A strange thing has happened over the last few months. The more we track our financial progress, consider alternative forms of income, explore the pf blog community, and even consider searching for jobs that make us happier and more fulfilled, an incredible feeling has become heavier and heavier. We are so lucky to live where we live with the freedoms and opportunities we have: the ability to gain the education we want, and to seek or create value that in turn creates wealth for ourselves and our family. It is incredible. There will always be bumps in the road, but we know that we will always have the ability to move forward and work towards our goals. Now that we are inching closer to our own degree of financial freedom we feel the need to help those that may not have the same level of opportunity.
In the past I would donate old clothes to the local drop box or to the battered woman’s shelter where my grandparents volunteer, and I’d usually give my spare change to the Salvation Army; Things have changed now, we want to give a lot more, and not just give to satisfy an immediate need – we want to give someone the ability to realize a goal of creating wealth and to make progress in an enterprise no matter how large the adversity.
We were looking for a way to help entrepreneurs and decided to check out Prosper.com. We searched through the listings for about 3 weeks and just didn’t get the good vibes we were hoping for. It seemed that most people on the site were basically looking for personal loans or a debt consolidation loan. Debt consolidation is a great idea, but we didn’t get a great feeling helping to pay off someones Samsung 52-Inch 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV by basically giving them cash advances. I know I am being a little harsh here and yes, some people were simply down on their luck due to no fault of their own, and yes, some people were looking for capital to get a business idea off the ground, but micro-finance (or peer to peer lending) is only one of many available debt options here in the United States, and as we have recently seen, you can borrow oodles of cash regardless of your ability to repay, no questions asked.
Then we remembered Kiva.org. Back in March Ry’s mom and sister signed up for Kiva and sent us a link email. We didn’t do anything about it then, but based on their recommendation, the fact that several other bloggers have been using the site, and our changed outlook, we decided to take give it a try.
Kiva and Prosper have completely different feels, and with Kiva it’s obvious that these people honestly don’t have the same abundance of opportunities that we have here. Many are simply trying to improve their lives a little at a time. Instead of finding people who need a down payment on a new car, we found people who want to convert their home from a straw hut to an actual building, or people who want to start and build the first business in their village. We won’t be earning interest on the loans, as they are interest free, but making money was never our goal – we just want to help spread opportunity.
Kiva is set up in an interesting way; they have teamed up with many micro-finance groups all over the world who have an intimate knowledge of their local situations. These partners find an entrepreneur or family who need money for a worthy cause and contact Kiva. According to the website, these groups not only provide a way to get the funding to the people, but they also often provide training tailored to their needs. Kiva then posts about the borrower, giving a brief description of the individual or family and why they deserve the loan. If you decide to donate the money goes to the local field-partner who passes it directly to the person you wish to help. It’s a micro-financing site, so the loans are funded by many people, and you can donate as little as $25 or up to the full amount asked. Throughout the repayment time frame, the borrower gives small payments to the field partner who sends it to Kiva, who then distributes it back among the lenders.
There are partners in almost every continent, and there are thousands of borrowers looking for help. You can choose the geographic location to find entrepreneurs, or you can choose the category of loan (business, personal, health, arts, transportation, etc) you wish to supply. There are so many people who need help that it’s hard to pick just one person to support.
Fisherman seeks refrigerator
- 51 year old fisherman with three children in Azerbaijan
- 12 years of experience
- Seeks 12 month loan for $725 USD in order to purchase a refrigerator
- Has already successfully repaid two prior microloans
After researching the site we decided that Kiva was a great program and that we wanted to put some money towards it. We wanted to start off fairly small, just to see how things worked, and we decided to lend $50.
We spent a long time looking over loan applicants – reading what they wanted to do, where they were located, and the reviews of the partners that were sponsoring them. I found someone I felt really needed the money and who would be likely to make repayments over time: Kodjo Komedja, an entrepreneur in Togo who would like to improve
his dry cleaning business.
After signing up for Kiva we decided that it was something we would like to do more regularly as our ability to make a difference grows.
So from now on 25% of all ad income earned from the blog will be allocated to micro-finance lending or other charitable organizations.
Since every ad click or sponsorship addition presents us with an opportunity to achieve our goals, we want to share some of that opportunity with others.
It’s a small step, but it’s something we feel is really worth it.