KIVA - A Great Way to Give Back and You Can Try it For Free
If you are a frequent visitor to MilePoint or a frequent reader of many of the miles and points travel blogs, you have probably heard of Kiva. Until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know too much about Kiva and I am guessing many of you are in the same position. Since you currently have the opportunity to give Kiva a test run for free, I thought I should probably let you know what I have learned.
The best way to learn about Kiva is to take a look around their website at Kiva.org. I would suggest starting by reading their ABOUT page and going from there. I do realize that all of the information can be a bit overwhelming, so let me provide a brief overview. Basically, Kiva is a non-profit organization that uses a network of microfinance institutions and allows people like you and me lend money to provide opportunities for people around the world who don’t have access to traditional financing. When you choose to make a loan, 100% of the money you loan goes direct to the microfinance institutions, who provide the loans to the end borrowers.
The important thing to know about Kiva is that the money you decide to give is a loan. You can choose to donate money direct to Kiva if you want, but any money you send to borrowers is by design, going to be repaid. Obviously, as with any type of loan, there is some risk and you need to choose wisely when making a loan. Kiva borrowers do have a pretty good record though, with a 98.91% repayment rate for $293 million in loans since Kiva was founded in 2005. For more information about the risks involved with Kiva lending, take a look at their Risk and Due Diligence page.
If you are a little bit nervous about making your first loan, you are in luck. Currently, Kiva is offering you a chance to try making a loan for free. Reid Hoffman, a Kiva board member and founder of LinkedIn, has agreed to sponsor 38,000 $25 loans for first time Kiva lenders. As of the writing of this post, there are still 13,489 free loans available, so there are plenty for every one of my readers to give it a try. To make you first Kiva loan for free, go HERE and sign up. This great opportunity allows you to see first hand how the loaning and repayment process works so that you will be more comfortable and hopefully make future loans with your own money. Of course, since you did not put up the initial money for your trial loan, it will not be repaid to you, but instead to Mr. Hoffman.
When you decide to make a loan, whether through this free trial or with your own money, choosing a borrower can be quite a task. There are currently 3066 loans available to choose from on Kiva. The good news is, you are given plenty of information that will help you narrow down your choices. From region of the world to type of business, you can filter results to get down to a manageable number of loans. Then, when looking at an individual loan, you have access to detailed information about the loan, including repayment terms and loan history for the borrower. You can also see a variety of information about the Field Partner (microfinance institution) for the loan to decide if you would like to do business with them. Finally, you have a picture and brief biography about the borrower and an explanation about what the loan will be used for. It can be a lot to go through, but once you make some decisions about what type of loan you want to make, it is not too difficult to pick a borrower.
When you start loaning on Kiva, you can choose to become a member of a Lending Team. You can read more about lending teams on the Kiva Community page. The team that I am a member of and would encourage you to join as well is the MilePoint Lending Team. You can read some general information about the Team in the first post in this thread over at MilePoint, including how to join the team and make sure your loans are counting towards the MilePoint totals. Then, if you want, you can get involved with some of the discussions in the MilePoint Kiva forums.
On the all-time leader board, the MilePoint Lending Team is currently ranking 4th, but we are coming on strong. We are the leading lending group for last month and up to this point this month. If you look at the number of group members, you will see that MilePoint is nowhere close to the size of the groups that are ahead of us in all-time lending, yet we still manage to gain on them every month. As time goes on and the MilePoint Team grows, it will be amazing to see how many people we can help. It is nice to see that in addition to forming a helpful and welcoming community in the world of miles and points, MilePointers are always willing to help out those in need in countries across the globe.
Randy Petersen has also set up a MilePoint Lending Team Kiva Mutual Fund that will let you donate in three different ways. You can donate money directly to Kiva for operating expenses (this is tax deductible), to be used for Kiva Fellows, or to be put in a fund that will re-loan the money on Kiva indefinitely. After doing my trial loan on Kiva, I went ahead and donated $25 to the MilePoint Re-Loaning fund too so that my funds will have a lasting effect. If you are interested in contributing to the MilePoint Kiva Mutual Fund, you can read more about it and make your donation HERE.
From a miles and points perspective, in addition to the great feeling that you will have from helping those who are in need, making Kiva loans can help you with meeting minimum spending limits on credit cards. This should only be an option for you if you have some money that you can do without for a certain period of time. If you are struggling to pay your bills as it is, loaning money is probably not a good idea for you. But if you often find yourself buying things you might not need to meet a spend limit, perhaps next time you could take a look at Kiva instead. Not only will you most likely be getting your loaned money back in the long run, but you will be using what you have been blessed with to help other people around the world who are less fortunate. By making these loans, we can improve the quality of life for many of our borrowers and little by little, make this world a better place.
Visit Kiva.org to see what it is all about and then get started with your free trial loan. Remember, quantities of the trial loan are limited, so the best time to get involved is today. I hope to see many of you joining the MilePoint Lending Team as we try to give a little bit back to the world we love to explore.