Philanthropy is not reserved for the mega rich. If you are asking the question ‘what can I do to help fight poverty?‘ one of the answers is at the tip of your keyboard. Did you know that a mere $75 can be half of the ‘seed round’ for entrepreneurs in a developing country? With the many cyber charity and volunteer organizations online, you can become an angel investor and make a difference in someone’s life.
Understanding the problem
In poor countries, banks and commercial money lenders generally charge interest rates of several hundred percent a year. As a result, borrowing money becomes a big risk and people tend to borrow for health emergencies rather than to finance a new business. In addition, access to banks in these developing countries is scarce, so earning interest from savings is often not an option.
What can you do to help?
Contributions– As we approach the holiday season, expand the present options. Sites such as Changing the present and Donors Choose (CTP was covered here in the past), suggest that your next gift to someone should be more meaningful than the J. Crew sweater you were about to buy for the holidays. Instead, they allow you to make a contribution to your charitable cause of choice. Check out CTP’s recently announced Facebook App.
Micro Lending – many of the new micro financing communities for developing countries will allow you to invest directly in someone’s business or cause.
- Kiva.org, has been described as “web 2.0 meets the Nobel Peace Prize”. Founded by a young couple following a trip to Africa, Kiva lets people loan money to an entrepreneur in the developing world using lists of relatively small loan requests (usually $2000 or less). One may wonder how these entrepreneurs in developing countries hear about these opportunities. Some of them never even heard of the internet, so Kiva partnered with local lenders affiliated with Mercy Corps.
- Interesting stats: Kiva has 131K members. Total value of all loans made through Kiva.org is about $13M. The average size of a loan is $641.
- Learn more about the organization on Kiva’s FAQ. See all business in need
- Unitus – “fights global poverty by using a venture capital model to increase access to microfinance”. Unitus finds poverty-focused and commercially sustainable microfinance institutions (MFIs) and then work with the partners to improve their processes so that they can grow incredibly quickly. There are about 10K MFIs worldwide of which 68, representing 39 countries, are members of the platform. In 2006 over 1M families transformed their lives with loans as small as one hundred dollars. See the intro video.
- Global Giving – “a marketplace of goodness”. Global Giving matches donors to doers by showcasing approximately 450 pre screened grassroots charity projects. Donations are tax deductible and guaranteed to be on the ground in less than 60 days.
Social entrepreneurship is not charity. It’s an investment – and judging by the success of these services, it has a positive ROI too.