Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Why I chose Opportunity instead of Kiva

It's incredible how many people mention 'Kiva' as soon as they find out I am raising money for a microfinance project. Kiva seems to have quite a high profile on Twitter, perhaps because they created the world’s first peer-to-peer microloan website.

So why did I decide to raise money for Opportunity International, not Kiva?
(Full disclosure - I have been an ambassador with Opportunity Australia since September last year. This is an unpaid role, and something I do in my own time. I wanted to make a difference and when I heard about Opportunity, it just 'sat right' with me. This post is just my opinion based on information I have researched.)

So first let me share a bit of background about the non-profit Kiva partners with microfinance institutions (MFIs) to provide loans to the poor through one-to-one connections. From what I know, when you donate to them the money goes to and is then sent to their partner MFIs who distribute the loans to clients. You can communicate with the actual business owner and once the loan is repaid you can decide whether to withdraw it or reloan it. Many entreprenuers are reasonably well established and funded by a number of lenders. Kiva has a relationship with Opportunity as Kiva cofounder Jessica Jackley Flannery is on the Opportunity International Board of Directors. Overall Kiva seems to be doing a really good thing.

But THIS is what I like about Opportunity Australia :)
  • They provide loans to clients learning less than US$2 a day - specifically targeting people living below the poverty line
  • They offer more than just loans- a Trust Bank program I'm raising money for includes loans AND business training and community enterprise development to assist a whole community out of poverty.
  • They help the poor to start a business, and offer important financial services such as microinsurance and microsavings.
  • They have been around for 35 years - they are expererienced
  • Each gift is tax deductible and each gift is recycled.
  • I really like their focus on empowerment and community building (beyond just a loan)
  • There are people ready and WAITING to get their Trust Bank going. As soon as I raise the funds the program can start. Even if I only raise AU$5,000 (half of my target) I can still partner with another ambassador to create a Trust Bank.
So, while I know Kiva seems to be doing a really good thing, I naturally gravitated towards Opportunity when I heard about it. Now it's just a matter of raising the money! You might have thought about creating a small 1:1 loan for US$25 with Kiva BUT if I can find just over 200 people to donate the same $25 then we will have raised enough money together to support at UP TO 30 women from the same community with hundrends of dollars worth of loans each, PLUS education and personal empowerment to change their community. Can you tell I'm just a little bit excited by the possiblity? :)

Anyhow, I hope that explains some of the differences and similarities between two organisations, both set up to help the poor rise up against poverty. It's something each person is capable of doing.