Saturday, December 18, 2010

Kiva for Christmas!

I am reluctant to give money directly to a person in need, because I don't know whether it'll go to a good use or be wasted. I give to large, organized endeavours, but don't like the overhead and also miss the personal touch. It's a simple fact that we can do more for others if we get some personal feedback, because we're humans, not robots, and humans thrive on human contact. A third factor is that, frankly, I'm not wealthy and there's a practical limit to what I can give before I start being a charge on others.

kivaToday, my friend Al and I were talking while working at the Mercer Island Thrift Store, suggested I try KIVA, a system that manages microloans. They screen the borrowers so the money is not wasted; their overhead is very low; you can personally picked the persons or projects you wish to help; and best of all, they are loans that are almost always repaid, so you can re-use your money over and over!

I decided to give it a try, and discovered that it's as easy as buying a book on Amazon:
  • Go to
  • Pick a person or a project to whom you want to loan. For my 1st time, I just picked the topmost one, but you can scroll through hundreds of choices, sort by type of enterprise, etc.
  • Click on Loan Now. This takes you to a "Shopping Basket" similar to buying a book on Amazon.
  • When you're done picking loans to fund, you "Check out" - just like online book buying!
  • You need to setup an account on Kiva, but they're willing to use your Facebook account if you let them. What the heck!
  • Pay with a credit card or PayPal
  • Sit back and watch the loan perform on the Portfolio Tracker.
I've risked $25 on a lot sillier things, so I'm really looking forward to see how this turns out! The Portfolio Tracker turns this into not a chore but a game; instead of scoring points in a fantasy investment league, we're changing lives in a real-world microloan enterprise. What could be more fun??

How Kiva Works from Kiva Microfunds on Vimeo.

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