Written on: July 2, 2015
It started when I received $25 from my cousins for a birthday gift. I wanted to do something special with it, but what? Buy myself something memorable? Give it away? I decided to be open and attentive to what would come my way telling me what to do with it.
What came my way was a news story on Kiva, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that connects people who have money with people who need it. And their minimum contribution was exactly what I had. So, after doing a little vetting of Kiva (it’s top rated by Charity Navigators), I went to their website to see who wanted my $25 to help make a better life.
There were hundreds of people! I made the first loan at random, but then it hit me: I’m a daughter of Marguerite D’Youville, and she started a small store after her husband died. So I looked for women who wanted loans to start or improve a general store, and that’s how Segunda Josefa in Peru (another GNSH connection—thank you to the sisters who have served there) got $25 for her general store.
Since then I’ve made eleven other loans (one went to a woman in Burkina Faso, in honor of Sr. Marie Christine, who served there in the Peace Corps), and they’ve all been fully paid back, except for my most recent loan, which is being repaid on time. I have another 27 cents to go before I have the money to make another Kiva loan.
It’s amazing to see how far my $25 has gone. It’s turned into $300 to give people around the world a leg up. If you prefer that your money remain at home, you’ll be glad to know that Kiva provides funds for U.S. entrepreneurs as well. All you need is $25 to spare (or any multiple of $25) and a credit card or a Paypal account. Go to the website www.kiva.org choose someone who’s applied for a Kiva loan, read the story, click Lend, and fill in the information. You’ll get an e-mail notification when your borrower repays anything on your loan, even as little as 27 cents.
Of course there’s a risk that you won’t get repaid, but you might think like I do: since this was a charitable gift in the first place, I’m ready to let it go if it turns out to be a bad loan. But I haven’t been disappointed yet. I’ve always been repaid on time. You can get your money back after a loan has been repaid, but I don’t know how that works. I’ve never wanted it.
Kiva also asks for an additional donation to fund their costs. Sometimes I give them one; sometimes I don’t. I’ve probably added ten dollars to my original $25 in that way, but doing that is completely up to the lender.
There are plenty of other microlenders out there, many of which do just as good a job as Kiva. If you’ve already found one and are happy, stay with it. But if not, you might want to be part of Kiva.
Sister Nancy Kaczmarek, GNSH is a professor in the Education Department at D’Youville College. She was a former member of the Committee on Finance for the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart (so she KNOWS about investing wisely).