Growing up, I always waited with some fear and trepidation for "that" gift on Christmas. I am sure you have received "that" gift at some point as well. The one sent from the well meaning relative, co-worker of your dad, or awkward neighbor. The one you can't take back and the one that you just don't know what you are actually suppose to say when you open it while the giver looks on with uncomfortable anticipation of your reaction.
This year, I asked for something from my family that, 15 years ago, I would have considered to be "that" gift.
This year I asked for gift cards to Kiva. Kiva empowers individuals to lend to an entrepreneur across the globe. By combining microfinance with the internet, Kiva is creating a global community of people connected through lending. I got started lending money on Kiva about a year ago and have been slowly but surely increasing my portfolio of loans and entrepreneurs that I have helped across the globe. It is really cool to read their stories and why they are asking for the loan they are and what their business plan is to pay it back.
The money that I have put towards these loans has now been used a couple of times. The first Chilean entrepreneur that I lent the funds to has already repaid the loan from the profits that they generated. I then reloaned those funds to a lady in Costa Rica. I also have lent money to entrepreneurs in Peru and Bolivia and I was hoping to make some loans to a couple folks in Nicaragua and Mexico this week with my Christmas presents from my family.
When I went to Kiva's website to make my latest rounds of loans, I was greeted by an amazing screen: they have helped EVERY SINGLE PERSON that has asked for help through their field teams. There is not currently anyone who doesn't have their request for a loan satisfied. The Kiva community has fulfilled 100% of the loans that have been asked for and their is now a waiting list of folks willing to lend more money as soon as entrepreneurs ask for it.
Can you imagine if a traditional non-profit put that up on their website? "Sorry, we can't accept any more donations, we've helped everyone that we possibly can." It just wouldn't happen because of the unsustainable donor model that they currently operate on. A model that, especially at this time of year when budgets have to be made, depends on the generosity of individuals who may or may not still be in the position to be generous based on this year's bonus check. But, because the funds that are lent through Kiva are repaid at an incredible 98.8% repayment rate, those funds stay in the Kiva community and are made available again to help more people.
This is the future of sustainable social change. This is a way that you can be a part of the big $183,585,975.00 worldwide community that Kiva has created over the past 6 years. If you haven't ever made a micro-loan, check it out: http://www.kiva.org/
1/3/2011 - UPDATE: Kiva and their field partners have added almost a thousand entrepreneurs to their site since I first wrote this post. I was finally able to share "that" gift this morning with people in Chile, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
Check out my Lender Page to see where I am investing: http://www.kiva.org/lender/andyellwood