By Alex Marino, Staff Writer
“Dreams are universal; opportunity is not”.
Poverty alleviation is a fundamental aim for global leaders operating within the Net Impact affiliated sectors (NGO’s, Social Enterprise, Non-Profits), and a key aim of the Millennium Development and Sustainable Development Goals. However, throwing money at situations without proper screening and/or direction fails time and time again to create real sustainability.
Alternatively, promoting projects that target local business development is a great way to create a business environment that facilitates economic growth and accessibility through employment and social networking opportunities. When people are aligned and unified together under a common and culturally-oriented goal they own their success, and are more likely to use that success to create shared value opportunities within their individual communities.
In the developing world, access to capital is the most difficult obstacle preventing local entrepreneurs and small-medium enterprises from sustaining or growing their business ventures. Unfortunately, lending options such as Microfinance Institutions (MFI’s) and large government backed financial aid such as structural adjustment loans tend to be expensive due to high interest rates, inflation, and currency fluctuations, but capital management is as much a problem for these local businesses as access to capital. All things considered, a unique crowdfunding portal known as KIVA.org emerged in 2005 as an international non-profit with a vision to create “a world where all people hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others”.
What is KIVA and why should you care?
Kiva is an online loan portal available globally that promotes a “partnership of mutual dignity” as “loans aren’t just about money, they’re a way to create connection and relationships”. So let’s look at how the journey from a borrower to a lender takes place: First a borrower applies for a loan through Kiva; next the loan goes through an underwriting and approval process; then the loan is posted to Kiva for lenders to support through a fundraising period in which loans are provided in increments of $25 or more; finally, after the total requested amount is raised, 100% of funds are disbursed to either the field partner facilitating the loan request or directly to the borrower.
Field partners are local organizations that take on the responsibility to screen borrowers and facilitate loans to individual projects, and even though Kiva loans require no interest rate fees; field partners have the option to charge a service fee or interest rate to local borrowers. Typically, field partners are MFI’s, schools, NGO’s, or Social Enterprises that have an interest in facilitating local development by providing access to interest free capital sources. Additionally, Kiva staff member Kendra Thorogood acknowledges that, “it supports clients who were rejected by other lending institutions”.
Now, before we jump to putting our money anywhere, we need statistics to back up these selling points. Kiva currently has 1.5 million lenders funding 2.1 million borrowers, operates in 82 countries, 81% of which are woman borrowers, $914.4 million lent, and a staggering 97.4% repayment rate. With a mission to “lend to alleviate poverty”, it’s clear that Kiva is a great portal to target individuals anywhere in the world, and equally beneficial for borrowers to tell their story on a global crowdfunding platform.
The best part is that you get to choose the story that inspires you to contribute, and with a highly efficient repayment rate, the money you contribute can be recycled to new projects continuously after the repayment period from any specific project. If you’re reading this article, you’re likely already interested in finding a venue to contribute to sustainable change in the world, and finding the right venue and inspirational story is a great first step to making a contribution. Remember, providing access to capital changes people’s lives and grows opportunities, but more importantly you make psychological connections and interpersonal relationships with people waiting for their chance to succeed and realize their dreams. Kiva borrower Martin said, “Lenders become my friends, my spiritual cheerleaders.” The world is waiting for global leaders to take action, and you can see their stories on kiva.org.
I’ve selected a few stories that inspired me below for you to view, and attached the web link to each:
https://www.kiva.org/lend/1133661 (Fatima’s Page)
https://www.kiva.org/lend/1151510 (Florence’s Page)
https://www.kiva.org/lend/1146395 (Bella’s Page)
https://www.kiva.org/lend/1152356 (Mujeres Emprendedores Group)