Student group begins $10,000 fund-raising campaign for Kiva micro-lending program

January 09, 2009

Brett Johnson, assistant professor of sociology at Luther College, and a group of Luther students have launched a $10K for Kiva campaign to assist developing communities in Third World countries. The Luther group plans to raise $10,000 from a variety of campus and off-campus sources by mid-February to loan through Kiva.org.

The $10K for Kiva campaign will both assist a poor community and educate the Luther community about micro-lending. As the loans are repaid, the $10K for Kiva project will reloan the money, allowing the program to continue for years to come.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to specific project entrepreneurs in the developing world. Founded in 2005, Kiva has lent more than $50 million dollars through 93 field partners in 42 countries as it works to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

On the Kiva website, lenders browse through the profiles of entrepreneurs seeking loan funds. Lenders choose a project and an entrepreneur to support with their loan dollars. Kiva's microfinance partners then distribute the funds to the selected entrepreneurs who use the money to implement the project and then repay the loan over time.

Microfinance is the supply of small amounts of money through loans, savings and other basic financial services to the poor. A person in a poor community does not have a lot of money or assets and is not able to take out a $5,000 loan or open a savings account with a formal bank. The term "microfinance" helps to differentiate the Kiva small-dollar lending programs from those lending services that formal banks provide.

The microcredit loans focus on the well-being of the neediest communities as the money is invested directly to the business. Kiva loans have been used to buy bamboo to make stools, a loom to make rugs, or a rickshaw to run a taxi service. The goal of every Kiva project is development of a small business or operation that will benefit not only the entrepreneur but the workers the business hires and the clients it serves.

The Luther community will be involved in many stages of the $10K for Kiva project. First, an outreach team of Luther students, staff, and faculty will conduct the fund-raising project. Second, Luther community members will choose which entrepreneurs receive loans. Third, people who make loans will receive monthly updates on the progress of their loans.

Kiva project events during the spring semester include a campus lecture by Kiva.org co-founder Jessica Jackley Flannery and a presentation by the $10K for Kiva outreach team on microlending through Kiva.org and the details of the campus project.

Project leaders hope to get people who have a kiva.org account to join the Luther College lending team on the website. To join, log into your kiva.org account, click on "community," search for the Luther College lending team, and click "join team" in the "Luther College" row.

Contributions to the $10K for Kiva campaign should be made out to "Luther College" with "$10K for Kiva" in the memo line and sent to College Ministries, Luther College, 700 College Drive, Decorah, IA 52101.

To learn more contact Brett Johnson at brett@luther.edu.