Lending Small, Acting Big, Learning Lessons

For the past year or so, I have heard about the Kiva organization and was interested, but I never took the plunge. It took a humorous piece in Time Magazine by Joel Stein to finally convince me to check out Kiva, which is a micro-lending organization that pools donations from web-based users to help strugging and emerging small business owners from the developing world. It works in increments of $25, so I lend out $25 and that is added to your $25 and so on. Then, the small business buys some equipment or expands its retail line or territory, pays back its loan and my $25 can get re-invested in some other business. (See a comic about Kiva and the way it works with other small lending agencies)

I love this concept, so I have put in a stake into a couple of businesses.

Then, this week, I found a post by Bud Hunt, who was following the trail of Karl Fisch, who has created a group within Kiva for educators and urges the concept of “Paying it Forward.” This is what Bud wrote:

Today, Karl Fisch posted a message on his blog inviting members of his PLN (Personal Learning Network) to join Team Shift Happens and contribute however much possible to Kiva. Kiva is different than other charities in that it is a micro-lending website. People, like you and I, can loan money ($25 and up) directly to individual entrepeneurs in the developing world.

On Karl’s suggestion, I’ve donated $25 to an entrepreneur and I also purchased two $25 gift certificates that I have emailed to two members of my PLN. I’m asking them to do the same as I did:

  1. Log in to Kiva.
  2. Join Team Shift Happens (click on Community and search keyword, “shift”)
  3. Choose the entrepreneur to whom they will loan the value of the gift certificate.
  4. Then consider doing the same thing I did – purchase two $25 gift certificates and email them to two members of their PLN with the same request to “pay it forward.”
  • Make a $25 loan yourself, or
  • Do what I did; make a $25 loan, then purchase two $25 gift certificates and email them to folks you know and ask them to do the same, and/or

So, I did join the Shift Happens team and I did add two loans to the group, and I will be sending forward a gift certificate or two to some friends in my network, with hopes that they might do the same. It’s a great way to give, and follow the impact of your giving (Kiva gives you updates on the status of the loan and project).

But, I have a group of students working on a Teach the Teachers Day at our school (set for Dec. 23) and they want it as a fundraising activity (it costs a dollar for a student to teach a lesson in class). I mentioned Kiva to them as a possible place for the funds raised by the Teach the Teachers Day, and they were very excited about the concept. So, my intention is to give the students complete responsibility for choosing the business and investing fundraising money and following the progress of the loan. I think it will be a great lesson in financing, collaborative efforts and social responsibility.

Peace (in small but powerful doses),

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