can buy, especially in an emerging economy, it really helps put what seems like a very small gesture into much larger perspective.

Here’s the most convincing part of the equation: Kiva (which means “unity” in Swahili) boasts an astonishing repayment rate of 98.8%.

So please consider making a microloan to people living on a few bucks a day, a goodwill gesture with real legs that will help improve the overall world economy. You can watch a clever little video that follows Pedro, a farmer whose Kiva loan transforms his business, to see exactly how it works.

If you do sign up – or are already using Kiva – let me know your experiences by posting a comment here, on ASI’s Facebook page or by emailing me here. I’m also on Twitter and LinkedIn.