looking into U.S. microfinancing

After looking into Kiva (motto being “Loans that Change Lives”) for several months before deciding to assist those in foreign nations, I am torn.

I am torn because it occurred to me that i was not doing enough to help fellow citizens. Although i do support organizations here in America (EFF, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and Liberator Magazine), i still need to do more. I don’t have the wealth of Gates or Zuckerberg, so there’s no donating 80% of my money, but i want to be able to assist in some way. I still yearn to help those in Katrina even five years later, but i’ve found it difficult to locate exact areas where i can be of assistance. Maybe i’m not researching enough.

one of several microloan/microfinancing websites

So, i looked into microfinancing (or microloans) in the US. I’m all for people who are open to empowering themselves, so loaning a measly $25 (Kiva loan increments) at a time that can go far when combined with other people loaning, why not? And, i figured since it is gaining popularity and awareness throughout the world with Kiva and other players like World Vision’s Micro, Wokai (China), and microplace, it had to have some presence in America. I would feel much better knowing that i was helping Americans as well as foreigners. To me, it’s the same argument (or viewpoint) i have regarding adoption: there are thousands of children in the US who are in the foster care system eligible for adoption, yet people adopt from other countries instead. It’s unfortunate. But, everyone has their right to choose what they want. I can’t knock that.

I was actually surprised, however, after researching the numbers on adoption in the States. From the media’s coverage over the past few years, i was under the impression that adoption rates bringing children overseas to America had increased; but the opposite was true. From the height of foreign-to-US adoption (2002), the numbers have decreased from ~23,000 to ~13,000 (2010). I wonder why that is … Probably higher fees? This economy isn’t great, so that would make sense. ::shrugs:: May have to look into that one day.

As of today (1.17.2011), Kiva has three active loans listed in the US, all located in the Texas-Louisiana regions. Not a heck of a lot of activity, but it’s more than the last time i checked a few weeks ago, which was zero. I’m going to look more into microplace and Micro to see which people’s plans i would like to help, if any. Although i want to help, it wouldn’t be wise to just throw money around willy-nilly without some info. On Kiva, i’m not necessarily looking for my loans back (it can take months to receive even $3), but i want to make sure the investments are useful in the maximum way.

There have been ups and downs of delight and scorn (PDF) over the industry by the press and politicians, but like other areas such as vaccinations, nothing is a cure-all for poverty. For more information regarding microfinancing, check out this overview from microplace. You might be interested in hearing about some success stories, too.

And for the statistics people, below are some numbers from World Vision about their operation, which began in 1993:

Global microfinance facts:

The challenge

  • One in five people worldwide survive on less than $1.25 a day
  • Only 3% of the need for microfinance is being met
  • 16 million people currently use microfinance
  • 500 million people could potentially benefit from microfinance

World Vision microfinance facts:

People helped

  • Active borrowers: 604,000
  • Jobs created or sustained last year: 985,000
  • Typical borrower: woman (68%)
  • Children impacted last year: 1.86 million

Loans given

  • Average loan size: $671.00
  • Loan repayment rate: 98.7 percent
  • Loan portfolio: $397 million
  • Since 1993, World Vision has disbursed 3,500,000 loans, totaling more than $1.8 billion

Microfinance institutions (MFIs) leveraged

  • Definition: an MFI is a local lending office within a community, managed by local professionals whose experience ensures funds are protected and wisely invested
  • Current network of MFIs: 42
  • Forbes recognized two World Vision MFIs among their Top 50 List of MFIs (out of the more than 12,000 currently in operation worldwide)

As usual, thank you for reading.

I’m out.