Kiva, GlobalGiving, and other "giving marketplaces"

About this page

GiveWell aims to find the best giving opportunities we can and recommend them to donors. We tend to put a lot of investigation into the organizations we find most promising, and de-prioritize others based on limited information. When we decide not to prioritize an organization, we try to create a brief writeup of our thoughts on that charity because we want to be as transparent as possible about our reasoning.

The following write-up should be viewed in this context: it explains why we determined that (for the time being), we won't be prioritizing the organizations in question as potential top charities. This write-up should not be taken as a "negative rating" of the charities. Rather, it is our attempt to be as clear as possible about the process by which we came to our top recommendations.

A note on this page's publication date

The last time we examined the organizations discussed on this page was in July 2010. In our latest open-ended review of charities, we determined that they were unlikely to meet our criteria based on our past examination of it, so we did not revisit them.

We invite all charities that feel they meet our criteria to complete a charity submission form.

The content we created in 2010 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about the organizations and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions. With that said, we do feel that the takeaways from this examination are sufficient not to prioritize re-opening our investigation of this organization at this time.

Published: July 2010

Kiva is a platform offering donors the chance to lend to specific individuals through microfinance institutions.1 GlobalGiving offers the chance to fund specific projects run by multi-project charities.2 Other websites along these lines include MyC43 and Janta.4

To our knowledge, no international aid sites in this category provide a direct link from donor to recipient; all work through field partners, generally nonprofits.5 These organizations are usually (and specifically in the case of the four we listed) transparent about this fact, and accurately and publicly disclose how they work.6

When considering the impact of giving in this way, we are concerned about fungibility: field partners may be posting projects that they plan on funding regardless, in which case your donation is best thought of (in impact terms) as a donation to the field partner.

This issue has been written about at length in the case of Kiva, which became the subject of some controversy in 2009 when a blog pointed out (using information made publicly available by Kiva) that many of the people featured on its site were receiving the loans before website users had funded the loans.7

From what we've seen, websites in this category do not provide the sort of information we would need to assess field partners (using either our microfinance-specific criteria or our general international aid criteria).

We believe that the emotional benefits these organizations provide likely result in increased giving from those who would not be motivated to give otherwise. We also note that these organizations are, in at least some cases, exhibiting unusual transparency8, and piloting and/or working toward more rigorous evaluations.9 However, for our target audience - focused purely on impact - we prefer to find strong overall organizations rather than specific projects or individuals that they fund.

More on Kiva, specifically, at our series of blog posts on Kiva. More on the idea of fungibility at our blog posts here and here.

Sources

  • 1.

    "2) The Field Partner uploads the entrepreneur's profile to Kiva's website. The profile, if it's not in English, is translated by one of our hundreds of volunteer translators. After translation, the profile appears live on Kiva.org. 3) Lenders like you browse the entrepreneurs' profiles and choose someone to lend to, using PayPal or their credit cards." Kiva, "How Kiva Works."

  • 2.

    "Enabling donors to give directly to projects offers them more choice -- donors can browse through a broad range of geographies and themes such as health, education, environment, among others -- and they know exactly how their money will be used. In addition, our highly-efficient online giving platform allows donors to connect and communicate directly with project leaders." GlobalGiving, "Help and FAQ."

  • 3.

    "MYC4 is an online marketplace that connects you directly with African entrepreneurs, who lack capital to develop their businesses. We see a huge business potential in Africa waiting to be triggered. MYC4 is the explosive.

    Under Invest you will find a range of entrepreneurs, and with as little as EUR 5 you can play a vital role in getting their businesses to flourish." MyC4, "About."

  • 4.

    "Step 1: A student or parent applies for an education microloan or is selected for a scholarship by a local field partner. The field partner submits the student's request on Janta's website.

    Step 2: Individuals like you invest in the student after browsing through the students on our website. You choose the specific student to invest in, you choose whether to offer a loan or a gift, and you choose the amount of your investment." Janta, "How It Works: How You can Invest in a Real Student."

  • 5.
    • "Kiva partners with existing microfinance institutions around the world (we call them Field Partners). These organizations that have expertise in microfinance and a mission to alleviate poverty facilitate Kiva loans on the ground. Our Field Partners know their local area and clients and do all the leg work required to get Kiva loans to the entrepreneurs posted on Kiva.org." Kiva, "How Kiva works."
    • "Each month, GlobalGiving pools the contributions from each donor, and if the project has received $250 or more in funding, transfers the money either to the Project Sponsor (see 2.1 above) or the implementing organization." GlobalGiving, "Help and FAQ."
    • "Step 3: Janta sends the funds to the local field partner after the full amount has been raised. The field partner disburses the microloan or scholarship to the student or the educational institution." Janta, "How It Works: How You can Invest in a Real Student."
    • "The MYC4 platform is built around a network of local Providers screening the Businesses who would like to obtain a loan and local MYC4 Staffs handling the financial transactions ... The Provider helps track down the best Businesses, helps the Business put together a sustainable Business plan, and keeps the MYC4 Investors informed about the development in their investment." MyC4, "How does MyC4 work?"
  • 6.

    See previous note.

  • 7.

    Philanthropy Action, "A Mostly Comprehensive Guide to the Kiva and Donor Illusion Debate."

  • 8.

    See http://blog.givewell.org/2009/10/15/whats-different-about-kiva/

  • 9.

    Example: http://blog.givewell.org/2009/12/10/global-givings-spot-check-and-why-it...

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