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"Kiva is the path-breaking, fast-growing person-to-person microlending site. It works this way: Kiva posts pictures and stories of people needing loans. You give your money to Kiva. Kiva sends it to a microlender. The lender makes the loan to a person you choose. He or she ordinarily repays. You get your money back with no interest. It's like eBay for microcredit.

You knew that, right? Well guess what: you're wrong"

I originally posted the quote above as a response to a diary about a project that one diarist had (or at least he thought he had) funded through Kiva.

The Kiva story is complex and in some cases quite mysterious. The organization has tapped into public’s desire to help through very slick PR and campaigning, but underneath that shiny coat of paint is the same rusted out old microfinance model that has been devastating to the poor all over the world.

The Next Billion site has recently published a more in depth look at Kiva (The Kiva Fairytale: It's a microlending superstar - but who is it really serving?) which is well worth reading in full. A few of the highlights follow below.

Today Kiva brings in over 17 million a year in revenue and support. It is backed by celebrities, it is high profile, and it is best known for the way it appears to bring individual stories to potential lenders and make them feel good about being able to contribute directly to a project they want to support.

But does it actually work? Is poverty being reduced through the work of Kiva? No. Not according to any of the research.

Despite many years of trying, independent academics have been unable to find any convincing data confirming an overall positive impact on poverty reduction achieved by indebting the poor…. With interest rates often exceeding 100 percent, it is not hard to see how microcredit can progressively increase rather than decrease poverty, as demonstrated poignantly by crises in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere
The bolded part of that excerpt may come as a shock to some Kiva supporters. 100% interest? That can’t be true. Kiva is non-profit and doesn't charge interest right? Well yes and no. Kiva itself doesn't charge interest, but they also are not the ones making any of the loans. What they do is send money to other micro lending institutions who in turn charge 100% or more in interest.  How much exactly? We don’t know because Kiva can’t or won’t say.
Kiva cleverly chooses to reveal out-of date portfolio yields instead of actual interest rates on loans, conveniently and consistently under-estimating the real cost to the poor…. Interest rates approaching 100 percent would raise too many eyebrows – they’re best hidden.
Well OK, but at least those making the loans have the ability to choose the project they want to fund through Kiva right? Maybe it costs more, but only funded projects are moving ahead, so there is no waste, right? Wrong again. Kiva is not efficient. And the loans you make to them are not for what you think.
 
In 2012 Kiva spent $14 million to loan $111 million. Despite most staff being volunteers, Kiva managed to spend $0.13 for every $1 loaned. Typical specialized microfinance [are] 6 or 7 times more efficient than Kiva in getting money from investor to poor person.
Kiva’s initial attraction was that it was a peer-to-peer lender, but it is not in fact a peer-to-peer at all. The loans featured on the website were made months before, and Kiva users are essentially buying them from the banks.
Makes you feel good to be personally bailing out banks that are charging 100% interest on the poor doesn't it? Oh, but it gets better. Kiva doesn't appear to even be able to move its donations well, with a reported 80 million in donor funds sitting in Kiva bank accounts doing nothing but gaining interest for Kiva. There is also some funky business going on with the Kiva banking partners
 
Kiva’s default rates on loans are famously low, apparently. And yet the banks themselves report default rates substantially higher than Kiva. Either Kiva miraculously manages to weed out all the non-performing clients better than the bank itself can, or the bank is covering loan losses itself to ensure a steady flow of interest-free capital.
The bolded (mine) should give potential lenders plenty to think about. There is much more in the story and I encourage you to review it at Next Billion.

I am not down on charity. I actually work with an organization trying to help reduce poverty through financial inclusion (not a competitor to Kiva in any way). But I also think that organization like Kiva may be doing much more harm than good and potential donors ought to be at least aware of the realities of how the organization works, where the money actually goes and how much the overhead takes off the top. When simple questions like exactly how much interest is being charged for these loans can’t even be answered, alarm bells should be ringing.

In a different field Kiva would be an outrage, exposed and shut down under a mountain of protests, but so far at least the donors don’t seem to want to know or even ask the questions they would for any other organization. We want to believe in the dream of Kiva. We want it to be real so badly so we can feel good about donating and helping that poor farmer. But a dream is really all it is.  

Kiva plays an important role in undermining the wider global struggle against poverty, deprivation and inequality. Kiva is a scam, and if we are to contribute to the welfare of the poor and restore any faith in the integrity of the U.S. financial sector, such players should be regulated immediately.
Time to wake up.

Full original article here: http://www.nextbillion.net/...

UPDATE: Rec List- Thanks. It is worth examining, not only Kiva but the whole microcredit and development aid landscape. Kiva proves two things to me. First that there is a huge demand from those with the means to find a way to help others. That should give us hope. And second, that without strong regulations, consumer protection guarantees and financial literacy efforts, organizations like Kiva will continue to abuse that hope to separate us from our money.  

UPDATE 2: A nice response from the author of the piece to some of the points rasied. I think it sums up the issues very nicely:

Essentially Kiva falls between the cracks: it looks like a financial intermediary, but is regulated as an NGO. So, I think we have to start by formally incorporating regulations, and then monitoring to see whether the likes of Kiva are able to comply. I suspect they would struggle, if the regulations are remotely meaningful.

However, the first step towards regulation is knowledge and transparency. If Kiva's users are aware of these facts and accept them, then perhaps it is okay (broader criticisms of the effectiveness of microfinance notwithstanding). But they are often ignorant of the subtleties behind Kiva's model. If you look at the comments posted by some users they often have little idea what they are actually doing. They have no idea of the interest rates, because Kiva doesn't publish them. They Tweet things like "help me raise another $50 to fill this loan" when it clearly states that the loan was disbursed some months ago. We need to ensure first that those who use Kiva are INFORMED, and ideally that the regulator is also.

Final UPDATE: Kiva has responded to the post at Next Billion. It is a well written response, but I think it glosses over (or ignores) many of the most important questions. The responses to this from the original poster are there as well. Thanks again everyone for the great discussion.

Originally posted to TwoSolitudes on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 02:35 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (130+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Purple Priestess, MHB, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, cama2008, Skyye, Chi, not4morewars, Blazehawkins, Alexandra Lynch, cosette, peregrine kate, zerelda, Cassandra Waites, Sylv, pixxer, Gowrie Gal, page394, Red Tom Kidd, Unknown Quantity, eru, parryander, geez53, Odysseus, bobswern, LibrErica, chira2, raptavio, eeff, lavaughn, Aunt Pat, millwood, mookins, not a lamb, the dogs sockpuppet, Things Come Undone, HedwigKos, Naniboujou, fumie, lupinella, greengemini, Involuntary Exile, Assaf, Lily O Lady, reginahny, concernedamerican, Catte Nappe, quill, MKinTN, grover, AoT, gloriana, DawnN, Empower Ink, badscience, prfb, kathny, devis1, NoMoreLies, onionjim, GMFORD, Onomastic, howabout, CoyoteMarti, marleycat, MooseHB, radical simplicity, jadt65, tegrat, niteskolar, Mayfly, bartcopfan, serendipityisabitch, northsylvania, wader, FarWestGirl, CA Nana, tombstone, crose, Matt Z, Orinoco, enhydra lutris, indie17, surfbird007, old wobbly, Aaa T Tudeattack, MJ via Chicago, RiveroftheWest, pierre9045, andalusi, BlueMississippi, leeleedee, Diana in NoVa, ItsaMathJoke, ballerina X, LinSea, third Party please, BYw, pickandshovel, Australian2, maybeeso in michigan, icemilkcoffee, Amor Y Risa, Eowyn9, HarpboyAK, moviemeister76, Tonga 23, Lujane, hwy70scientist, 2dot, alice kleeman, Emerson, also mom of 5, Flying Goat, worldlotus, YellerDog, NapaJulie, La Gitane, kaliope, Egalitare, cv lurking gf, karmsy, Oh Mary Oh, FindingMyVoice, MillieNeon, Brooke In Seattle, LNK, ginimck, tofumagoo, MA Liberal, LeftieIndie

    Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects. Lester B. Pearson

    by TwoSolitudes on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 02:35:20 AM PST

  •  Microfinance is a fine model. (27+ / 0-)

    Kiva may or may not be doing it right or even ethically, but I see nothing wrong with lending poor people small amounts of money.  I don't think the critiques of Grameen hold much water, for instance.  It's a fine line between critical scrutiny of these do-gooders and the maximalist view that they're bad because they distract us from structural changes.  Those structural changes are nowhere on the horizon so I'm not inclined to make poor people wait indefinitely.

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 03:47:45 AM PST

  •  I was always a little skeptical (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT

    of kiva, and now I understand why.  Whenever it was described to me it was with little transparency of how it actually worked.  

  •  Tipped & Recc'ed for discussion (16+ / 0-)

    I've gone back and forth on Kiva. I know people who have made loans through Kiva and seem to be very supportive. I've also read some things that have had me questioning. I'm still torn.

    •  They love the idea (12+ / 0-)

      Heck so do I. People defend what they think they have donated to.

      No one wants to believe they have been taken for ride. It is however, really hard to see any benefit to Kiva and too easy to see layers upon layers of deception.

      I almost donated myself at one time. The PR machine they have is great. But I don't really want to fund PR machines and banks.

      Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects. Lester B. Pearson

      by TwoSolitudes on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 07:49:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I flunked their volunteer editor test (9+ / 0-)

        My suspicion is that I had too many questions about the samples, I tend to be a skeptic. Then again I might have just blown the test.  ;>)

        Either way afterwards I still had questions about the sample situations I had been given, did some research and saw others with questions. They are highly rated by Charity Navigator but I decided I was more comfortable with direct donation rather than the lending model. I've donated to some water projects and things like that through people that I know personally involved with the projects.

        •  I would be interested in doing that.n/t (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sylv, third Party please

          This "Trickle Down" thing has turned out to be somebody pissing on my leg and tellin' me it's rainin'.

          by swtexas on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 08:55:13 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Ratings by sites (0+ / 0-)

          like Navigator are useless.

          All they do is look at financials and tax returns provided by the entity and maybe some policies.

          So what if a nonprofit says it is transparent and has this policy or that policy - oooooooh and even a board of directors!

          It does not mean that they aren't fleecing donors and recipients of the 'services.'

          The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

          by dfarrah on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 11:51:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Many people, myself and family included, (5+ / 0-)

          go to impoverished countries and do "development" work annually, if not more often.

          For example, my mother in law started a group going to Honduras every year we participate in. Although it is mostly a medical team, we also all contribute to do things like put in water lines, public bathrooms, a water purification plant, re-roofing the high school, and helping improve the living situation of the orphans in the area.

          The point being, we don't just use 100% of the donations we receive for medicines and materials, but also contribute money ourselves, as well as fully paying our own ways.

          In Honduras, we meet many other groups doing a similar thing - there must be thousands of them throughout the world. Yes, many are on a religious mission also, but not all. Regardless, the effect of the tiny donations these many groups receive appears far greater, on the ground, that the effects of the major aid agencies.

          So there are better ways to make your money truly work for the poor, where 100% of your money goes to help and none goes for salaries, transportation, overhead, etc. etc.

    •  I am a Kiva lender. (9+ / 0-)

      The comments at The Next Billion are illuminating.  I recommend reading them in their entirety.

      They reinforce my discomfort with this diarist.  I feel somewhat that he does not prove his case and possibly significantly overstates his case.

      Kiva’s initial attraction was that it was a peer-to-peer lender, but it is not in fact a peer-to-peer at all. The loans featured on the website were made months before, and Kiva users are essentially buying them from the banks.
      In my experience, Kiva is quite straightforward that they are actually a secondary market, not a primary peer-to-peer lender.

      -7.75 -4.67

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      There are no Christians in foxholes.

      by Odysseus on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:32:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Kiva markets itself extensively (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sylv, northsylvania, TwoSolitudes, BYw

        as being a peer-to-peer lender. I have seen the group refer to itself in advertising and such as peer-to-peer many times. Perhaps one you read the fine print it becomes apparent, but that's not being straight forward about not being peer-to-peer. They seem like they've changed their web site now to be an average microfinance site instead of what their initial marketing made them appear.

        If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

        by AoT on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 10:04:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  But initially they weren't n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT
    •  I've made a few loans (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sylv

      via Kiva back in the day, but read a similar expose a few years ago and, after checking into it, support other charities at present.

      "The 'Middle' is a crowded place - that is where the effective power is - the extreme right and left might annoy governments, but the middle terrifies them." Johnny Linehan

      by northsylvania on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 12:07:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've made 10 loans (at last count) on Kiva (12+ / 0-)

    My original $50 has been lent and repaid 9 times over about 5 years. That's a pretty efficient use of my money, from my perspective anyway.

    Charity Navigator gives them excellent ratings, btw:
    http://www.charitynavigator.org/...  

    •  Read the full article in the link (4+ / 0-)

      and the reference links. Kiva admin maybe OK for a rating, (though apparently extremely overhead heavy) but the MF banks they use are definitely not. Some are quite shocking in their practices.  

      The 80+ million in unspent funds is also... disturbing to say the least.

      And it would also appear that your 50 buck 'repayment' was done by the bank, not the person you thought you lent to. Maybe they repaid, maybe not, but the bank happily repays you either way to keep that extra 50 on the account. That interest free capital is a nice bonus- for the bank.

      What is hard to grasp is that to understand what is happening in Kiva, you have to turn almost everything you though about how it works upside down.  

      They have used your money very efficiently, no doubt. Just maybe not quite in the way you think...

      Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects. Lester B. Pearson

      by TwoSolitudes on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 08:45:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't buy the "scam" angle of the article (9+ / 0-)

        which I did read. I'm still reading the discussion in the comments - fascinating! However, I still don't see the outrage. I don't feel duped in the least that Kiva presents personal stories and yet uses MFIs. Each story includes the name of the MFI that handles the actual loan! I have understood from the beginning that the money I give Kiva is sent to the local MFI (either directly or indirectly, I don't really care) which in turn administers the loans on the ground. Yes, that opens Kiva up to potentially unscrupulous practices of the various MFIs, but direct peer-to-peer lending in many parts of the world is simply unpractical. For better or worse, a local intermediary makes sense.

        The article and the post seem to be a case of letting  perfection become the enemy of good. Kiva's not perfect. MF in developing economies is a messy, complex task. Kiva is, however, good. And since there does not yet appear to be a perfect MFI, I have no problem with a good one.

      •  Please consider adding some of this to your post (18+ / 0-)

        My most recent Kiva loan was to a One Acre Fund supported borrowing group. I was pleased to read this in the comments:
         

        Andrew Youn • 2 hours ago −
        Interesting article. I think the author makes some good general points about impact, but would love to respectfully offer a different perspective on Kiva, from the field side of things. (Disclosure: I am a co-founder of One Acre Fund, which receives Kiva support - which might make me biased, but I also think gives me more data to work with).

        I agree that there are a lot of open impact questions around both the micro finance and impact investing fields. My own organization itself is not yet satisfied with our impact measurements, and we are doing a major overhaul in our methods and transparency this year. Overall, I think the author makes an excellent general point that our sector needs to pay more attention to impact.

        That said, I think the viewpoint on Kiva in the article is perhaps slightly out of date. I have seen a fairly massive shift in Kiva in the past few years and just wanted to share my perspective on that. Starting a few years ago, Kiva started moving away from lending to traditional MFIs, and are now I would guess the largest lender globally to innovative social ventures. It is often difficult as an innovative social venture to get debt capital - particularly if you are early-stage. But Kiva offers these social ventures 0% debt, with a currency collar, and is not afraid of risk. In my own experience with Kiva, they genuinely care about impact, and this is a major factor in what ventures they seek to fund. They are now funding entrepreneurs to build toilets in the Nairobi slums, education loans for aspiring university students, and productive capital loans to subsistence farmers. In many cases, they are pioneering completely new ideas that no traditional MFI or bank would ever touch. Kiva is bold, innovative, and cares deeply about impact.

        So, I agree with the author that we need to pay a lot more attention to impact - he is absolutely right about that. But Kiva today is in my opinion emerging as an incredibly impactful and innovative social lender. There are many others that we should criticize first before them. Thanks. I just wanted to offer that viewpoint from the field!

      •  It appears the $80 million (5+ / 0-)

        is in the "Kiva user's fund."

        Let em explain. I loan out $250 on Kiva, initially ten different loans with varying repayment terms. As the money is slowly repaid, it accumulates in my "account" - the Kiva user's fund.

        When it gets to $25, I have enough to make another loan. But maybe I don't get around to it right away, so it sits in that account. Or maybe I'm disturbed by an article I read and want to withdraw it, so I am letting it accumulate into a decent amount.

        In other words, it isn't Kiva not lending that money, it is me not lending that money. That's why it is still sitting there. Yes, I know Kiva is going to be collecting interest on it, but that just justifies my decision not to contribute a percentage of the repayment, also, to Kiva as they request.

        I don't care who repays me, what I care about is getting my money back. I recognize that I am taking all the risk and the lender is making a profit with my money. My understanding is twofold: First, that when I take on the risk, it frees the lender up to make a risky loan, to a person with no income and with no assets. Secondly, by taking on that risk in response to a specific business proposal, I am signaling to the lender that this is the type of proposal that I think will succeed, and therefore am willing to take on the risk of these types of loans. My presumption is that this encourages the lenders to make more of these types of loans.

        •  Problem is the exorbitant interests the middleman (0+ / 0-)

          charges. YOU are the one who is risking your capital. Yet the middleman lender is the one who gets the reward of that exorbitant interest. Does that sound fair to you? Also- the person who obtains the loan is probably a destitute  person with no choice but to sign on to an usurious loan, and now he is stuck in a cycle of indebtedness not unlike people on payday loans here in the US.

          •  It is clear interest is charged. (0+ / 0-)

            It is also true that the rate isn't stated. But you are told the average rate of return for the institution - from interest, fees, etc. I choose to support those with a lower rate of return.

            That doesn't mean the particular case that you indicated your support for was a low interest loan. But your money, as the diarist points out, isn't going to that individual in any case, it goes to the institution. So if you choose an institution with a lower rate of return you are supporting an entity that, on the average, makes small loans at a moderate interest rate even if some of their loans carry a relatively high rate - that just indicates that others have a lower than expected rate. That's what averaging is all about.

            As far as "no choice" but to sign the loan - you make the mistake of assuming that just because these people are poor, they aren't as smart as you. Obviously in some cases that is true, but in my experience one's level of poverty in dirt-poor countries has more to do with birth status than intelligence.  I suspect the vast majority of these people understand exactly what they are getting into, and choose to do so because it is their best option for getting ahead.

            •  Sadly (0+ / 0-)
              vast majority of these people understand exactly what they are getting into, and choose to do so because it is their best option for getting ahead.
              That has not proven to be the case. The poor genernally do not have the financial education to fully understand the implications, and in many cases there are no regulatory efforts to protect them. The result can be tragic.

              http://www.businessinsider.com/...

              Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects. Lester B. Pearson

              by TwoSolitudes on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 07:17:32 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  You don't think an 80 million 'buffer' (0+ / 0-)

          is just a weeeee bit excessive for an organization that has a total annual revenue of less than 17 million a year?

          and as for this

          My presumption is that this encourages the lenders to make more of these types of loans.
          Maybe it does, but not for the right reasons. They will be encouraged to make more and more high risk loans - even if they know they are impossible to be repaid, because you are going to cover their losses. It no longer matters to the bank what the project is, the credit history of the borrower or even the borrowers real ID, the sadder the face of the recipient, the better the chance of getting money.

          Sounds a bit like the drive by the financial markets in the US to get 'everyone qualified for a home loan no matter what their credit rating'.

          Surely we should be looking at a better incentive for MF institutions.  

          Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects. Lester B. Pearson

          by TwoSolitudes on Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 01:43:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Your second point is valid. (0+ / 0-)

            But you don't understand about the $80 million. It isn't a "buffer" Kiva is holding back. The money belongs to me, and people like me. It is the repayments on the loans we have made. Kiva holds the money until we either specify which organization we want to re-lend it to, or request it is returned to us.

    •  Charity Navigator looks at very specific (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sylv, AoT, worldlotus

      Criteria when evaluating a charity, including financial solvency and ether the charity has a privacy policy for donors. It's a great starting place. But that's all.

      Charity Navigator is very upfront about this and urges donors to do additional research beyond that.

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 10:00:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Anything using (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      icemilkcoffee

      a middleman, like Kiva, is more expensive than direct transactions.

      Recall the insurance industry.

      And who do you think is making money off of your capital?

      Geez, the banks and their tricks.

      The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

      by dfarrah on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 11:55:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Be realistic. There MUST be a middle man (0+ / 0-)

        of some kind between my bank account and the hand of the Farmer in Kenya I lent money to. Must be. Several, in fact. Am I shocked that some of those middle men make a living off of such transactions? Of course not.  

  •  What is a legitimate entity through which to give? (0+ / 0-)

    This "Trickle Down" thing has turned out to be somebody pissing on my leg and tellin' me it's rainin'.

    by swtexas on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 08:52:52 AM PST

    •  I recommend Children International. (0+ / 0-)

      You can sponsor a child for @ $22/month...but of course, there are birthdays and other times when you might feel you need to help a bit more.  

      I suggest you read about them on their site.  My wife and I sponsor 3 children.  One is now in college and we're helping her get through.  One child had no bed.  She does now :)    

      Sponsorship means being able to attend school, medical care, a safe environment for school and play, and help for the child's family in hard times.  We get pictures and multiple letters each year from each child.  

      Just a thought.

      We've also made dozens of kiva loans...which we are now re-evaluating.

      The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. - Dante Alighieri

      by Persiflage on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 05:02:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  God dammit. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    geez53, AoT, grover, worldlotus

    That's truly upsetting.

    "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

    by raptavio on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 08:54:38 AM PST

  •  You might want to check out Bob Harris (12+ / 0-)

    He actually went out and wrote up the whole Kiva idea: The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time

    He came to his open realization about how screwed up this world is while writing articles for the high-wnd world traveler and discovered just how high the gap is between the top and the bottom. He got interestested in Kiva loans and spent time traveling around the world checking out individual stories.

    He does address some of the problems with the concept - but also finds places where it is making a real difference. And it doesn't have to be overseas either; there are places in the US where you can do Kiva style lending.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:05:19 AM PST

  •  Right Sharing of World Resources (Quaker) - OK? (6+ / 0-)

    What if anything do you know about Right Sharing of World Resources - a Quaker-run micro-finance/grant group?Right Sharing of World Resources home page I have been impressed with what I know about them, but would appreciate any feedback on their effectiveness.

  •  People should avoid debt if at all possible (4+ / 0-)

    We are now deep into the financial capitalist economy, the most parasitical of all economies.

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:21:21 AM PST

    •  Make sure it's worth it. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      geez53, Sylv, wmspringer

      Many people sign up for debts without knowing the real return they can generate.  That does not mean all debt is bad, it means that people need to be more educated and thoughtful about what they sign up for.

      Also, it is quite possible for an program to provide very uneven yet clearly overall positive returns.  That does not mean that the individualized "failures" of such a program are necessarily bad.

      -7.75 -4.67

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      There are no Christians in foxholes.

      by Odysseus on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:37:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'd love to be able to do that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gjohnsit

      I'm certainly going to avoid being a money lender. The idea that lending money will end poverty is patently absurd.

      If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

      by AoT on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 10:05:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why should people avoid debt? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh

      There is a lot to be said about leveraging your money to make it go further. This has to be done through debt. Now you should avoid using debt to buy depreciating assets, and you should avoid using debt to pay recurring expenses. And you should definitely avoid high interest debt. But borrowing money to buy an appreciating asset, or a profit generating asset, is a great idea.

      A lot of large corporations prefer to use their open lines of credits, instead of using their cash reserves, because they don't want to tie up their cash.

      •  One thing I noticed early (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        raboof

        was that the more credit cards people had, the less money they had.

        None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

        by gjohnsit on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:22:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Rather than just saying, "Kiva is horrible" (9+ / 0-)

    we can put pressure on the organization to change it's practices.  They were pretty responsive a couple of years ago when their lack of transparency about their model came to light.

    I'm sure a little more pressure could only help their practices... and people are giving money to them, so we might as well try and make their organization better.

    I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night. -Bishop G. Brewer

    by the dogs sockpuppet on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:21:25 AM PST

    •  Which would mean they'll end up being pretty much (0+ / 0-)

      like all the other organizations out there who are currently doing the job that folks want Kiva to do. It seems like a better plan to just go with a different organization and let this one die out. What's worth saving at this point?

      If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

      by AoT on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 10:08:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Like I said, people put their money with them. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sylv

        For whatever reason, they do a better job of pulling people in... so we should capitalize on them and make them do a better job.

        It's like how social equity mutual funds work... they put pressure on companies to do better.  We are the pressure for Kiva.

        I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night. -Bishop G. Brewer

        by the dogs sockpuppet on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 01:19:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  They did a better job pulling people in (0+ / 0-)

          because they misled people about how their organization worked. They ended up working like every other group out there, essentially.

          If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

          by AoT on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 01:40:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  They still bring a ton of people and money in. (0+ / 0-)

            Face it.  Pressuring them will help, but if you prefer not to try and solve the problem, that's fine too.

            I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night. -Bishop G. Brewer

            by the dogs sockpuppet on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 02:37:04 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, and they bring those people and money in (0+ / 0-)

              because they are misleading. Getting people to go somewhere else also solves the problem.

              If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

              by AoT on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 02:49:28 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Wait, I thought the whole point of microfinance (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    geez53, worldlotus

    was that the loans are interest-free?? Pretty sure if you're charging interest ur doin it wrong.

    Code Monkey like freedom / Code Monkey like peace and justice too
    Code Monkey very nerdy man / With big warm fuzzy bleeding heart
    Code Monkey like you!

    Formerly known as Jyrinx.

    by Code Monkey on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:39:26 AM PST

    •  Loans to Entrepreneurs Are Usually High Interest (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sylv, Possiamo, worldlotus

      It's the Kiva contributors who are making loans interest free, but the recipients of the loans generally pay pretty high interest.

      Loans in developing countries often have high inflation rates to begin with, which requires high interest rates just for the lender to break even. Then, with reputable non-profit microfinance groups, the high interest rates often also help pay for health care, educational and day-care services for the children, basic banking services, and basic business advice -- all of which the research has shown are critical to the potential success of many of these ventures.

      Among unscrupulous for-profit lenders, the high interest rates pay for obscenely high rates of return for private investors, who also often think they're doing a socially responsible thing.

      I think this diary is dripping with too much cynicism about the microfinance movement, but the basic take home message is sound: Let the Lender Beware.

      Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. --Margaret Mead

      by The Knute on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 10:01:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  No, they always charge interest (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grover

      Often very high interest.

      It's another case of pretending capitalism will save the poor. It hasn't worked so far, not sure why people keep thinking it will.

      If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

      by AoT on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 10:09:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  balance ..... as in "check and" (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, Dvalkure, Sylv, Vitarai, ypochris

      Some interest is necessary to help keep the system going. Everyone involved should have some skin in the game.

      Interest-free is great if it's you giving me $100 and i give it back, but i would insist on paying for the money order, PayPal fee, etc. just to help keep your pay-it-forward motivation going. That's why the complexity of this thing has to be kept minimalist.

      The better solution, if you can afford it, is grant or gift with no expectation of repayment. A church did that for me once and even gave me push-back when i wanted to return the money. I persuaded by saying "thank you from the bottom of my heart, now take this and do it again".

      21st Century America: The distracted, superficial perception of a virtual reality. Gettov Milawn

      by geez53 on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 10:10:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Er, right. I guess I meant no *compound* interest. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        geez53

        I know there's something different about how these things work.

        Code Monkey like freedom / Code Monkey like peace and justice too
        Code Monkey very nerdy man / With big warm fuzzy bleeding heart
        Code Monkey like you!

        Formerly known as Jyrinx.

        by Code Monkey on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 02:21:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  A better option, environmental-social-political (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sylv

    all in one:

    COMET-ME. I diaried about its very inception, right here on these pages in 2008.

    Sorry for plugging, couldn't help it.

    Essentially no overhead, esp. if you contribute directly rather than via the US tax-exempt channel.

    My personal experience has been that nothing beats either something you are personally familiar with (the best option),

    or a well-established body with a good track record (e.g. Doctors w/o Borders, or the UN's "Nothing but Nets" campaign), that with warts and all at least knows how to get the main things right.

  •  Not Sure Its Always a Scam (13+ / 0-)

    I have some experience with the Center for Economic Self Reliance, at BYU, which studies economic development models, and especially microfinance. One of their big deals is to try to empirically document "best practices" of microfinance institutions and figure out what actually does and doesn't work.

    At least with reputable (usually non-profit) microfinance institutions, much of the reason for the high interest rates is because the loan includes a range of additional services that are seen as essential to give the micro-entrepreneur a fighting chance at success. These service often include family health care services, education services for children, day care for children, basic banking services, and business management advice. These services, in the right mix for individual circumstances, are often critical to whether a business can make it or not.

    As I understand it, much of the scandalous behavior was introduced as the microfinance movement endeavored to "scale up" its early success by attracting large-scale financing from the private capital markets. Obviously, the bottom line quickly became more important within the capitalist model than the fate of the borrowers was when microfinance existed primarily in the non-profit sector.

    Again, I'm not an expert, but I think the best way to sort this out is to focus on the quality of the actual microfinance institutions (MFIs) on the ground. Are they driven by the profit motive of privately financed capital, or are they non-profit in nature? Are they following "best practices" in providing necessary support services, and are their interest rates justified by the services they provide and the inflation rate in the particular country? Or are they predatory lenders piggybacking a promising movement to make a quick buck by ensnaring the poor in inescapable debt traps?

    Kiva does provide information on the local Microfinance partner they're partnering with on specific loans, and those MFIs can have radically different track records too. Bottom line is, an 80% interest rate on churned loans to create a debt trap to provide high rates of return to American and European investors is one thing. But an 80% APR interest rate (on a 9 month loan) that includes day care for the children, health care, banking services, and business advice is something quite different.

    There is promise in the microfinance movement, but there are definitely two classes of players out there (the profit and non-profit lenders) and they have much different motivations and track records. Empirical research by groups like the Center for Economic Self Reliance, and the definition of "best practices" in the communities where loans are being made are also critical to this potential success of this effort. If it takes significantly more regulation to ensure that happens, then so be it.

    Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. --Margaret Mead

    by The Knute on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:40:15 AM PST

  •  Is any one tracking end user pay back? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sylv

    It's easy enough to be the happy face front and check all the boxes in a rating system, but what's happening on the ground?

    100% interest is unconscionable, but is it a rogue end lender who needs to be publicly flogged and subjected to 100% confiscation of all material possessions or is there a higher percentage of end lenders who are using the Kiva front.

    The $80 mil in-the-bank is more than disturbing, it's part of of our real problem right now; a relative few hoarding wealth for themselves, keeping it out of a circulation that can help everyone. For what they do, 80 mil does seem to go beyond fiduciary responsibility.

    21st Century America: The distracted, superficial perception of a virtual reality. Gettov Milawn

    by geez53 on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:42:39 AM PST

  •  This diary is extremely disingenuous (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TexasLiz, mconvente, Vitarai, Debby

    Microcredit rates are high because the costs of making tiny loans are very high, on a percentage basis. In other words, when the loan amount is tiny, the cost of setting up the loan and managing repayment equals a very high percentage of the loan. This down't mean microcredit doesn't help people.

    Read more here:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

    •  How is it disingenuous? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      geez53, CoyoteMarti, dfarrah

      Just because it doesn't give the reasons the rates are high?

      Even here there are people don't realize that microfinance charges interest. Not to mention the general failure of microfinance to reduce poverty.

      The claim that we can reduce poverty through high interest loans is disingenuous.

      If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

      by AoT on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 10:17:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The cost of microfiinance is high? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sweatyb, Sylv, AoT, CoyoteMarti, dfarrah

      Ok. Sure.

      This is a charity. Donors think they're doing good, not that they're JPMorgan Chase.

      What's  disingenuous is letting donors think both can be accomplished simultaneously.

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 10:18:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It concerns me how many very high profile (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, Sylv, worldlotus

    (Which means theyre spending a lot of money on advertising and fundraising) charities get glowing diaries here at dKos.

    With quite a few of them, a simple Google seatch reveals some significant concerns that are never mentioned in the diaries. But if those are mentioned, well-meaning donors push back hard.

    As you say:

    , but so far at least the donors don’t seem to want to know or even ask the questions they would for any other organization
    Thank you for this diary.

    Donors need to know what they're supporting. Even if they don't choose to put their money elsewhere, if they know the truth, they might be less enthusiastic ambassadors for their charities that have pretty significant flaws.

    There are only so many charity dollars these days, after all.

    © grover


    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 10:13:46 AM PST

  •  You have to be 100% vigilant these days (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dfarrah

    even when you are trying to be helpful.

  •  I don't understand why (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT

    anyone would want to give $$ to someone who is going to pass it on through some other entity.

    Even nonprofits like United Way take donations to be passed on to other nonprofits.

    Why bother?  The admin expense isn't worth it.

    The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

    by dfarrah on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 11:46:27 AM PST

  •  Another example of a phony good cause: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, Sylv

    No sign of $40 million in aid that a collection of charities claim to have sent to Guatemala.
    http://www.cnn.com/...

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

    by lotlizard on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 11:53:44 AM PST

  •  Where do the operating (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT

    funds come from?

    The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

    by dfarrah on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 12:02:28 PM PST

  •  Not convinced... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Possiamo

    So why should I believe Hugh Sinclair? He seems pretty mainstream capitalist to me...MBA who worked for Barclays and ING in corporate finance, derivatives, and as a trader.

    Reading up on the controversy, I see as much wrong about the critics of microfinance as well. Most studies done on it area poorly done, and some even outright lies (e.g. Tom Heinemann's film The Micro Debt). The best studies do seem to show impacts on actual poverty rates to be low but cite other benefits of loan programs.

    Worth having the discussion, but I am not convinced Hugh Sinclair is any more credible than he is making Kiva sound.

    Of the critics, Banerjee seems to be approaching it right. He also recognizes the limitation with his own study (like all of them) being that they are short term studies. But his approach sounds rigorous. More here: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/...

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Find me on Linkedin.

    by mole333 on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 12:34:53 PM PST

  •  T&R, but you paint with far to wide a brush (0+ / 0-)

    when you say:

    the same rusted out old microfinance model that has been devastating to the poor all over the world.
    .

    I'd wager that FINCA, Accion Internatinal and Grameen not only have been, but still are far more of a bon and benefit than a bust and a harm.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 01:10:48 PM PST

    •  No question about it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      enhydra lutris

      There are organizations out there trying to make it work. The two you mention are going great things. There are also efforts being made to reduce delivery costs through mobile, agent banking and so on.

      With Kiva however, there does not appear to be any attempt to filter out the rusted out borderline illegal operations, with the ones trying to be transparent.

      It's a problem crying out for a proper set of regulations and protections. Until those are somehow in place (and given the cross border nature of the business it would be no easy task) it is just too easy to turn MF operations into scams.

      Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects. Lester B. Pearson

      by TwoSolitudes on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 05:38:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Heifer? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sylv, Diana in NoVa, Oh Mary Oh

    I have given to KIVA and in the past, to Heifer International, where farm animals are provided to people.  I guess, I will have to research them both before giving more, but I would be interested if anyone had similar information on Heifer International.

  •  Wow, I had no idea about the real story behind (0+ / 0-)

    Kiva. Thanks for this diary, TwoSolitudes. Kiva is an organization I've always meant to support, but somehow never have. Now that you've given us this information, I'm glad I haven't donated to Kiva.

    I used to give to Heifer International but lately my interest has been in Okiciyap and other organizations that serve American Indians in South Dakota.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 04:49:05 PM PST

  •  Can I suggest the charity that is "number one" & (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    worldlotus, Sylv, Oh Mary Oh

    That you too can be part of?

    It is called "My wallet" and its story is this: every so often me or my spouse happen to notice there is more money than we need in my wallet (Or in his wallet, depending.)

    Or else maybe in one of the bank accounts.

    We find some local family that needs help. We go to an ATM (or to the wallet) and get several hundred bucks (or else significantly less if the month is not that decent a financial month) and we locate a local really down and  out family and then we give it to that family.

    I guess the bad part about "My Wallet" is because of the nature of our lives, we can only help people locally. So there are no glossy photos of exotic looking people. Rather there are people who look tired and worn out and rather typically American. But no photos of them cuz that would be totally insane.

    We arrived at doing this due to how people we had barely known had kept us alive during our disastrous period of late 2005-2006.  I can't really think of a downside to our "passing it on"  except we can't do a tax credit on the Charity line of the 1040, and we really wish we had ten times as much to give.

  •  T&R'd, but you've got your changes'n'charges fused (0+ / 0-)

    throughout much, if not all, of your diary. Edit needed, for instance, here:

    What they do is send money to other micro lending institutions who in turn change 100% or more in interest.

    Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings. —Nelson Mandela

    by kaliope on Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 01:51:11 AM PST

  •  I don't think 90% of any income group are cut (0+ / 0-)

    out to run a business. Loaning them money to do so doesn't help this fact. Whether it's in a place where factory wages are $5 a day or someone used to earning six figures, many people are better at being employees.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 09:27:11 AM PST

  •  I disagree (0+ / 0-)

    I do donate to Kiva and to Heifer International (which is worse for overhead in my opinion).  I do this understanding that I am contributing to overhead.  However, the concept that debt is always bad is completely wrong IMHO.  I grew up in a poor household. I put myself through college with work and loans. The loans were paid off and my husband and I have a definitely good lifestyle.  We have even set up a scholarship at the university I went to (Northern Illinois) to help others. Is there overhead in that scholarship, yes. Would we have been able to do that without the debt I accrued initially? No.

    I cannot agree that helping a family get a cow or buy a weaving loom is inherently bad.  It is an investment. As is seeking a loan to finish college.

    The concept of workers uniting I agree with, but if there is no business, who is paying these workers? Capitalism is not inherently bad; the practice of it can be, in fact frequently is.  Alternatives, however, are somewhat limited.  

    Just my thoughts.

    I dream of things that never were and say, "why not"? Robert Kennedy

    Read my short stories for free here

    by winifred3 on Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 03:04:17 PM PST

  •  Not all microfinancers are Jewish (0+ / 0-)

    Just another spiteful anti-Semitic lie. Jews are pawnbrokers and loan sharks, yada, yada, yada….

  •  A unique perspective from a Kiva Fellow (0+ / 0-)

    My name is Leo and I believe that I can provide a unique perspective.  I am a former Kiva Fellow and while serving as one I had the pleasure of meeting Hugh in Ecuador while I was helping a Kiva partner where he sat on the board.  We had a pretty robust conversation about many of the things that Hugh talks about in this article.  

    I would like to start with one thing.  Hugh is a good dude.  He wants to see the impoverished helped in an ethical way. He is also smart, driven, and well meaning.  I also believe that his commentary helps Kiva stay true to one of its core principles, transparency.  His constant attention to what Kiva does ensures that Kiva remains transparent, though having worked with Kiva I do not think that  they are lacking in that department.

    All of the above said does not change one fact.  Hugh is wrong about Kiva.    

    Kiva exists to help people lift themselves out of poverty and create the social connection that can create strong and lasting change in the world.  

    Kiva's catalytic loan programs pushes micro-finance institutions to loan money to those impoverished borrowers that they would not otherwise loan too.  The MFIs can do this because Kiva provides one thing that impact investment funds cannot.  Risk Free Capital.  Hugh regularly forgets to take into account the fact that while investment funds may have lower overheads they do require a return.  Kiva does not and forgives debts when a borrower has had to default.  This allows for more people who are further down the pyramid to be helped.

    Kiva Zip also provides in Kenya and the US a way for small entrepreneurs to take a chance to improve themselves when no other financial institution will help and at 0% interest.  

    Finally, and perhaps most uniquely, Kivas non-traditional partners are able to use Kiva to introduce social, technological, and financial innovations that can lead to improved living conditions.  I would highlight Solar Sisters and One Acre Fund as examples of these innovations that are being supported by Kiva.

    Finishing up, I am grateful that Hugh is out there trying to help people in his way and is helping keep Kiva transparent.  I hope that one day he can see Kiva for the great organisation that I know it is and give Kiva its due credit for the good that it does and facilitates.  

    And if you read this Hugh, you owe me a beer.  :-)

    Leo
     

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