Think smaller. Micro, even.
Microfinancing and microcredit are movements to help the poor by providing financial services and loans. With these loans (typically a comparatively small amount in US dollars), the poor can start or fund new business ventures, hopefully creating an income stream that can pay back the loan and support their family. The Internet has opened up the opportunity to make these loans more accessible- both to the borrowers and the lenders. The most high-profile microcredit site is kiva.org.
From Kiva's site:
Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.What I like about this:
Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.
- It's transparent. I've written before about Charity Navigator and giving responsibly, and on the Kiva site, I am able to see how much the borrower is requesting, why, how much they pay back, and how much interest they are being charged by the microfinance company in their country. There's lots of data and numbers, which helps me evaluate whether I'm making a good investment.
- It's personal. There's a picture, and person, and a story I am supporting with my money. These concrete facts make me more motivated to give than a more general "organizational mission". I can see a face and read updates on how the project I contributed to is succeeding.
- It can match my passions. If I'm interested in Peru or Cambodia or the Dominican Republic, if I want to help support arts or schooling or medicine- I can pick what I'm excited about and get behind it.
- It's a loan. These people have incentive to make their dream work. This isn't a handout; it's a business loan. The people have to take the money seriously, and work to make their business grow to pay it back. In addition, when my money comes back, it's available to "pay forward" to someone else on Kiva. The gift keeps on giving!
- It's easy to start. I don't have to come up with enough money to fund any one project. The entry bar into microcredit lending is low, making it accessible to many, many potential lenders (that's you!)
What about person-to-person giving, rather than lending?
Here, I want to highlight DonorsChoose.org. Charity Navigator gives them a four-star rating, which means they handle their internal finances well, such that they put most of the money they bring in toward the stated purpose. Like Kiva, donors can peruse pictures and projects, all posted by teachers from around the country, and choose which they want to help fund. Teachers are requesting everything from books and textbooks to computers and cameras. Like Kiva, you can find what you're passionate about and get behind it. You can find schools in your area, schools in low-income areas, or projects with topics you care about- music, drama, reading, technology, health, all sorts of things.
I got an email from my teacher friend Gretchen a few days ago (which inspired this whole post!)
I want my students to have as many great learning opportunities as possible, but sometimes I just can't get the funding I need. To address this issue, I turned to DonorsChoose.org.
Here's the scoop. At this nonprofit website, teachers (like me!) submit proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become a reality when concerned individuals (like you!) choose projects to fund. Donors who complete project funding or give more than $100 receive photos and personal thank-you notes from the kids they helped. It's easy - and very rewarding.
The great news is that my project proposal, Help My High Schoolers Bond With Preschoolers Over Books, is now posted at DonorsChoose.org! Check it out!
Take a look. Also, please consider supporting my students and me by
forwarding this message to others who may be interested in improving
Thanks so much for considering this!
Gretchen teaches at a charter school near me that targets high schoolers that aren't doing well in the traditional school. The smaller class sizes and different schedule works very well for many kids- but Gretchen sure has her hands full! I'm excited that she's being creative and finding ways to build up the kids confidence while encouraging them to be involved in their community! I got a list of books she's looking for, and I'm going to keep my eye out for them. This is a great application of this person-to-person giving concept, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it works out for Gretchen! So far, so good!
Have you tried any of these programs? What is your experience?