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Dec 31 2011

Help me spend our money

One of the perks of joining the FTBorg collective, aside from the fact that I now share internet real estate with personal heroes of mine, is that my traffic generates revenue. Well… your traffic generates revenue, through a formula based on number of hits and ad sale rates and other numbers that aren’t worth going into. While I do aspire to one day make my living as a writer, the fact that I get any recognition at all for my efforts at this comparatively early stage of the game is incredibly gratifying. I am deeply indebted to all of you who make the Crommunist Manifesto part of your regular reading.

Which brings me to a bit of a conundrum – one I’m hoping you’ll help me out with. I live simply, and in pretty comfortable circumstances – I don’t have a family to support or a vicious drug habit (coughcoughJasonThibealutcough). As a result, the marginal utility of the money the blog makes each month is, for me, pretty low. There are people, however, who could really do something amazing with the 40 or so dollars that this site brings in each month, and many of them are listed at Kiva.org.

For those of you who don’t know, Kiva is a microlending site, where people loan small amounts of money to development projects. The money is usually paid back, and can then go toward financing another loan. They are, apparently, very successful and have a remarkably low rate of default. I figure there’s no better way to put this stuff to use, and I was hoping you could help me.

Every month, when I receive may big fat paycheque, I will open up nominations for a worthy project. What I hope you will do is browse Kiva’s website and suggest a cause that you think is the best candidate. I’ll look through your suggestions and pick one. As the loans are repaid and the blog generates more revenue, we will be able to fund multiple projects every month.

So here’s the kickoff post:

For the month of October (the first month this site went live), we made $46.38.

Total amount loaned so far: $0
Total loan funds repaid: $0
Fund balance: $46.38

Where should our inaugural loan go? Put your suggestions in the comments and I will announce the winner in a week’s time.

45 comments

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  1. 1
    chigau (違う)

    I can’t pick a person.
    I’d vote for something about clean water.

  2. 2
    Pteryxx

    Heya, Kiva shows who donated to which loan and how active they are, and there’s an atheists group:

    http://www.kiva.org/team/atheists

    Are we just looking for whoever seems interesting, for suggestions? It’s searchable by field (I have a thing for animal husbandry and oddball occupations myself) and current state of loan: we could look for one that’s almost complete, and put it over the top, or (my preference) look for one that nobody’s heard of and give it a push.

    If this is going to be a regular/monthly thing for you, maybe this could start a series? We could go back and see how they’re doing.

  3. 3
    Riptide

    I’m in favour of: http://www.kiva.org/lend/372320

    Grocery stores are awesome, and I feel like the ‘stans get passed over for a lot of ‘Western’ causes of the ‘third world’.

  4. 4
    Crommunist

    I plan on making this a regular thing. You should just pick the one that you’d like to see money go to, and you should feel free to use whatever criteria you want to choose for that selection. I’ll be making the final decision, but I value everyone’s input.

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Anonymous Atheist

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/372320 is already 100% funded now. :)

  7. 7
    godihatereligion

    Have you heard of The Human Fund?

  8. 8
    Pteryxx

    I did note that an awful lot of the loans on the 5%-or-less end of the scale are ‘stans.

    I also looked at Palestine and saw many women listing with photographs of their husbands or sons. Interesting.

    …By the way, your #372320 is already 100% funded. When did that happen?

  9. 9
    Pteryxx

    Here’s another grocery store in a ‘stan for your consideration:

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/376202

    Adding to her range of products… nice.

  10. 10
    Crommunist

    Money for people. Yes, I’m familiar with their work. An admirable cause.

  11. 11
    Pteryxx

    …Why on earth are there so many displaced persons in Azerbaijan? *checks wiki* Ohhh.

  12. 12
    Pteryxx

    Most of yours are already funded, too. #370258 and #374311 have a ways to go yet.

  13. 13
    Pteryxx

    Here you go, have some single or widowed women whose loans are nowhere near funded yet:

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/362079 Lina in Armenia, for clothing to meet demand

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/365178 Rabeea in Jordan (son pictured)

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/357613 Svetlana in Armenia, for retail sales

  14. 14
    Pteryxx

    All righty, I’m having far too much fun with Kiva so I’ll stop with my current finds:

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/372532 Mirvate, a hairdresser in Lebanon who needs her own car to attend clients;

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/363334 Karim in Lebanon, a lone guy who makes clothing of his own design;

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/366623 Grigor for mobile phone repair (because I just love soldering irons);

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/370115 Vachik in Armenia, who runs a dairy farm and makes cheese;

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/365867 Zoxrab in Azerbaijan, for meat for his butcher shop (another favorite of mine, because meatcarving is a skilled trade that I rather wish I knew);

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/365823 Ermanboy in Tajikstan, livestock for farming and seeds for crops that also feed the animals;

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/376376 and this fellow Godeffroy in Benin who makes soap.

  15. 15
    Riptide

    I officially change my endorsement to http://www.kiva.org/lend/376202

    My original pick was about 50% funding when I looked a few hours ago. I can’t take any credit for moving that at all, as I’m just a po’ Uni student at the moment. But I definitely plan on using these as a kind of ‘investment’ when I get some extra cash, maybe over the summer. Certainly once I get some regular disposable income, I intend on throwing 50 or 100 bucks a week at people. If the stats are even half honest, you could easily see as much of a return as you would investing the same amount of cash in NYSE or TSX. Plus it will go toward actually helping people.

  16. 16
    Riptide

    Am I the only one who’s creeped out and saddened that so many women from Muslim-majority countries have to have their faces blurred, or have their male relatives pictured in their stead?

  17. 17
    Anonymous Atheist

    Wow, just half an hour later. None of them were fully funded when I found them and posted, I think the highest was around 75% at the time. Crommunist, the idea of waiting a week to decide may not be practical at this rate, every individual we suggest may all be funded by then. ;)

  18. 18
    Crommunist

    We fight one battle at a time, I guess. Economic security, then political influence?

  19. 19
    Crommunist

    Hahaha, it’s probably the least/most depressing way to shop online. Most depressing because there’s so many projects that need funding, and least because you can make a major difference with a comparatively small amount of money.

  20. 20
    Riptide

    Scratch what I said about ‘investing’–Kiva doesn’t give the individual lenders any interest on their loans, so it’s not a strategy to make any money. Still a good thing to do if you have an extra 50 or 100 bucks a week (or month) that you don’t really need, and I intend to pursue it.

  21. 21
    Pteryxx

    It’s not just you. I looked and looked for women in Palestine with their own photographs (there may be some that I missed) but if there *are* lone women trying to get microloans for their own businesses, who wouldn’t have male relatives to photograph, then we’d never see them to fund them, would we?

    There’s quite a few males with their faces blurred out, too, especially in Lebanon. My second pick above is one of them. Since he’s a lone male crafting dresses, I admit I do wonder.

    Re the speed at which loans are being funded: I suspect we’re seeing an unusually high rate of activity with the holiday and all. Some of those loans have been sitting there since November. Which is a great reason to make Microloan Day a monthly occasion. *nods to Crommunist*

  22. 22
    Fred

    I can’t argue with your choice of how to use the money. You inspired me to fund another Kiva project myself. Can I assume you’ve already joined the biggest lending team in the Kiva community?

    Are you planning to continue directing future blog income into various Kiva loans, or will you pick a completely different project or purpose next time? May I suggest funding the “Send the Crommunist to The Amazing Meeting” project?

  23. 23
    Crommunist

    I could certainly use the money for TAM, but once again I am compelled to consider marginal utility. Unless I’m speaking at TAM (ha!) or the FTBorg is assembling there, I can think of better uses for this kind of money. Plus, Kiva is a loan program, so I will get most(?) of this money back into my own account. The two things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

    I may join the atheists group. I haven’t really got that far in my thinking yet.

  24. 24
    Brian Lynchehaun

    Education:

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/377289

    Joshua lives in Changamwe and is employed. He is married and has four children; one of whom is in school. Joshua learned of Milango from his friends. He is applying for a loan of 40,000 Kenya shillings to pay for his children’s school fees. His main goal is to provide education to his children.

    Currently at 0%

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/374975

    This is Phalany’s first group loan with VisionFund. She leads this group in applying for a loan. She will use the entire loan to pay her children’s tuition. She hopes this loan will keep her children in school until graduation. (Cambodia)

    Currently at 6%

  25. 25
    Zhuge

    One thing that might be worth noting is that, unless it has changed recently, one’s loans to Kiva don’t really go simply to the person you say they do. Rather they go to the general fund for that microloan organization, which may fund(in most cases actually already has funded) that person but may fund someone else. This isn’t a huge deal, I think, but it does change the way at which I look at the loans. It becomes more important to look for groups that offer certain services. I also avoid the religious MFI’s because some do “religious outreach” which I am against on principle.

    As it happens, I tend to do a lot with Assah which operates in Pakistan and mostly focuses on women. I am 99% certain it is secular as well. As an American I also try to do MFI’s in Nicaragua(Leon 2000, say) and Guatemala as a sort of “atonement” for the stuff my country did there throughout the 20th century but obviously that doesn’t apply to you or many other readers.

    I would also look at the atheist lending group’s conversations. They normally have some insight into the most efficient organizations and keep a list of secular/religious MFI’s!

  26. 26
    Veronica Abbass

    Crommunist

    Thank you for including your readers in your decision. Donating/Lending money to Kiva.org is a great idea. However, I’ll leave the suggestions of whom or where to your other readers, but I will continue to read your site to help you/us generate more funds for a worthy cause.

  27. 27
    Pteryxx

    Aaaand now they’re both 100% funded. That might explain why, when I searched yesterday, I saw 0 loans open for “Education”… and now there’s 0 again. I’d guess Education loans get jumped on by donors a lot faster than small-business or housing loans; or maybe there’s just so few of them.

    *note: Wow, a whole stack of loans got added today! All sorts of categories that were empty yesterday – Arts, Entertainment, Health (only 2 there), Manufacturing… More browsing! *browse browse browse*

  28. 28
    Pteryxx

    They’ve created Firefox and Chrome MFI checkers for Kiva, along with lists of organizations on Google Docs. Links to all these are just under the Facebook feed links here:

    http://atheist-monkey.blogspot.com/

  29. 29
    Pteryxx

    oooh, more fun stories in the new loans just listed!

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/376494 Trorb Ken in Cambodia, to buy a lathe to help manufacture drums;

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/375679 Malek in Iraq, who’s a blacksmith expanding his shop. Interesting Muslim lending terms:

    2. ACSI offers loan products that are designed to serve borrowers in Iraq, a predominantly Muslim country. A key tenet of Islam is the prohibition of interest in the lending or accepting of money. This prohibition is based on the belief that money should be seen only as a medium of exchange and that it has no value in itself. ACSI has adapted the terms of this loan to fit the cultural context by attaching a 0% interest rate to the loan.

    and these are just too awesome IMHO:

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/377045 Tserendavaa in Mongolia, to purchase karaoke equipment for her cafe – she’s a single mother also;

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/377300 and Juma in Kenya, to purchase playstations for his entertainment business.

    I know, they’re not cows and plowshares, but I’m a gamer and I believe in people having fun, what can I say.

    I’m probably not helping at all with the actual decision-making part of this project, heh. My favorites right now are #377045 for the karaoke gear (too cool!) and #363334, that clothing designer in Lebanon.

  30. 30
    Pteryxx

    Hey Crommunist, what’s your Kiva lender handle? I’m making an account (for observation at this point) and there’s a space for “referred by”.

  31. 31
    Pteryxx

    Oooh – this fellow’s a veterinary pharmacist in Senegal! Score! Fast-moving too, just posted today and already 25% funded:

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/375776

  32. 32
    papango

    There’s a big group called Late Loaning Lenders who often swoop in at the end of every month to give funds to loans that are to expire. Because of the high turnover of loans, I would suggest picking a type (single women, from a ‘stan, expiring soon) to give to rather than an individual who might be funded by the time you’ve made your decision.

    I usually look for people making or supporting music. My parents are saxophone players who run band classes for kids, so I try to get behind that sort of thing. They can be hard to find because music is not seen as a ‘real job’, so they often list under services, or they’ll have it in their bio.

    Anyway, good luck picking just one, and definitely post the updates they send out about your candidate.

  33. 33
    papango

    You can join multiple groups and choose which on to make a loan under. I go Musicians for Kiva for music loans, because this raises the profile of the loan to a group who might be interested in it. The Late Loaning Lenders send out alerts if a loan looks like it will expire before it gets funded, which gets me off my backside, but I’ll often credit another team with the loan to draw their attention to it.

  34. 34
    Pteryxx

    There’s a big group called Late Loaning Lenders who often swoop in at the end of every month to give funds to loans that are to expire.

    You can join multiple groups and choose which on to make a loan under. I go Musicians for Kiva for music loans, because this raises the profile of the loan to a group who might be interested in it. The Late Loaning Lenders send out alerts if a loan looks like it will expire before it gets funded, which gets me off my backside, but I’ll often credit another team with the loan to draw their attention to it.

    Games YOU can play with your charity! I assume that Late Loaning Lenders’ group stats shoot up the rankings at the end of each month? And thank you, papango, for the notes on how it’s done.

  35. 35
    papango

    The Late Loaners are even more cunning. Because popular loans get funded quicker, they will pick a loan that’s expiring and co-ordinate a few people to loan at the same time, which pushes it up the popularity rankings and on to the front page where others will see it. So the LLL rankings don’t go up, because it’s just a few people, but the loans get funded because they’re more visible. I’m glad they found an outlet for their cleverness that isn’t super villanry.

    I love my Kiva account. I like getting the updates bout the people I loan too.

    The only thing I think they should fix is the ‘basketing’ system. If a person puts a loan in their basket it shows as funded, even if they don’t fund it, and then when it comes out of the basket and others can see it needs funding it can be close to expiring.

  36. 36
    Pteryxx

    …I was wondering about the popularity turnover, and I’ve been scraping the back end of the popularity rankings looking for under-attended gems. Sounds like I should keep watch on LLL.

    How do you recommend tracking multiple loans in Kiva when someone *cough* doesn’t have actual money to fund them?

  37. 37
    papango

    If you sort by ‘expiring soon’ you can see the ones that have been lingering. Loans only stay current for a month, and when they’re getting close the number of days to go will come up on unfunded loans. New loans come on at the start of the month, so there’s a glut now, but around the 25th is when the LLL’s start to get serious.

    I use browser bookmarks to keep tabs on loans until my money comes through. So there’s no pressure if I forget or don’t have the credit.

  38. 38
    Pteryxx

    Late Loaning Lenders’ FAQ:

    http://www.kivafriends.org/index.php/topic,4922.msg73508.html#msg73508

    Many Kiva lenders prefer to lend to female entrepreneurs, some prefer to lend to individuals rather than groups, some prefer to avoid currency risk, and so on. In general, then, most loans that turn red tend to be larger than average, or loans to groups, or to men, or to women with currency risk. There are exceptions to this general trend. But the most significant factor in whether a loan gets funded within the first few days after it is posted or languishes until it turns red seems to be luck.

    …I’m in. (Broke, but in.) papango, let me know your handle and I’ll put you as my referral instead of Crommunist, eh?

  39. 39
    papango

    I’m Renee. renee4919 is my kiva page id. My picture is a portrait done by a kindergartener. It’s a good likeness; he really nailed it.

  40. 40
    Pteryxx

    I saw that portrait while searching for ‘papango’ ! Done and done.

    …Not that I have any idea if ‘referred by’ accomplishes anything on Kiva, but hey.

  41. 41
    papango

    I use papango and that picture pretty much everywhere. I think the kid who drew it is probably in intermediate school (your junior high) by now.

    I don’t think I get any prizes. Just the sweet sweet kudos.

    Don’t be too concerned if some of your loans default. Out of 32 loans I have two that are seriously behind and may not pay. Lots of people get upset about that. But I work for Customs here in NZ and we have a lot of cases of people in financial strife being easy prey for drug traffickers looking to use them as mules to get meth into NZ. Ten elderly Malaysians were just sentenced to nine years each after family members got in too deep with loan sharks and offered an ‘easy way out’ of the debt.

    Failure is a part of business, and often success doesn’t come until after a few failures. I’d rather someone in too deep just walked away and started again than dug themselves a bigger hole.

  42. 42
    Pteryxx

    The odds of default look to run about 5% or so. Meh, I’ll risk it, once I can get 25 bucks or so together to fund anything.

  43. 43
    Pteryxx

    All righty… with a bit better grasp of how Kiva rolls, I’d guess we want to contribute to a loan that a) isn’t so exciting that it’s funded before Crommunist can get to it, but b) isn’t so meh that it’s likely to expire through neglect and bounce the funds back. So, here’s my revised list of suggestions:

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/377045 – listed Jan 1, 38% funded.

    I’d guess buying a karaoke machine in Mongolia is sufficiently awesome that it WILL get funded, probably in the next few days. Might be fun to follow though.

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/352905 – listed Nov 6, 94% funded.

    A few LLL members backed this loan, to a fellow in Jordan with a big homemade Google sign on the wall of his internet cafe. (Apparently the loan’s for sadly needed redecorating.)

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/365178 – listed Dec 2, 31% funded.

    On the single woman front, this loan goes to a widowed Jordanian market seller whose son is pictured.

    http://www.kiva.org/lend/376202 – listed Dec 28, 15% funded.

    And this one’s for the grocery-store woman in Azerbaijan.

    Unfortunately the tailor in Jordan that I like (#363334) is only 3% funded and has been up since Nov 25.

    So, that’s my short list, and now I’ll go about weaning myself off of Kiva. >_>

  44. 44
    Jason Thibeault

    I don’t know who this Jason Thibealut character is but he sounds like a bad seed and you should stay away.

  45. 45
    Crommunist

    Vancouver’s about as far away as I can get without leaving the country :P

    Besides, telling me to stay away from a bad boy is a waste of time. I am every teenage stereotype imaginable.

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