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  #1  
Old 01-09-2009, 12:08 PM
Portland Portland is offline
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Kiva is a scam.

I searched for "kiva" on here and found no hits. That seems unlikely - sorry if I missed a duplicates.

Kiva is a non-profit. They take your donations and distribute them to microfinance lenders all over the world. Those lenders disburse the money to entrepreneurs in third world countries, who pay back the loans in installments. You choose the specific entrepreneur to fund, and as they pay off the loan, the money you donated is returned to you. A lot of good, lasting change is generated by giving these people access to capital.

The problem is that the loans are NOT given out interest free. You give your donation free of charge, and Kiva gives it to the loan companies free of charge, but the loan companies charge the borrowers very high interest rates. The average rate is 23% - in the US, that would be "Payday Loan" territory.

This is not made very clear on the Kiva website. In fact, the Kiva website says that you are making a direct, "one-on-one" connection with the borrower, and call it a "person-to-person" loan. You have to dig quite a bit to find out that your money is being passed from Kiva to a for-profit company, and even more to find out that they are earning an average of 23% interest on your donation.

Yes, there are good reasons for that high interest rate. These loans are small, so the initial cost to set them up is an unusually large part of the total costs, making the interest rate seem higher. These borrowers are also supposed to be high-risk, but the average default rate for all Kiva loans is only 2.85%.

The microfinance loan companies partnered with Kiva have loaned an average of $55 million dollars, at an average of 23% interest, with an average default rate of 2.85%. That's an average PROFIT of almost $11 million dollars.

Microfinance lending is a GOOD thing, and a worthy cause for your donations. I even applaud these companies, because they are helping people and have found a way to make money while doing good work.

But they are NOT charities. I don't see why a company that has made $11 million dollars -- off of poor people! -- needs more free money from me. Would you donate food to Feed the Children, if they were selling it to starving kids at a 23% markup? With a 23% ROI, these companies can afford to put everything on Visa and still make a profit!

I don't think the Kiva website makes this clear enough, and I don't think these companies deserve free use of your money. If you want to donate to microfinance, go to one of the groups that don't do it for profit, like the Rotary microfunding program. http://www.rotarianmicrocredit.org/

All my figures are from the Kiva website - use the "Kiva average" numbers from any "Microfund Partner" page. Note that the main Kiva pages do NOT mention any of these figures!
http://www.kiva.org/about/aboutPartner?id=22


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  #2  
Old 07-21-2009, 11:51 AM
wildazndude wildazndude is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

Since kiva.org is a scam, you, and every other micro-lender, should invest in microplace.com.

Sure, microplace.com is run by eBay, a company known for permitting scams to occur on their auction site, but its model appears more transparent than kiva.org.

http://www.microplace.com



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  #3  
Old 07-21-2009, 02:57 PM
john_v_schmitt john_v_schmitt is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

It's not a scam. Your analysis is incorrect & incomplete.

23% interest paid on 50 million is $11 million. Yes. But, it is NOT $11 million in PROFIT.

As you clearly acknowledge, the bank has to have physical offices, and pay loan officers locally to meet with & work with local applicants. They turn down applicants who are too risky. So, for every loan they do, they have many real costs, which are NOT free.

So, take away, say $9 million for the valid operational costs the bank must make, and you get maybe $2 million (4%) PROFIT. If that.

That's why most banks only take loans for higher amounts, and salivate over the largest loans (homes in the US). It's because the valid overhead on each loan is mostly fixed & high. The larger the loan, the easier it is to absorb those costs in a modest change in interest rates.

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  #4  
Old 07-21-2009, 03:15 PM
Portland Portland is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

The correct term before taking out all those expenses would be "gross profit." So I'm not wrong...

According to the latest figures on the kiva.org website, the average gross profit is up to $17 million now. And I can't imagine that it takes anywhere near $9 million to run a company in one of these developing nations. What's the average local salary? How much is rent? You're talking a drop in the bucket compared to the millions they are bringing in.

Regardless of how MUCH money they are making: Why do these companies deserve free money, if they are making a profit on the donated funds?

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  #5  
Old 07-21-2009, 05:49 PM
john_v_schmitt john_v_schmitt is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

Well, you're welcome to get in on this "scam" if you truly think you could make a convenient profit from it. It's quite an open system. And, they often "run out" of people to loan money to. So, by all means, jump in & expand it if you want.

Just setup your bank in a 3rd world. Navigate complex paradoxical bureaucracies of local government entities which essentially require bribes to get anything done (to clear one side of a paradoxical requirement).

Try to make $50 million USD in loans, $500 at a time. That's 100,000 loans to process, and send out monthly bills, handle calls, & chase down payments. And, if you grant 100,000 loans, that means you probably rejected another 200,000 to get to the 100k that were viable. If you spent, on average, 20 hours per successful loan, at a paltry $2/hour, that's already $4 million in costs.

Setup a system of auditing, to follow local laws, and if nothing else, make sure you're not getting cheated grossly by customers or employees.

How much labor would that cost? Can you really get by with the lowest wages within that country? You'd need specialists making at least ~$2,000/year as you need basic literacy, math, and communication skills.

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  #6  
Old 07-21-2009, 06:16 PM
Portland Portland is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

Those are all good points - I feel like you'd rather start an argument than read what I actually wrote...?

I say about that microlending is a GOOD thing - I even put it in caps!

And while some folks, or companies, might do it for free, for-profit companies will probably get a lot more feet on the ground. I'm okay with that! For-profit microfinance; enable change while making money!

I just think it's scammy that Kiva uses such cute language to make it seem like this is a nonprofit, direct-to-the-needy donation, when actually you're just shoring up for-profit companies. It seems really dishonest of them - NONE of the Kiva donators I've spoken to had any idea the loans weren't going out at zero interest.

And I believe that most of the Kiva partner companies borrow much more than they receive from Kiva. The "free money" from Kiva is just a nice bonus; they don't need it to survive or grow. So why do they deserve it at all, then?

Seems like it should either be a "for profit" model that borrows capital at market rates, or a "non profit" model that depends on donations from nice people. Kiva blends the two, and tries pretty hard to hide it.

(Not really important, but my friend who just got out of the Peace Corps really does want me to start a Kiva-partner microfinance company with him, because he DOES think he can make a lot of money that way. So maybe your idea is a good one! :) )

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  #7  
Old 07-21-2009, 06:41 PM
its_Andrew_ its_Andrew_ is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Portland View Post
Those are all good points - I feel like you'd rather start an argument than read what I actually wrote...?

I say about that microlending is a GOOD thing - I even put it in caps!

And while some folks, or companies, might do it for free, for-profit companies will probably get a lot more feet on the ground. I'm okay with that! For-profit microfinance; enable change while making money!

I just think it's scammy that Kiva uses such cute language to make it seem like this is a nonprofit, direct-to-the-needy donation, when actually you're just shoring up for-profit companies. It seems really dishonest of them - NONE of the Kiva donators I've spoken to had any idea the loans weren't going out at zero interest.

And I believe that most of the Kiva partner companies borrow much more than they receive from Kiva. The "free money" from Kiva is just a nice bonus; they don't need it to survive or grow. So why do they deserve it at all, then?

Seems like it should either be a "for profit" model that borrows capital at market rates, or a "non profit" model that depends on donations from nice people. Kiva blends the two, and tries pretty hard to hide it.

(Not really important, but my friend who just got out of the Peace Corps really does want me to start a Kiva-partner microfinance company with him, because he DOES think he can make a lot of money that way. So maybe your idea is a good one! :) )
And you're NOT trying to start an argument? You're asking why those companies deserve the money they're making. Maybe I just missed something, but before this post I never read one thing about anyone saying they DO deserve it. So who exactly is asserting that those companies deserve anything?

They do what they're doing and people support that. You've already agreed multiple times that it's a good thing all around, so... where's the beef? Are they making an end run around nonprofit laws somewhere?

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  #8  
Old 07-27-2009, 11:21 AM
bslorence bslorence is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

I think the OP was asking specifically about Kiva's transparency -- and more broadly, Kiva's role in the micro-finance process.

When people talk about lending through Kiva, warm and fuzzy is generally the order of the day. And the OP has not spoken with anyone who lends through Kiva and is aware that the ultimate recipients of the money are being charged interest.

I had a similar experience recently with a friend who was speaking highly of Kiva -- I asked a few questions and the conversation trailed off with him saying something like "I'm not entirely sure how the microfinance partners make any money". He had opened the conversation, of course, with "Kiva doesn't charge interest on its loans".

So there's clearly a miscommunication at some level. I just did a little experiment and clicked around on Kiva's site for several minutes and could not find any indication, anywhere, that interest was being charged to the ultimate recipients of funds. Not even an indication of a document on the site that might address the question.

One can find this information if one digs deep enough, as the OP mentioned, but I think it's reasonable to expect it to be more prominent on a site that uses the word "transparent" so often on its more immediately-visible pages.

So that leaves me wondering, "Why isn't Kiva more up-front about this?" And also, with the OP, "What does Kiva actually bring to the table here?"

If the answer is something like, "The microfinance partners are able to charge, on average, 5-10% less interest than if they had to use more conventional financing sources" -- then great! But let's hear it, loud and clear, from Kiva, if that's the case.


Last edited by bslorence : 07-27-2009 at 11:24 AM.
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  #9  
Old 08-06-2009, 12:17 AM
Exitar Exitar is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

Kiva isn't a scam; you just don't understand how they operate that's all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Portland View Post
Those are all good points - I feel like you'd rather start an argument than read what I actually wrote...?

I say about that microlending is a GOOD thing - I even put it in caps!

And while some folks, or companies, might do it for free, for-profit companies will probably get a lot more feet on the ground. I'm okay with that! For-profit microfinance; enable change while making money!

I just think it's scammy that Kiva uses such cute language to make it seem like this is a nonprofit, direct-to-the-needy donation, when actually you're just shoring up for-profit companies. It seems really dishonest of them - NONE of the Kiva donators I've spoken to had any idea the loans weren't going out at zero interest.
I had a bit of problems about this myself. Kiva isn't a scam; it's just that people aren't looking thoroughly into what they're getting into. But the info is there. Once I get familiar with how field partners are operating, it was fine. This isn't some secret.

http://www.kiva.org/about/microfinan...interest_rates

Quote:
And I believe that most of the Kiva partner companies borrow much more than they receive from Kiva. The "free money" from Kiva is just a nice bonus; they don't need it to survive or grow. So why do they deserve it at all, then?
? What free money are you referring too? There's plenty of lenders, if you don't like one you find another with lower interest rates. That's how I do it. But it's still better than the rates local loan sharks are charging.

SEDA, a field partners, interest rate is 22% while local loan sharks' are 40%. It's high but these are mostly developing nations; it's not accurate to compare it to rates a lender in a developed nation are expected to charge.

http://www.kiva.org/about/aboutPartner?id=85

Quote:
Seems like it should either be a "for profit" model that borrows capital at market rates, or a "non profit" model that depends on donations from nice people. Kiva blends the two, and tries pretty hard to hide it.
If it's for profit at market rates, it would beat the whole purpose of micro-lending. You're adding interest rates from principal lenders now in addition to that of field partners. For alot of them, they might as well borrow from local loan sharks.

And as for non-profit, they are non-profit and they aren't hiding anything. If you'd look at the field partners and look through their website you'd find your answers. A pure non-profit that depends on donation to pay workers slows operation down. People can't just keep giving away money.

Quote:
(Not really important, but my friend who just got out of the Peace Corps really does want me to start a Kiva-partner microfinance company with him, because he DOES think he can make a lot of money that way. So maybe your idea is a good one! :) )
http://www.kiva.org/about/microfinan...interest_rates

Quote:
Regardless of how MUCH money they are making: Why do these companies deserve free money, if they are making a profit on the donated funds?
It's not free money. I lend out money to Kiva expecting them to pay me back. I do it not expecting interest from it, fully understanding that their workers and field partners are people who need to be paid to eat. Micro-lending is about helping people help themselves through hard work. That the organization is making net profit does not mean it's a for-profit organization. Unless you have proof that they are pocketing this money for the top executives, then they're not a for-profit organization. Secondly, they get plenty of sponsors and corporate partners, where's proof that their net profit isn't because of well management of their resources from donations by coporations and members?

Quote:
If the answer is something like, "The microfinance partners are able to charge, on average, 5-10% less interest than if they had to use more conventional financing sources" -- then great! But let's hear it, loud and clear, from Kiva, if that's the case.
That's exactly why micro-lenders like Kiva are there to provide. Here's some interesting stats on Kiva's field partner around the world.

http://www.kiva.org/about/aboutPartner?id=67
http://www.kiva.org/about/aboutPartner?id=70
http://www.kiva.org/about/aboutPartner?id=30
http://www.kiva.org/about/aboutPartner?id=98

Here's the group I'm currently lending to. http://www.kiva.org/app.php?page=bus...about&id=94287

The field partner lending to this group.
http://www.kiva.org/about/aboutPartner?id=85

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  #10  
Old 08-10-2009, 08:32 AM
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legitebiz legitebiz is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

I agree with Portland, it does not make a lot of sense that Kiva takes donated money to make a profit.

The concept seems twisted no matter how you want to look at it.

However, the very fact that would support this view of the issue remains unclear to me: do they really profit??

It would seem that they do not, but again, making sure of this is something that would require digging a bit deeper into Kivas operation and that is not possible simply by looking at their website.


Last edited by legitebiz : 08-10-2009 at 08:41 AM.
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  #11  
Old 08-12-2009, 04:53 PM
prestonlewis prestonlewis is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

I think the average, reasonable person would not describe Kiva as being anything close to a scam. That's probably why you had difficulty in finding Kiva listed as a scam operation. Kiva is a non-profit organization meaning that they are unable to generate enormous profits as you seem to think they are. Just because you think that Kiva type organization should offer interest free loans does not think every agrees with you. If you happen to read Kiva's question page, you'll not that microloans are expensive since each loan is very small but the paperwork is the same as for large loans. Lastly, Kiva itself does not get the interest, it's "field partners" (the agencies that manage and administer the loans locally) get the interest but Kiva requires the interest rate to be "reasonable".

So any profits that Kiva generates actually goes to the local agencies that administer the loans for Kiva.

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  #12  
Old 11-06-2009, 03:58 AM
gumby gumby is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

I brought this topic up on the Kiva website a long time ago and it shocked me how people refuse to see this as anything other than 100% altruistic.

What Kiva found was a way to have other people bankroll their profit based business. It's simply a no risk business for Kiva. Use other people's money for lending purposes and then give nothing back to the people that gave you said monies. That's corrupt.

I would be fine with it if it was a not-for-profit business, but it isn't that way. I read about how much philanthropy was involved. I fail to see it. The only thing I saw was the waiving of fees to transfer the money. NICE. I bet the people waiving the fees are making money somehow on this deal.

I am surprised by the vehemence people have about this. It's nice to lend poor people money, but making millions of dollars of profit from them is criminal in my mind. I have seen interest rates on that site that blew my mind. 60% and more.

Then people tell me I don't understand. That it is more complicated than that. Bull#$#. I understand fine. I keep hearing about how expensive it is to run a business like that. WHAT? Isn't that the reason so much business is done in third world countries? Because it is so cheap? Just because micro lenders can take advantage of desperate people doesn't mean it's right, or kind.

I feel like the veil has been lifted from Kiva for me. I gave out almost 500 dollars before I realized how it was actually being run. So if I find a better solution, I will be happy to lend more money, but not to just make someone else rich off of MY hard earned money.

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  #13  
Old 12-25-2009, 06:00 PM
BalthCat BalthCat is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

Firstly, gumby, "altruistic" means exactly the opposite of what you think it does.

Secondly, Portland, I felt the mechanism by which Kiva works was completely clear. Having actually read the website, I understand how it works. I don't think it's complicated; or perhaps I should say that FOR AN EXTREMELY COMPLICATED MULTILAYER PROCESS, the website is neither presented in a confusing way, nor obfuscated. It was CLEAR to me that a middle-man (not Kiva) would be making a profit.

The complete and utter foolishness of this post the the implication that the dozens or hundreds of different financing companies that are listed are making millions. Yes, TOGETHER they are making money. Maybe even SUBSTANTIAL money. However they are making LESS money than if they had lent their own money at local rates. The fact is that Kiva lenders are accepting loan risk to reduce the rate of interest for microfinancing to allow people who otherwise would have to RELY on charity to borrow money with pride and repay it 99.7% of the time.

What the hell is the scam in that? Or were you foolishly thinking that Kiva worked in DOZENS of countries with ONE lending corporation with ONE office?

Again: The Kiva website shows 133 Field Lenders, complete with risk factors. http://www.kiva.org/about/partners/

Clicking through to pick ANY lender shows you all sorts of information, including the interest rate they charge, the interest rate for Kiva lenders site-wide, and the median microfinancing interest rate.

I see total loans, national information and statistics, default and delinquency rates, even how much is lost during currency conversion, stats on loans to women entrepreneurs.

At the top is "INTEREST & FEES ARE CHARGED?: YES (LEARN MORE)"

Each individual lender page has much of this information, including the fact that interest is charged, see Ramon Benitez for example (and please don't assume I am endorsing this entrepreneur, I have not read his details he's just an example at random): http://www.kiva.org/app.php?page=bus..._tpos=1&_tpg=1

I knew very well that this site is using my money this way. I knew that I'm not making a donation. That's the POINT. I'm lending money, and absorbing that risk as a bank or lender would! How am I deceived?

My goodness, in a world where Goldman Sachs isn't burned at the stake, how in the world dare you label Kiva a scam!

Edit: Please note that grumbly SAW THE INTEREST RATES. And thus WAS NOT DECEIVED. AAAAUGH. My brain.

Edit 2: How can the AVERAGE of 133 lending corporations be $55 million when they've only lent $95 million in total as of October?

You know what? If people are too stupid to read the site, then screw them. It took me ten minutes to understand the process, and I'm not an economist. I'm not a banker. I'm not a mathmatician. I can't amortize a loan. I'm just not an idiot.

What do you want, a big red box that says "OMG SOME ONE WILL MAKE MONEY OFF OF THIS D: D: D:"

Edit 3: Ok, this is rambly and ranty and all over the place. I'm sorry.


Last edited by BalthCat : 12-25-2009 at 06:10 PM.
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  #14  
Old 12-25-2009, 06:12 PM
BalthCat BalthCat is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

Quote:
Originally Posted by legitebiz View Post
I agree with Portland, it does not make a lot of sense that Kiva takes donated money to make a profit.

It would seem that they do not, but again, making sure of this is something that would require digging a bit deeper into Kivas operation and that is not possible simply by looking at their website.
1) It is not donated. It is LENT.

2) It is NOT hidden. It is EASY to find. Try CLICKING SOMETHING.

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  #15  
Old 12-26-2009, 09:54 AM
cshirky cshirky is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

I don't think you are reading Kiva or this thread correctly. No one has suggested that Kiva is "100% altruistic" -- instead, they have noted that Kiva has a model for providing funds to micro-lenders which involves both risk and profit. If this kind of behavior is a scam, or corrupt, then all for-profit businesses are scams.

If you don't like Kiva's model, by all means don't give them any of your money, but don't ask us to confuse the fact that you don't like Kiva's model with the idea that it is therefore bad.

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  #16  
Old 12-27-2009, 11:52 PM
BalthCat BalthCat is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cshirky View Post
I don't think you are reading Kiva or this thread correctly. No one has suggested that Kiva is "100% altruistic" -- instead, they have noted that Kiva has a model for providing funds to micro-lenders which involves both risk and profit. If this kind of behavior is a scam, or corrupt, then all for-profit businesses are scams.
If you were replying to me: That is exactly what the original poster seems to be saying. That Kiva is a scam, and they hide this information.

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  #17  
Old 12-28-2009, 06:32 AM
gumby gumby is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

Once again here is my issue. If you are going to make profits from a business, then front the money for the business. Don't go online and ask hard working people to bankroll your seed money so YOU can make a profit. That is a zero risk business on Kiva's part. That's corrupt. They reap the rewards, but take none of the risk. If someone defaults on the loan, Kiva doesn't lose, it's the people like you and I that don't get their money back.

Imagine I open a coffee shop and ask people to buy the building and the coffee and the all the other things that go into the business, and then after the business is successful, I only pay you back the exact amount you lent. Now I have an active profit making business that YOU paid for, but if I messed up and lost the coffee shop, I wouldn't be out one red cent. That is not how business works. But Kiva is playing on heart strings to make it seem like something it is not.

I want to say again that I love helping people, I do it all the time. I just don't like this notion that Kiva is out to save the world. It's just another profit business disguised as philanthropy.

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  #18  
Old 12-28-2009, 03:41 PM
BalthCat BalthCat is offline
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Re: Kiva is a scam.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gumby View Post
If you are going to make profits from a business, then front the money for the business. Don't go online and ask hard working people to bankroll your seed money so YOU can make a profit.
Kiva is a non-profit. Kiva makes no money. Neither do the donators. This essentially makes everything you say after this a flying bag of crap...

Quote:
Originally Posted by gumby View Post
That is a zero risk business on Kiva's part. That's corrupt. They reap the rewards, but take none of the risk. If someone defaults on the loan, Kiva doesn't lose, it's the people like you and I that don't get their money back.
Actually, when they default on a loan, everyone loses.

1) The lender loses their money
2) Kiva loses credibility which harms their efforts to do good
3) The Kiva partner organisation loses the time and money that have invested in that borrower, and their default rate goes up on Kiva making it less likely that Kiva users will donate to entrepreneurs through their organisation.
4) The entrepreneurs, unless they are unethical, have failed to turn a profit, and will have an even harder time finding funds in the future.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gumby View Post
Imagine I open a coffee shop and ask people to buy the building and the coffee and the all the other things that go into the business, and then after the business is successful, I only pay you back the exact amount you lent. Now I have an active profit making business that YOU paid for, but if I messed up and lost the coffee shop, I wouldn't be out one red cent. That is not how business works. But Kiva is playing on heart strings to make it seem like something it is not.
All bullcrap because that isn't at all how it works. Perhaps you should look into the big words in this expression (pulled from Wikipedia) "It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization." and you might be able to understand why your entire post is garbage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gumby View Post
It's just another profit business disguised as philanthropy.
Wrong, again. Read the damned site. Seriously, until you go read the site and understand how it works, stop shitting up this thread.


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