Charity CHAMPs – get involved with microphilanthropy now!

Kiva not what it seems…? by sylvng

If you’ve been following the debate surrounding whether microcredit works or not you’ll be interested to read A Mostly Comprehensive Guide to the Kiva and Donor Illusion Debate, written earlier this month. While I’ve written several articles on this blog about microcredit and its impacts on third world communities, I have never focused in on any particular microcredit organization, and if you could only analyze one it would obviously be Kiva.

Kiva, the popular lending site that boasts over $27M in loans disbursed, is being critized for misleading users to believe that peer-to-peer connections exist when in fact there are intermediary lenders in the process. In the article Kiva Is Not Quite What It Seems, microfinance expert David Roodman cites examples of borrowers recieving money before any Kiva loan has established. And while Kiva doesn’t hide this information, it also doesn’t do much to make the fact clear. Of course, in cases like this it’s hard to put the blame on any one party – communication is 2-way, so who’s to say that it’s not the donors who are misleading themselves?

In the end, the question to ask is: does it matter? Kiva helps get money to entrepreneurs, and most importantly, Kiva makes donors feel good. Donors become educated, and are more involved with the issues plaguing various third world countries. And on this point I think most microfinance critics actually are in agreement – Kiva isn’t all bad.

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Toques & Beavers a Must Visit for Canadians by sylvng

If you follow this blog you’d know that I’m always on the look-out for online microphilanthropies with a Canadian bent (I am Canadian afterall). For the most part I actually don’t think it really matters where the microphilanthropy is based, but sometimes it does affect whether as a Canadian I can participate in the programs, and other times it affects whether Canadian charities are the beneficiaries or not.

So I was quite delighted to discover Toques & Beavers. The site runs a trivia game similar to FreeRice, that not only educating Canadians but also to raises money for the Canadian Athletes Now Fund by taking donations. It focuses so much on Canadiana that it’s hilarious; the trivia is all Canadian trivia, the prizes are Toques & Beaver themed, and their slogan is “Eh! to Zed”. When you get a trivia question right, a beaver (in a toque, of course) pops up to congratulate you. It doesn’t get better than that. Check it out, and see how close you can get to the top score of 917000 currently held by campbellgary. And don’t forget to connect your account with Facebook so that the world could see how good you are at Canadian trivia.

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“Does microlending fight poverty?” – Wrong Question To Ask by sylvng

On this blog I’ve written two previous posts on microfinance (also known as microcredit or microlending) and its effects. Well the debate regarding whether microlending solves poverty still rages on, and this month, the Boston Globe published a fairly extensive article containing much supporting material that concludes microfinance doesn’t actually do much to alleviate poverty. If you’re interested in the subject I would definitely recommend you read the article; while it doesn’t include ideas that are entirely new, it does quote findings from MIT research yet to be published, and offers a good summary into arguments being made on both sides.

So what exactly are some arguments against microlending being effective for alleviating poverty? Well..

  • Studies are showing that microlending doesn’t lift household spending (an indicator that shows financial well-being)
  • Borrowers often do not use the borrowed money for business but instead spend on household items like TVs
  • New research underlies the fact that developing countries will not lift themselves out of poverty through fueling entreprenurship – already developing countries are overindexed on entreprenurs, and what the countries need is large corporations to provide jobs that steadily increase pay annually
  • Economies of scale work, and microlending doesn’t tap that potential; as the article says, “Forty workers at a textile plant are going to be much more productive than 40 microentrepreneur weavers each working by themselves”

Of course, on the flip side, there are also arguments to be made:

  • If nothing else, microlending is allowing borrowers to disengage from high-interest lending that can result in physical punishment if loans are not repaid
  • Studies that have been conducted so far only measure the impact of microcredit on the short term and don’t take into account effects over 2 years long
  • The growth and sustainability of microlending (Grameen Bank, has disbursed more than $8 billion in unsecured loans) suggests that borrowers are finding value in the loans, even if the effects cannot be immediately measured

My take? So yes, maybe microlending won’t solve the world’s poverty problems. But it still may be making lives better, and what method of aid isn’t under attack for lack of effectiveness? I think the question here might not be whether microlending solves poverty or not, but whether it does better at solving poverty (however little impact it may be) than other instruments available to the average donor like me. Straight handouts to the poor certainly aren’t good. In-kind donations probably aren’t good either if they steal away business from local shops.  Short of volunteering in the third world countries, microlending is one way that I can attempt to do good.


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Google’s 10^100 Project Only Taking Votes Till Tomorrow by sylvng
October 7, 2009, 9:36 pm
Filed under: General Charity Musings | Tags: , ,

Google’s looking to help as many people as possible, and launched the 10^100 project to take ideas. They gathered all the ideas, grouped them into categories, and is taking votes until tomorrow to help decide which world saving projects will receive a portion of their $10M funding.

So if you haven’t yet, visit the site at and vote while you still can! Some categories include:

  • Encourage positive media depictions of engineers and scientists
  • Work toward socially conscious tax policies
  • Drive innovation in public transport
  • Create real-world issue reporting system

Personally I can’t decide amongst all the education options, they all sound good. But I will pick something before the deadline! Let me know if you have a top pick.

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FundTunes can be Music to Charities’ Ears by sylvng

Do you buy digital music online? If so, you should check out FundTunes. FundTunes is a recently launched site that is partnered with Universal Music Canada to sell digital music for the benefit of charities. Nonprofits get $3.00 per 10-song bundle and $1.50 from each 5-song bundle that you buy. Currently listed nonprofits include MADD, Best Buddies, WhiteCrow Village, and Canadian Cancer Society. And if you’re looking to donate to a specific nonprofit but can’t find the organization listed, all you have to do is email FundTunes to get the listing process started.

If you’re a nonprofit, using FundTunes gives you a novel way of fundraising, where you get 50% of the proceeds from music sales. It’s also super easy because you’ll receive an online music store, ready to be used as part of a campaign. There are no upfront costs.

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