He’s right. Log onto the Kiva site and you’re instantly looking at people. Nancy from Ecuador. Youssef from Lebanon. Claude from the U.S. Fran from Albania. Shadrack from Kenya. They’re all looking right back at you, with their wares and their stories and their partially funded loans. It can be overwhelming.
Then, scrolling through all those faces, you tap into one of them whose story resonates with you. As soon as you click the orange “Lend $25” button, you’ve become a Kiva microlender. Because these are loans rather than donations, your contributions are not tax-deductible (unless you make a donation directly to Kiva, which helps with operational costs and the like). But you can expect to be fully repaid — in monthly installments with no interest (you’re here to help, not profit) — within about a year on average, though terms vary.
Lending Through Kiva in Three Easy StepsIt takes just a few minutes to become a Kiva lender. All you’ll need: Internet access, an email address, a credit card (or PayPal account) and a spare $25. Here are the basics:
1. Go to www.kiva.org and choose a loan to fund by clicking on a featured borrower on the home page. You can also select “Browse All Loans” for more listings or to conduct a customized search.
2. Click “Lend $25” to as many borrowers as you’d like, then proceed to checkout (where you can select higher amounts and make an added optional donation to Kiva’s operational costs if you so choose). First-time Kiva users will be directed to register or sign up via Facebook. Payment can be made via credit card or from a PayPal account. All payments are processed through PayPal.
3. Get updates on your loan through the site and via email. Receive Kiva Credit (through PayPal) as the borrower repays the loan. You can choose to withdraw the repaid funds, donate them to Kiva or continue the cycle by funneling them into another Kiva loan.
“The real a-ha moment is when you get that first payment back in your email and realize you can actually [deposit] that money back to your bank account or relend it to help someone else — which is what over 90 percent of Kiva lenders do,” Shah says.
“It taps a different emotion set, lending on Kiva,” says Bob Harris, an inveterate Kiva lender and author of The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time. “You don’t get tired of it. You get excited.”
Harris — a Los Angeles–based writer, speaker, traveler and former Jeopardy! champ — has made 6,237 Kiva loans (at last tally) of $25, along with several friendships across five continents and observations while researching the impacts of Kiva’s lending at work. “I’ve met people all over the world whose lives really have changed for the better because of these loans,” he notes.
Currently, a third of Kiva loans is funded to African countries, and 70 percent of loans derive from the U.S. But as the company grows, the dynamics are shifting. In 2010, Kiva began funding loans to small-business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the U.S. who are shut out by traditional lenders and lingering credit freezes. Today, notes Shah, lenders from Nairobi have helped fund loans in New York City.
“Kiva cracked the credit door for us,” says Ana Poe, owner and founder of Paco Collars, a Northern California–based company that hand-makes dog collars and leashes and had been getting by for years without any form of credit. “I couldn’t get it from banks or even from our suppliers. And it wasn’t because I had bad credit; it was because I had no credit. That was the irony: I kept getting rejected because I wasn’t in debt.”
Three years ago, a Kiva loan proved to be the catalyst.
“It was a very small loan, which we were easily able to repay in 18 months, but it legitimized us, provided a record and made all the difference,” says Poe, who now has lines of credit with her suppliers, a storefront in Berkeley, several part-time employees and a surge of game-changing accounts.
“Sometimes you don’t need a lot of money to grow,” she says. “Just a friendly little loan to kick you up to the next level.”
Jordan Rane writes regularly for American Way, the Los Angeles Times and CNN Travel. A portion of this article’s proceeds will go toward his first set of Kiva loans.