I remember hearing about microlending for the first time when I was a freshman in business school. Could a few hundred dollars, lent to somebody who wouldn’t have access to capital any other way, change that person’s life?
The idea was wildly exciting, and Kiva, the first nonprofit to begin providing microloans at scale, has grown tremendously since, lending over $1.4billion in the last fifteen years to over 1.6 million individuals who might otherwise not find the extra capital to start or grow a business.
Kiva was the first to make microlending a sustainable, international model--here are three reasons I love lending through it:
1. Kiva Focuses on Women
Whether it’s Pakistan, Sierra Leone, or El Salvador, women are often the most vulnerable in a poor society. Development initiatives have learned to focus on women because women tend to be the linchpins of their communities--when a woman finds dignified work, the whole community benefits enormously.
80% of Kiva’s loans are to women--in fact, when you give to Kiva you can make sure that your donation goes to support a microloan to a woman. Right now, for example, you can lend to Ana in El Salvador. Ana is applying for a $500 loan to purchase two coolers and a bicycle for her seafood business. She wants to help herself and her three young kids get ahead.
I might not have the entire $500 amount to give towards Ana’s loan--but I can give $10 or $15 or $25. When Ana repays her loan (Kiva has over a 97% loan repayment rate), Kiva will re-lend the profits to another woman, and another family has a chance to get ahead.
Photo by Omar Lopez
2. Kiva Allows Me to Reach the “Unbankables”
You know the saying, “it takes money to make money?” It’s true! Whether you’re selling lemonade at a lemonade stand, making jewelry, or even just selling the words you write (*waves*), you need funds for the lemons, the beads, or the wifi.
It’s relatively easy for you and me to get access to a few hundred dollars if we want to start a small entrepreneurial venture--you probably have a friend or family member who could loan you some money, you might have a credit card, or you could work a few extra shifts or spend a little less on coffee in a week.
But if you are already living below the poverty line, there’s absolutely no extra money--and you probably don’t have family members or friends with extra money. And you probably don’t have credit history because your local economy isn’t working with credit cards. You might even be considered high risk by local lenders (if there are local lenders who offer tiny loans to begin with). If you’re living in a country already reeling from economic disaster or hardship, it’s even more difficult to get ahead.
Microlending allows Kiva to directly serve those “underserved” markets--the millions of people in countries that big financial institutions normally wouldn’t touch.
The money I give through Kiva is a donation--and while the entire amount does go to fund a loan, because of the logistics involved, it probably isn’t going to the specific loan I’m reading about.
However, reading through the application descriptions is powerful for me! As an aspiring entrepreneur, myself, I’m moved at how similar my struggles are to the struggles of other women trying to create better lives for their families, even if we (literally) live oceans away from each other.
It makes me think differently about how I work and spend the money I do have--and that’s probably one of my favorite reasons for giving through Kiva.
Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.