While many people are interested in using their money to better themselves and generate wealth, there’s a lot to be said for finding ways that your money can also improve the lives of others or support causes you care about. If this is your philosophy with how to run your finances, you may donate to a nonprofit organization or help with fundraising for a board of trustees or your child’s school. That being said, there’s another way you can help others more directly: through microloans for borrowers who may not be able to qualify for a loan from traditional banking or financial institutions.
This is where a platform like Kiva loans comes in. Kiva works similar to a crowdfunding platform, where you can browse various Kiva users and field partners and play a part in funding their small business owners and others in need of working. Learn more about Kiva and who it’s right for in this review outlining the pros and cons of the platform for lenders.
Kiva was founded in 2005 as an international non-profit focused on serving over a million people around the world who don’t have access to traditional banking institutions. As a result of not having access to a bank or having no credit score, students may not qualify for student loans to pursue necessary education or women in underserved communities may be unable to get a small business loan for their start-up. According to their website, Kiva’s mission is to “envision a financially inclusive world where all people hold the power to improve their lives.”
Kiva’s loan program does this in a revolutionary crowdfunding model connecting lenders like you to the causes you care about, from supporting women to providing COVID-19 relief, offering shelter, helping refugees, and more. Kiva makes it easy for lenders to find a cause or individual you care about, loan as little as $25, and make a difference in somebody else’s life. As a microlender, when your loan has been paid back, you have the opportunity to fund a different cause or withdraw your money.
It’s important to note that although you’re not making any money off of your loan — there aren’t interest rates on the financing offered through Kiva — Kiva users have a repayment rate of roughly 96% historically, so you most likely won’t lose any money in the process either.
How does Kiva work?
Getting started with Kiva is incredibly straightforward. You’ll start by heading to their website and clicking the “Sign In” button in the top right corner of the webpage.
From there, you’ll be asked to fill in a bit of personal information to set up your account. Kiva requires you to supply your first and last name, as well as an email address and password to serve as your login to the platform. If you’d like, you can also register for the platform with your Facebook, Google, or Apple account, instead.
Once you’ve registered your account, you’ll have access to a dashboard that provides a ton of detail about your profile. You’ll have the opportunity to add credit to your account, set up an auto-deposit, search for different loans, review past donations or loans you’ve made, and even set up a public lender profile so others can learn more about you and the causes you support.
When it comes to searching for various borrowers, there are tons of ways to filter the different loan applications on Kiva’s platform. For example, you can sort from the amount of the loan, whether or not the campaign for the loan is ending soon, and even how much money is left to fund if you like the idea of taking a specific microloan across the finish line.
You can also sort loans based on geographic region (including Africa, Asia, Central America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South America, North America, and Oceania), gender, and various sectors. Kiva offers a wide range of sectors to support, including agriculture, arts, clothing, construction, education, food, health, housing, manufacturing, retail, services, transportation, wholesale, and personal use. If you pick education, for example, you may be helping a student in Costa Rica pay for their tuition, whereas agriculture may show a campaign to help a farmer in Thailand by organic hens and hen feed. Ultimately, there are dozens of different ways to evaluate the various loans you’ll come across on the platform so you can be confident in the cause you support.
Kiva is free of charge to use for both borrowers and lenders. There are no interest rates or funding fees associated with Kiva, meaning that the pricing makes it truly accessible to the underserved communities that need it.
Kiva is exceptionally simple to navigate, without compromising detail. From loan terms to profiles about the loan applicants it would be shocking to me if anybody wrote negative reviews about Kiva based on its user interface. Especially considering how detailed you can get in the way that you filter various causes to support, the fact that Kiva is so straightforward, transparent, and clear is great for anyone hesitant about using the platform to help others.
Great for borrowers in underserved or unbanked communities
Kiva’s mission is to help provide access to financing and working capital for underserved communities. As such, they’re pioneering a new wave of microfinance institutions that allows borrowers who may not have credit cards or a credit score to get the funding they need to improve their life. Startups and individuals are both allowed to raise funds on the platform and won’t have Kiva take any of their loans through processing fees meaning every dollar goes to the cause you’re supporting as a lender.
Low barrier for entry
Microloans on Kiva max out at $15,000 and as a lender, the minimum you have to contribute to any crowdfunded loan is $25. This means that even if you don’t have a lot of extra money to put towards the causes on Kiva, if you’re passionate about supporting others, you can work it into your budget by skipping about five lattes a month. Plus, since payment processing is handled by PayPal, it’s easy and secure.
Who is Kiva best for?
Those who care about the social impact on a global level. As a non-profit itself, Kiva is ideal for those who want to do social good. Being able to search for important causes like renewable energy projects or loans addressing food scarcity around the world means that you can ensure that as part of your finances you’re having a positive impact on others. While platforms like GoFundMe offer a similar form of charity, Kiva’s loan applicants are much more distinct and in line with larger issues facing the world.
People whose finances are tight but want to help others. If you have a passion for social impact but don’t have a ton of money to be charitable, the fact that your loan amount is repaid over a set schedule can give you the peace of mind that you’re not overextending yourself financially to support the causes that matter to you.
The underserved/unbanked. It’s worth reiterating that for borrowers a platform like Kiva is incredibly empowering. Having access to interest-free, fee-free loans can give people who otherwise wouldn’t have the ability to raise and spend money to better themselves a host of opportunities.
Who shouldn’t use Kiva?
People looking for a return on their loan. Kiva is different than other microloan platforms in that you don’t earn interest on the money you loan others. As such, Kiva isn’t so much an opportunity to make a return on your investment as it is a way to help others without needing to permanently part with your charitable contribution. If you’re interested in making money from your loan, there are other options out there online.
Pros & cons
No fees. Both for you and the borrower you’re helping, not having to pay extra fees makes sure that your dollars go where you want them to.
High repayment rate. With a historical average repayment rate of 96%, you can rest assured that your loan will almost certainly be paid back according to the loan terms outlined on the campaign page.
Easy-to-use. Kiva is just as easy to navigate as any other crowdfunding platform on the internet. Its clean user interface and transparent information about what makes each loan application unique and the various loan terms associated with it help you make an informed decision as a lender.
Lenders don’t make money. While not everyone needs to make money off of their loan, certain individuals use that incentive as part of the calculus that comes with lending money to strangers online. Kiva is a mission-centric organization and doesn’t let lenders profit off of its platform.
Crowdfunding is all-or-nothing. Like other crowdfunding platforms, if you have a cause you care about supporting, your money will only help that campaign if it reaches its goal. This means that spreading the word and calling on your social network could still play a role in having your money create the positive impact you’d like it to.
Website is more lender-centric. The Kiva website is great for lenders. Borrowers looking to take advantage of the platform will need to dig a little more to find out more about the loan application process and submit their applications.
Kiva vs. GoFundMe vs. Prosper
Kiva isn’t the only microlender on the internet, although it’s certainly unique in its focus. Here’s how Kiva stacks up with other crowdfunding and microlending platforms online: GoFundMe and Prosper.
Microloans for small businesses and entrepreneurs in underserved communities
2.9% + $0.30 per donation
Personal or charitable organization fundraising
1% on the total outstanding principal
Investors wanting to fund personal loans and get a return
GoFundMe is one of the most popular crowdfunding platforms on the internet, but it’s not as vetted or focused on real charitable goods as a platform like Kiva. While GoFundMe lets individuals and nonprofits fundraise for themselves, Kiva has more of a focus on entrepreneurs and small businesses. Additionally, GoFundMe charges fees on the funds raised on its platform, unlike Kiva. GoFundMe is also a straight charitable donation, unlike Kiva which is structured as a loan and allows you to get your initial contribution back in as few as one to three years.
Prosper is a much better fit for investors who want to help others while making money off of their loans. That being said since Prosper’s personal loan platform doesn’t offer interest-free loans, the likelihood that you’re serving the same section of the population that benefits from a platform like Kiva isn’t high. If you truly care about microlending as a diversification strategy, Prosper’s low fees are worth considering the platform. However, if social impact is a major contributing factor to your interest in micro-lending services, Kiva is a better option.
No. To contribute to any loan application, you only need to put forward at least $25. You’re welcome to put more than $25 in if you’d like, but the minimum is only $25.
How does Kiva ensure it’s reaching underserved communities?
Kiva accomplishes this through the use of Field Partners which are organizations in developing countries that help handle the administration and setup of Kiva loans. It’s important to note that Kiva’s Field Partners may collect small interest payments from borrowers to fund their operations. That being said, Kiva has a due diligence process that ensures that the Field Partners they collaborate with aren’t unreasonable in the interest rates or fees they charge others. According to Kiva’s website, “Kiva only partners with organizations and microfinance institutions that have a social mission to serve the poor, unbanked and underserved.” Direct loans don’t have interest rates associated with them.
What happens if a loan isn’t funded?
Like other crowdfunding platforms, if a campaign is a fixed campaign and the loan amount isn’t reached, the borrower doesn’t get any amount of the money raised. That being said, many Field Partners do offer borrowers access to credit in these situations to ensure that they aren’t too negatively affected by this financial impact. Kiva also offers a flexible crowdfunding approach to microloans where the Field Partner helping to facilitate the loan will find other ways to cover the shortfall.
Is Kiva legit?
Yes! As per their website: “Kiva is a 501(c)3 U.S. nonprofit fueled by passionate people. Founded in 2005, and based in San Francisco, with offices in Bangkok, Nairobi, Portland, and staff around the globe.” Nonprofit organizations are held to high standards to claim 501(c)3 status, so Kiva is most definitely on the up-and-up.
The bottom line
Not all personal finance platforms are about your financial benefit, something Kiva makes clear in its mission to help serve entrepreneurs and small business owners in underserved communities across the globe. While you can certainly make money off of a social impact investment strategy, Kiva lets you pay it forward by contributing as little as $25 to various microloan campaigns. By prioritizing loan repayment and eliminating processing fees and interest rates, your money goes further towards supporting the cause you’re contributing to on a platform like Kiva.
Kiva account setup is simple and straightforward, just like the rest of the platform. With a 96% average historical repayment rate, your money isn’t even at much risk when you loan it out. That being said, some people may feel a bit uncomfortable about the 4% chance that they may not get a return on their money. As such, it’s a good rule of thumb to treat Kiva the same way you would other investment opportunities and only loan money that you can afford to part with. While you’ll likely get it back over the loan terms, knowing that you don’t need to get it back can allow you to use the platform much more effectively.
If you care about helping others and don’t like the fees or interest rates associated with platforms like GoFundMe and Prosper, Kiva is a great alternative. As a non-profit organization, your use of their platform helps them fulfill their mission to help make working capital more accessible to the communities and individuals that need it most. While you won’t make a return on your use of the platform, you’ll likely feel good knowing that you’ve helped another human being. As unique as it is empowering, Kiva is worth considering as a lender, particularly if you have extra money you’d like to put somewhere that has a positive impact in the world.
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