When I started this blog, I admitted to some unease with making regular donations to charitable oganizations. Typically, I prefer to support a charity by making a purchase so that if my funds are squandered at least I have something to show for my money, whether it be a shirt, ball cap, whatever. I wouldn't feel totally hosed.
Also, a browse through the charity navigator reveals that many top dogs in the more commonly known charities are listed as having 6-digit salaries. Well, I don't have one, so a plea to donate "whatever I can afford" sometimes rings hollow (and the particular selection in my link is not coincidental; I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times their newsletter did NOT ask for a donation in the course of a year).
Kiva does away with this nicely though; They ask for loans, not donations.
Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world. By choosing a loan on Kiva, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the entrepreneur you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.
I was still a little reluctant because I wondered whether the onus wold be on me to retrieve my funds. A year later, one can easily forget. But after surfing for a while, I became very interested. So no chance of forgetting now, I check it every day.
Here's my Lender page.
I first loaned to one lady in particular because she was looking to make repairs to her home. Frankly, I was more looking for someone looking to expand on a business, but she was $25.00 short at the time that I came across her profile, so I went ahead.
I later found a group of 15 ladies who want to invest in their businesses and also seek to "...(clean) abandoned lots, the streets and alleys in their neighborhood, on order to stop the breeding of mosquitoes"
You're on, ladies! They had under $1000 of their funds when I made my contribution, and by the end of the next day, they had the whole thing. The funds have apparently been disbursed to them already by Kiva's partner in the region.
I love this idea and I plan to basically have a small budget that I rotate around. And if you're the type that wants to help but doesn't believe in making donations, well, maybe a loan is more your speed.