Modest Needs and Kiva: See Where Your Money Goes

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

One of the things I don’t like about some charities is the lack of specific impact. Where is the money really going? Here are two charities that use the internet to add transparency and interaction to your charitable giving. In addition, they offer a way to leverage your donation to create even better change. is a non-profit 501(c) charity, operating predominantly online, with a goal of helping people who live paycheck to paycheck survive past life?s unexpected speed-bumps and perhaps save them from a slippery slope to financial ruin or even homelessness. Most of their ?grants? are less than $300 and go for things like unexpected medical bills. You can see all the money requests, and even vote on which requests to fund. The neat thing is that it started with just one teacher giving 10% of his salary every month.

And you know what? About 65 percent of Modest Needs recipients become donors themselves. In 2006 they found an anonymous donor that matches all contributions 100%, doubling your donating power. What’s even better is that they just renewed it for 2007! Props to Dr. Taylor (the one teacher and now full-time director). We support them with a donation every year since discovering them in 2004. is also a 501(c) organization, but with a microfinance twist. From their site:

Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on, 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 business you’ve sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.

You’re not giving them money, you’re giving them an interest-free loan. This is actually better than a donation in my opinion, as it’s almost like your donation is leveraged. I love the idea of being able to take as little as $25, lend it to an entrepreneur in Honduras, and give her the chance to make a living for her family. And then get that money back, and do it again. And again. Of course, you could technically lose your loan amount (it is not guaranteed). However, microfinance loans worldwide have repayment rates of 97%, and current to-date repayment rate is 100%.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on this site are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. does not include all card companies or all available card offers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

User Generated Content Disclosure: Comments and/or responses are not provided or commissioned by any advertiser. Comments and/or responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser. It is not any advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. I absolutely love the concept of Kiva.

  2. These are some great websites! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Another charity with this kind of immediacy is Donors Choose (–you read teachers’ descriptions of classroom projects and give money to the project(s) of your choice.

  4. Thank you so much for this post! I have been interested in finding an organization like Kiva for a couple of months now but haven’t gotten around to researching it.

    An organization I like is Heifer International. It is a donation program, not a loan program, but it’s a teach a man to fish program where your money goes towards purchasing an animal for someone in a third world country so that animal can produce milk or whatever on an ongoing basis. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. You can donate as little as you want or buy a whole cow for $600.

  5. Donors Choose looks great. I guess they are still adding regions – it would be great to be able to donate to local schools.

    Heifer Int’l is also neat. I like how all of these charities are realizing the power of blogs to get the word out. I think blog readers and writers feel especially drawn to these types of organizations.

  6. doesn’t work, but if you put www in front it will.

  7. I, too, absolutely love Kiva’s concept. I think it’s a real world changing idea.

    Kiva’s link is not working without the www.

  8. Added the www, thanks. I wonder if they know about that.

  9. I’ve started with $100 at Kiva, since I’m just a broke college student, but will soon be graduating and will be able to do more. I plan on continuing to use Kiva as my outlet for giving. I’ve never been too fond of the many charities around. They seem to be either entangled in bureaucracy or what does get to the people doesn’t seem to make much of an impact.

    No amount of giving will ever be able to transform a country out of 3rd world status. The only way to do that is for them to develop their own strong economy, and that’s exactly what the entrepreneurs microfinanced are doing, little by little. I see it as capitalism at its best.

    Jonathan, you may want to point out you’re giving an interest free loan to the local organizations that distribute and collect the money. The entrepreneurs themselves are charged interest. The local organizations use this money to pay for overhead.

  10. i have two such loans with kiva, but i want to know the rates. they said they’d tell me some day. i hear it’s like 20% or more. which is of course unfortunate.

  11. I live in a tight knit community in South Florida. We have a fund that we all contribute to. It in return lends money to community members on an interest free basis for creating a small business. This has increased the prosperity in our community many times over.

  12. Where does the money made on interest go? Apparently some people are charged 50 per cent interest in Mexico. How much does the ceo Matt make in salary each year?

  13. I love Kiva, and I’m a donor. It’s a great company, but I just wanted to correct the info you wrote. These loans are NOT interest free loans to the participants. In fact, the interest rates the people pay are extremely high (30%+). If you write to Kiva they can explain how this works to you. The banks in other countries who process these loans charge high interest rates to these people.

  14. I like the idea of Modest Needs, but I looked at its BBB profile, and the CEO makes around $100,000. This normally wouldn’t bother me too much, but the operating budget is only $1,000,000. That’s a pretty large chunk that goes to CEO salary!

  15. I have searched for a site that list the general
    Commercial bank prime lending rate for many countries.

    It depends very much on the country. So if lending to sombody to
    Kiva and the rates are higher than the COmmercial banks, I would
    say that it’s not a good deal for the poor Borrower. We are supposed to help the poor . If they have to pay more than the regular banks, there is something wrong…they should pay the same or even a little less to get the started on the right foot. Just my point of view.

    Below is the link of the CIA listing some rate for the commercial banks

Speak Your Mind