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The Business of Giving

Exploring philanthropy, non-profits and socially motivated business, from the Gates Foundation to your donation. A fresh look at the economy of good intentions.

June 10, 2009 at 12:15 AM

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Africans loaning to Americans? Kiva expands to U.S. borrowers

Posted by Kristi Heim

A Kenyan Internet entrepreneur is planning to make her first loan -- to an American she's never met. She's doing it through the online micro lending Web site Kiva.org, which grew famous serving the developing world and is now expanding to include the working poor in the U.S.

Recognizing that poverty is everywhere, Kiva is starting to offer loans to U.S. borrowers today, a plan that has been in the works for some time. It's testing the waters to see how the service is used and whether it will help Americans in the midst of a credit crunch find ways to fund small businesses such as beauty salons, nurseries and bakeries.

CEO Matt Flannery mentioned the idea when he talked with me about the evolution of Kiva in a recent interview here. More than 500,000 people have used Kiva to make a total of $76 million in small loans to entrepreneurs featured on the site.



THOMAS AUCIELLO/SPECIAL TO THE SEATTLE TIMES

Silvia and Todor Believe received a Kiva loan to expand their firewood delivery business in Bulgaria.

In the U.S. market, the non-profit is working through two partners: ACCION USA and the Opportunity Fund in the Bay Area.

Locally Washington CASH also offers small business loans to local borrowers. While a small amount of capital is often what entrepreneurs in the developing world need,
getting a business off the ground in the U.S. has its own challenges. Keeping it running successfully can be even harder, so Washington CASH combines loans with training, such as creating a business plan, budgeting and marketing.

Kiva's U.S. micro loans come at an interesting time, with the global economy shifting precariously and unpredictably, and government rescue plans aimed at huge banks and corporations. Through its person-to-person economic stimulus plan. Kiva is giving individuals a new way to decide where and how to put their money to work helping others.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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