This year, my parents read about Kiva in the New York Times and thought that it was right up my alley. They gave me a $100 gift certificate.
I've thought about microloans, but the difficulty of finding reputable agencies and the thought of losing much of my money to fees and overhead was a little much. Kiva takes none of your money, and the partner agencies make their overhead by keeping the interest they charge on the loan. That means that 100% of the money you donate goes to the loan recipient, and you get 100% back once the loan has been repaid.
I decided that I wanted to loan to a woman-owned business that had an actual business model and looked like it stood a good chance of repayment. I found Marguerite Mankenda, a woman who's been running her business successfully since 2003 and is looking to expand in a manageable way. GREAT!
I found her before I started the signup process, and when I found her, she had raised none of the $1000 she needed. By the time I'd finished the signup process and clicked "fund this loan," somebody else had already put $25 in the pot. I was perusing my email and found my signup confirmation from Kiva. I clicked on it, and when I clicked through the link to Ms. Mankenda's page again, her loan was fully funded!!! This is great news, because it means that she'll get the money she needs soon (Kiva pays out the money at the beginning of the month and only on fully-funded loans) and I'll be repaid that much sooner. And the sooner I'm repaid, the sooner I can fund somebody else's micro loan. When I get a windfall, I can put it into somebody else's business.
I can't tell you how excited this whole thing makes me. I just can't.