Founded in 2005, Kiva.org is a non-profit that uses the Internet and a global network of micro-finance institutions to allow people to make loans that will help alleviate poverty and create financial independence. Loans can be as small as $25. Once a loan is made, the lender receives updates. As the loan is repaid, the money is credited to the lender's account and is ready to be used again for another loan.
Both lenders and borrowers have profiles on the Kiva.org site. Lenders learn about the people who receive their loanswho they are, where they live, their families, and their plans for using the borrowed funds. Lenders can choose among categories such as housing, "green" or transportation, can choose by country or gender, or browse profiles of borrowers individually. When many lenders contribute small loans to a single borrower, Kiva.org shows all lenders and lending groups involved in the loan. In this way, a community of lenders is created. The organization does not take a cut of the loans they manage: 100% of money goes to borrowers. Funding comes primarily through the support of lenders making optional donations. It also raises funds through grants, corporate sponsors, and foundations. Kiva gift cards make great gifts especially for young people who can learn a bit about finances while participating in a good cause.
Kiva.org has 190 "field partners" in 67 countries in which borrowers live. These field partners, which are typically banks and foundations, disburse and collect loans, and information about each is available on the website in the form of a profile. Partners help loan recipients learn to manage money, build their businesses, and receive public health education and supplies. The Kiva model works in the U.S. as well as in developing nations: In March, President Clinton helped launch Kiva City Little Rock, to make micro-loans available to small business owners in Arkansas.
President Clinton was a strong backer of Muhammad Yunus for the Nobel Prize. Yunus, the pioneer of the micro-finance movement, along with his Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. In the book, Bob Harris recalls hearing Premal Shah, founder of Kiva.org, speak about building the organization from Yunus's ideas.
Photo credit: Uncornered Market from Kiva.org
This article was originally published in April 2013, and has been updated for the
February 2014 paperback release.
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