When you think of volunteering, the expression, “Think global, act local” may come to mind, right?

Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Walk animals for the Humane Society. Become a Big Sister. Work with Habitat for Humanity.

There are countless ways to get involved in your local community, but what if I told you there was a way to get involved, make a global impact, and you could do it at home in your jammies?

I first heard about Kiva.org when I was teaching high school Spanish. My colleague who organized the Spanish club asked the students what they’d like to spend some of their funds on. Instead of a Cinco de Mayo party or a video and pizza after school, one of the kids suggesting donating funds via Kiva.org to an entrepreneur in Latin America.

After that, I became hooked.

Who: Kiva gives funds to entrepreneurs all over the world, and more than 80% of them are women. Kiva likes to focus its efforts on women because they are more likely to suffer poverty in developing countries. With Kiva’s microloans, they are able to educate their children, renovate their homes, and have a greater impact on other local businesses.

There are currently almost 2,700 loans posted on Kiva, ranging from $1,000 to $30,000. The minimum crowdfunding commitment is $25.

What:

  1. Entrepreneurs apply for field loans from Kiva’s field partners (partnering non-profits who work directly with the loan applicants in the country).
  2. The field partner underwrites and approves the loan.
  3. The loan is put out for crowdfunding on Kiva.
  4. Once the loan has been funded, the borrower repays the loan to the field partner, who repays Kiva in turn.
  5. Kiva returns the money to the crowdfunders, who can either withdraw the funds or use them for another loan.

When: Founded in 2005, Kiva has helped more than 1.6 million entrepreneurs and raised nearly $1 billion.

Where: Kiva is currently distributing funds in 82 countries, from the United States to Zimbabwe to the Solomon Islands.

Why: This was a no-brainer for me. As an entrepreneur, I like to see others succeed in creating and sustaining small businesses. My very first Kiva loan was to a Haitian woman named Marie-Josiane who needed $1,850 to buy a supply of beans, rice, flour, and other staples for her market stand. The photo showed her looking extremely proud of her inventory, like she had control of her destiny thanks to the power of microfinancing.

The $25 I donated was repaid in $4.16 installments over 6 months. After which, I was free to do on and re-invest in another female entrepreneur in Africa.

Is Kiva.org perfect? No, it isn’t. While 97.1% of their loans are successfully repaid, almost 3% of the loans do not get paid. So there is a risk when you lend.

Some of the loan interest rates are pretty shocking. Field partners can charge over a 15% interest rate for repayments, which is I think is almost predatory. While Kiva’s investors don’t feel the difference, that definitely makes a difference to the entrepreneurs’ bottom line.

While it is a case of “buyer beware” with a small percentage of loans, I love Kiva.org and what it does to sustain local economies both here in the States and overseas. I love the idea of empowering women to take charge of their own affairs and lead their families to a place of economic environment.

Do you have $25? What are you waiting for? Hop on Kiva.org and make a difference today!

Have you ever helped out with an overseas charitable organization? What was your experience? Comment below!