Kiva.org and the future of philanthropy

28 07 2009

Two months ago, Bernie Michalik kindly set up a virtual card-blog for my IBM farewell, complete with a donation widget from ChipIn, raising $165 as a parting gift. After scratching our heads for a few weeks, we finally figured out how to cash that amount via PayPal (after paying quite a hefty fee).

Inspired by Jamie Alexander, of Pass It Along fame, I then decided to use the opportunity to try out Kiva.org. Kiva was recently featured at Time.com as one of “10 Great Ways To Spend Your Tax Refund”.

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

I divided the amount among 5 entrepreneurs, and you can follow the progress of those loans here.

Conventional wisdom suggests that good deeds should be kept to oneself, but the more people know about services like Kiva and MicroPlace, the better. Kiva’s success led to an unusual supply-demand situation last year: having more money available to lend than people asking for it, according to this New York Times article. But just to keep things in perspective, take a look at some of the possible shortcomings too, so that you can make a conscious decision.

In the next few years, I expect more and more institutions who depend on public donations to follow Kiva’s “data-rich, transparent lending platform” model, showing exactly what happens to your contributions throughout the whole value chain. Donations are scarce resources, and being transparent goes a long way in gaining credibility and loyalty.

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