. . . do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again;
and your reward shall be great,
and ye shall be the children of the Highest . . .
Several years ago our family received one of the most interesting and long-lasting Christmas presents we have ever received from another family in the extended family’s Christmas exchange. The thoughtful family who had drawn our family’s name contributed a modest sum of money on our behalf to the microlending organization Kiva. The idea was that they supplied the money as a gift to us and it was up to us to choose recipients for microloans using that money. This has been a gift that keeps on giving as the loans get paid back and we then have the opportunity to lend that money again to other recipients of our choice.
Once we got into the rhythm of the loan-payback cycle, we turned our time with Kiva into a quarterly Family Home Evening devoted to relending credit that had been paid back during the period to other needy recipients. Our children have absolutely loved this and look forward to our Kiva family home evenings.
Kiva is “a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.” Even though we fully trusted the judgment and insight of the family who got us involved in Kiva through their creative Christmas gift, we investigated Kiva’s operations a little to find out more about them as we began allocating the funds. We were pleased with what we found as we learned about Kiva’s Field Partners and that Kiva has a 98% repayment rate. From Kiva’s website:
How we’re funded
100% of every dollar you lend on Kiva goes directly towards funding loans; Kiva does not take a cut. Furthermore, Kiva does not charge interest to our Field Partners, who administer the loans.
Kiva is primarily funded through the support of lenders making optional donations. We also raise funds through grants, corporate sponsors, and foundations.
We are incredibly thankful for the support that has enabled us to do the work that has touched the lives of so many people.
It has been very fun and satisfying to get our children more involved with this Kiva lending as they have gotten older and gained more understanding of the concept of these loans. Our children, ranging from 7 to 12 years old (the three year old is still a little unable to help), now assist in our family’s own tailored “underwriting” process. Our Kiva night FHEs take longer than normal as we scroll through the candidates for microloans and perform our own “due diligence” on them and on the Field Partners with whom Kiva works to administer these loans in the local areas where the candidates live. We have established informal criteria by which we try to keep an equal distribution of male and female recipients, equally distribute our loans in the different regions where Kiva operates, and make loans across all economic sectors so that the funds can support diverse uses.
Typically, the way the funding cycle ends up coordinating with our quarterly FHEs, we have enough to fund between 3 and 5 loans in our account thanks to faithful repayments by previous recipients (though because it never ends up an even number, we always end up supplementing our account by $15 to $20 each quarter to make the loans we have selected, which further contributes to this corpus constantly growing). With our children’s help, we select at least two recipients whose profile indicates that they might be a safer investment based on previously obtained and repaid loans. Then we choose a newcomer, someone who looks like a potentially risky (though invariably very needy) candidate, to receive at least one loan. Often that risky bet is a (too) young woman whose profile reveals she is a mother of young children living in a mud and straw house in X developing country or war-torn region, trying to supplement the family business by purchasing more firewood to sell or seeds to plant. We have never been disappointed so far though, honestly, receiving repayment on these microloans is the farthest thing from our minds as we contemplate helping these people.
Microlending, we have discovered, provides a way for people with limited means (by Western standards) to make a contribution to alleviating poverty on a hyper-local basis. If we were wealthy, we might just give large sums as donations to appropriate charitable organizations that make a real difference on the ground in these areas. But with limited means, microlending through Kiva or Five Talents or other such wonderful organizations allows us to be involved despite our lack of resources.
Last night for our Kiva FHE, one of our daughters provided our opening “spiritual thought” before we began the family underwriting process by reading Alma 1:30:
And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.
I suppose I could say that this verse expresses our family’s long-term goal in our aspirational effort to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. I think that microlending through our Kiva FHEs or through other similar organizations might be a great first step to achieving such liberality of giving without strings attached. In the meantime, we have faith that these loans are providing much needed assistance, even with the payback obligations that they carry with them.