Bill D'AlessandroEntrepreneurship, Investing, Technology

Make a Difference This Christmas with Kiva.org

This Christmas, I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to give back and help others. There are a staggering number of charitable options out there, so choosing between them can be a somewhat daunting task. This year, I want to focus on one of my favorites: Kiva.org. Kiva organizes microfinance loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world to help them start simple businesses in their local communities. I believe it’s one of the best ways you can give back this holiday season – by loaning money to those who are less fortunate as they try to change their own lives. It’s important to know that a contribution through Kiva is a loan, not a donation. It’s a way to help people get on their feet while also encouraging independence, accountability, and entrepreneurship. Kiva borrowers are required to pay their loans back over time (Kiva’s repayment rate is 98.92%). Once loans are paid back, you can re-lend the money again to help another aspiring entrepreneur – a single capital commitment can be reused again and again to help people all over the world.

Kiva borrowers are people that live in impoverished and war-torn areas, and instead of looking to the government or the Red Cross for a hand out, they’ve decided to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and start a business. Their ventures are nothing complicated – I’ve funded cafes, agriculture, electronics repair, tailor shops, grocery stores, and construction businesses. They aren’t world changing projects, but they are life changing enterprises for these people and their local communities. Your loan could be the difference between a person literally breaking rocks for a living or working in a skilled profession – both for the entrepreneur you back as well as the local employees they hire.

The picture attached to this post is of Aizada, a 52 year old entrepreneur living in the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan. Aizada is a mother of of six children, and has four cows and 17 sheep on her farm, where she works growing potatoes, tomatoes and clover. She took out a microloan to purchase two bull calves for her farm, which will allow her to breed her cows and sell the offspring for profit.

Kiva can put you in touch with entrepreneurs across the globe like Aizada who simply need a little startup capital to get on their feet. When you loan to a Kiva entrepreneur, you can see their picture and have a chance to read their background and their business plan. You’ll get updates as they build their business and gradually repay their loan. I’ll be able to follow Elva and several other entrepreneurs I’ve funded as they put my loan to work.

Since Kiva is a non-profit, the entire sum of the loan is delivered directly to the entrepreneurs – over 470,000 of them so far in 57 countries have received over $180 million in microloans. You can start lending with as little as $25. So I hope you’ll take some time this Christmas to reflect on ways you can give back to those around the world who are trying to lift themselves up and break their own cycle of poverty. You can get started in 5 minutes at Kiva.org.

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Bill D'Alessandro