I first heard of Kiva when a Senior Leader at work mentioned it in a weekly update.
Kiva is a non-profit organization founded in 2005 by two Stanford graduates with the design and purpose of allowing people like you and I to lend to specific entrepreneurs (that you select based on their profile) in the developing world. The key concept with Kiva is that your money is truly an investment which will be repaid to you, rather than a typical charitable donation. When your loan is repaid, you can choose to invest in another entrepreneur or pocket your money.
From Wikipedia; “Kiva allows microfinance institutions around the world, called “Field Partners”, to post profiles of qualified local entrepreneurs on its website. Lenders browse and choose an entrepreneur they wish to fund. Kiva aggregates loan capital from individual lenders and transfers it to the appropriate Field Partners to disburse and administer. As the entrepreneurs repay their loans, the Field Partners remit funds back to Kiva. Once a loan is fully repaid, the Kiva lenders can withdraw their principal or re-loan it to another entrepreneur…Kiva claims that its borrowers have a historical repayment rate of about 99.7%- 99.9%.”
Great way to make a significant contribution to the global community for minimal cost and effort.