Green Hat started lending to micro-entrepreneurs in the developing world eight years ago this month. We know, because Kiva.org is meticulous about letting us know just what’s going on and apprising us of our contribution to its cause.
In fact, you could say that Kiva is an excellent marketer – it certainly does an impressive job of gaining hearts and minds around the world. Essentially, it brings together far-flung individuals and groups, on-the-ground financial agencies with both individual and corporate lenders who want to do something valuable – all in the cause of alleviating world poverty.
And Kiva has an impressive record – since it was founded as a non-profit in San Francisco in 2005, 1.9 million lenders have funded 3.7 million borrowers in 77 countries to the tune of US$1.51 billion.
A friend gave me a Kiva voucher for a significant birthday over a decade ago. The concept of lending small (to me) dollops of money to multiple aspiring business people in places I’d been or was yet to visit really appealed to me. Then, after they succeeded and paid it back over time, there it was to lent all over again!
I became so passionate about the Kiva idea that, when I met the CEO of a Kiva Field Partner by chance when staying with friends in Samoa, I jumped at the opportunity to spend a day visiting loan recipients.
To start with, I gained an understanding of the operations of the Field Partner – essentially a source of finance for individuals who would never get a bank loan, and probably never even hold a bank account. The finance might be for a capital purchase – such as a sewing machine, agricultural tools or access to clean water for an entire village. Others need to borrow for cash flow purposes – such as purchasing retail supplies, ingredients for food sellers or materials for craftspeople. I also met with a lovely young woman who was essentially ‘donating’ a year of her life after college to work with the Samoan Field Partner, as one of Kiva’s 450-odd volunteers.
Then out with two of the Partner’s field staff on a round of three different villages, where groups of women had gathered to catch up and make their regular repayments. Everything double recorded in separate ledgers, one kept by the Partner’s representatives and the other by the village borrowing group. Although few spoke English, they were warm and hospitable. We asked each other lots of questions in between cool drinks and little snacks – and on leaving the last village the three of us had packed lunches pressed on us by a woman whose small business was catering for Chinese construction workers building a new hospital.
I returned from my Samoan holiday so enthused that Green Hat decided to become a company lender! Over the years many colleagues have joined Kiva – or linked their existing Kiva accounts to our lending team. Sometimes we’ve made Kiva loans on behalf of our clients at Christmas time. We’ve also used Kiva credits in client campaigns – for example, as a reward to professionals for completing a survey. I’m happy because I have more funds to loan and feel part of a bigger effort.
Over eight years, we’ve lent around US$34,000 in nearly 1,300 loans to people in 68 different countries. I’m frequently asked why 97% of our loans are made to women (overall, 70% of Kiva borrowers are female). Answering involves generalising – which can be unfair – but, typically in developing nations, money that women are able to earn goes towards education of their children and the betterment of the lives of their family and community.
In 12 years, I’ve seen very little in the way of defaults. Yes, some borrowers in Yemen defaulted when war broke out. Several loans to Mongolian smallholders were lost when their currency rate plunged a few years back. But, overall, Kiva has a 96% repayment rate which is astonishing. As the lovely Samoan borrowers I met explained, they support each other as a group – so, if a member is in danger of defaulting, they usually rally round to help with repayments. If Kiva teaches anything, it’s that all the world should be a village!
We’d love you to join our Green Hat Marketing Kiva Lending Team! You can see what we’ve achieved and join at kiva.org/team/greenhat