Kiva is amazing. It’s a site that lets you make microloans to working poor entrepreneurs in the developing world. Farmers, shopkeepers, builders, textile workers, and shoe sellers in Azerbaijan, Samoa, Togo, Kenya, Ecuador. Kiva helps you help them for as little as $25 at a time.

It’s a loan

This isn’t charity, it’s a loan. Amazingly, 99.7% of loans are repaid. When your Kiva loan is repaid, you can choose to withdraw your funds or re-loan to a new business. It’s a wonderful idea well executed.

One-to-one lending

What’s especially cool is that you are helping one person (and their family). It’s a laser-pointer approach to helping people. Pick one person to help, watch their progress, get paid back, loan them more if they need it.

It’s a refreshing alternative to donating to a mega-charity that blurs the connection between your help and a specific human being. Instead of tossing a dollar in a pile to be mass distributed at a later date, Kiva lets you “look someone in the eye,” hand them the dollar, tell them you’re behind them, and wish them good luck. That’s extra special for the giver and receiver.

The lending process is beautifully simple which is a big part of the appeal. Here’s how simple:

Browse business owners in need

Click someone for more detail

Choose to lend as little as $25

Pay with PayPal or a credit card. PayPal provides Kiva with free payment processing –’s largest variable cost – so 100% of the loaned funds reach entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Keep an eye on your loans

Follow along on their journals

That’s it

It’s simple, fast, easy, and direct. 100% of the donation goes right to the person in need. Kiva’s administration costs are covered by separate donations to Kiva, not by taking a cut of the loans. When you make a loan you are also prompted to make an optional donation to Kiva to help keep their lights on.

For more information on Kiva, see their about page. And here’s a NYT video feature on Kiva.