Team Metafilter passed $100k on December 27, 2013 2:06 PM   Subscribe

Team Metafilter has grown to 329 members and total loans made crossed $100K in November. However, it seems that growth has slowed somewhat. Total for 2012 was $23,625, whole total for 2013 is at $22,250.
posted by zeikka to MetaFilter-Related at 2:06 PM (24 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

This is one of the best things Metafilter has gotten me to do. I'm a bit stunned that only one borrower hasn't repaid -- and I haven't lost hope about that person.
posted by bearwife at 2:29 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Kiva interest rate finder.

Really, only one borrower failed to repay? That would be my loan then. This kinda put me off the Kiva thing. I put out $25 or $50. I got a notice a few months later that my loan was defaulted, then I got requests for more and email about Kiva and how loans made great gifts for others, etc. Eventually I just signed over the $7 in my account (the amount the guy paid back before defaulting) to Kiva in general.

The other problem I had is I read the fine print and your money doesn't necessarily go to the people you pick. It got confusing to me. If the money probably didn't go to the guy I picked, then how did he default?

I think the idea of defaults is crap anyway. Spread the amount over the entire pool. Return a percentage of the total paid back. That's pretty much how normal financing works, right?

At the end of the day I decided my personal charities were more satisfying to me than Kiva and I unsubscribed from the newsletter. I doubt I'll contribute again, or more accurately…it would take some pretty persuasive discussion to get me to do it again.

I'm not trying to piss in people's cheerios, but I do question Kiva and the official unofficial metafilter charity.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:03 PM on December 27, 2013 [10 favorites]

Defaults seem to be pretty rare over larger number of loans. I've had two loans that weren't paid fully of 36 loans made. Total that was lost is $14.32.
posted by zeikka at 5:10 PM on December 27, 2013

Thanks for this update - I had $20 of repayments in my account, so I added some in and made another loan.

(Our household has had 0 defaults out of 12 loans so far.)
posted by kimberussell at 6:48 PM on December 27, 2013

Thanks for the reminder - i've done just a tiny bit in Kiva, but had not joined the Metafilter team - just added myself.
posted by nightwood at 7:25 PM on December 27, 2013

I know that Kiva is all about charity, but I do like to know, even with the charities I support, what accountability is set in place, if any. I think a lot of us want to know, for example, does $.75 of every $1.00 I contribute go directly to the needy, or is it more like $.05 because of your administration and overhead costs? Stuff like that. So what cjorgensen said bothers me, because it does seem like the money should go to who you want it to, and also if there's a problem, just return a percentage of the money back. But with Kiva I do at least feel like I am making a donation, really, and if I get anything back that's just gravy.

Kickstarter is tougher for me. This post reminded me that Metafilter has a kickstarter page, too, where you can find out about Mefites with kickstarters and fund them if you can. But there's a problem that makes me feel a bit antsy about that.

I've helped fund a few kickstarters. I am impressed by the ingenuity and the innovation and it makes me feel good, like I'm working with a team to accomplish a goal. When I found out some Mefites were involved with kickstarter projects, I thought, Yay! Smart Metafilter people I can help out! Because, like a lot of members here, I feel like this site has a slightly higher level of discourse, and basically, I consider you all the cream of the internet crop. So that's all good, right?

But then I checked a few Metafilter kickstarters that were fully funded thanks to generous Mefites. Months after all the deadlines had passed, at least one of them hadn't met the promised rewards for the contributors from. I mean, not ANY of them, from what I could see. I didn't expect that at all, and it shocked me, especially since the kickstarter was funded for a lot of money, thousands of dollars. Now, if I had helped fund that project, I probably would give the person the benefit of teh doubt anyway, and figure they were behind schedule or whatever. But what sucks is that this kickstarter poster is really prolific here, and I see the username come up all the time, so now every time I see a comment from them I am wondering what's up with that, and it has kinda skewed my perception of that person into a much more negative light.

In the end, it wasn't my money, though. So I remind myself, hey, self, MYOB, you probably don't know all the details anyway, so just let it go. I don't feel so good about contributing to kickstarters started by Mefites, which kinda sucks. Especially since I have funded some kickstarters from Redditors with no problems, and that is really messing with my mind because Metafilter > Reddit used to be a given and now it is more like a ? instead.

So, yeah, I wish there was some more accountability in these things!
posted by misha at 8:34 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Fuck a Kickstarter. I used to fund tons of those, but about half of them ended up returning my $ and apologizing--they hadn't thought of it before, but um "it's too expensive to send your reward internationally."

People suck.

Dunno about Kiva, but I'd love to hear some testimonials from actual Mefi Teamers.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:00 PM on December 27, 2013

Not a member, but from the crude stats that I can scrape off the website:
  • 3,385 loans made.
  • 10 borrowers are still raising funds (so not really active yet).
  • 30 loans have been refunded to lenders.
  • 722 loans are in the process of being paid back.
  • 2,479 loans (~73.2%) have been oaud back.
  • 102 loans (~3.01%) ended with a loss.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:51 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Probably worth mentioning here that Groupon has a Kiva deal right now where you pay $25 for $50 of loaning power. I don't know quite how that works out, but it seems like an easy way to increase power if you're thinking about it!
posted by c'mon sea legs at 12:29 AM on December 28, 2013

The other problem I had is I read the fine print and your money doesn't necessarily go to the people you pick. It got confusing to me. If the money probably didn't go to the guy I picked, then how did he default?

As far as I know it's pretty much always been more like "buying existing debt" rather than the "making loans" they sell it as.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 12:39 AM on December 28, 2013

Just think of it as a few dollars worth of "damn it feels good to be a bankster."
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 12:40 AM on December 28, 2013

Here's how the Kiva Groupon works:


Expires Jan 31st, 2015. Limit 4 per person. Each Groupon includes one Standard Kiva Card code and one Promotional Kiva Card code. May redeem Standard Kiva Cards to make a microloan until 11/1/14. Unredeemed Standard Kiva Cards will automatically convert to a charitable donation to Kiva's general operating expenses on 11/2/14, at which time they may no longer be used for microloans. May redeem Promotional Kiva Cards to make a microloan until 1/31/14. Unredeemed Promotional Kiva Cards will be returned to Kiva Marketing Funds upon expiration.


Does Groupon Grassroots take a cut of the donations collected?
Never. 100% of funds raised through Groupon Grassroots are given directly to the featured organization. Groupon even eats the credit card fees.

In other words, 100% of your $25 can be a regular donation and Groupon doesn't take a cut. On top of that, Kiva gives you another $25 to donate out of their marketing fund, and Groupon doesn't take a cut of that either. If 50% of the Kiva Groupons aren't used and the other 50% use the whole $50, it's a breakeven program for Kiva assuming marketing funds come out of the general fund.

Hopefully more than 50% will use the Groupons they purchase, but they're probably relying on a certain percentage not refunding to make the math work, and on a percentage of those who use the whole $50 to get hooked, become more involved, and start contributing to the general fund at some point.
posted by michaelh at 12:42 AM on December 28, 2013

The other problem I had is I read the fine print and your money doesn't necessarily go to the people you pick.

Indeed, it practically never does - not that there's anything wrong with that, per se. I take aid very seriously, and for me Kiva - as a microfinance org - lacks the transparency I really need to donate to microfinance orgs, as it can be incredibly fraught and problematic in actual practice. The way Kiva is set up, it's nigh-impossible to ascertain what, exactly, you're funding and how that money is being used, there's also some issues with their 'development partners', how they are selected, managed and maintained. I don't feel that it's set-and-forget in the way that many of the famous, humanitarian or medically focused charities can be. There has been lots written about issues around both Kiva and Microfinance by experts and academics in the aid sector.

That all said, I don't think the world suffers overmuch from a surfeit of charity, and indeed - a lack of transparency does not, in itself, equate to a bad use of the money. UNICEF, for example, has an almost total lack of transparency (it's shitty, and they should do better, even if they don't have to, but there you go).

So kudos to Mefites, and anyone thinking about donating to charity. If you're not comfortable with one, keep looking - it's actually quite easy to research decent charities, and there's tonnes of them. The world could use it.
posted by smoke at 3:14 AM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

O hey I've been meaning to join since forever. I have just registered and joined the team, but I'm a total idiot about everything else. Anybody feel like giving me a walkthrough? I'm reading my MeMail if you don't want to do this in thread.
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:16 AM on December 28, 2013

Hey all! Mefi Kiva Team member here.

I agree with some of you that there should be more transparency, and that many charities could improve that aspect. However I feel that Kiva is very accessible, even to the demographic that would normally not donate to charities. And I hope people who take an interest in creating a better future will keep looking for ways to pitch in beyond Kiva.

Personally, Kiva is not the only charity I donate to and I don't use it as a savings account. There is a certain $ amount that I have in rotation. Out of over 45 loans I had one default and lost a total of around $20 (= less than 2% of the overall total lent). I am not kidding myself, it is fun for me to look through the available loans and particularly to lend to people who share my name. :-) Losing that 2% is not great, but I don't consider that money mine anymore anyway. It was donated, I merely cycle it.

It is not hidden that the money goes to the org vs. the person you see on the picture. The loans are pre-disbursed, the specific date is even mentioned on the borrower page right under the "Lend $25" button. But where the person you see on the picture lives, there are many more in exactly the same circumstances that could use some outside help. In the end it is all virtual. And this is true for almost all charities these days, as allowing a one-to-one relationship would create immense overhead costs.

There are a few things that can enhance one's experience on Kiva, in my opinion. One can always visit the orgs webpage and check online reviews about them. On the Kiva page there are icons indicating the special focus of the org, things like Anti-Poverty, Vulnerable Group or Entrepreneurial Support. Furthermore there are tags that point to loans towards widows, single parents or for income producing durable assets and so on, to help narrow down the pool of available loans.

The tool kivalens or mefi's own Interest Rate Finder as posted by cjorgensen upthread help narrow down the list.
Also check out kivafriends for more discussions and a good documentation on how the site changed over the years.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:32 AM on December 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm a member. I've not had any defaults. What I've never understood in these occasional posts about the Metafilter team are the long essays non-members write in which they are so vehemently opposed (to Kiva, to the posts, to the Metafilter team on Kiva). Kiva's microfinance model isn't a secret. For $25, you can help someone help themselves. If you'd like to do it, join us! If you wouldn't like to, that's ok but... why take the time to write up long essays?

The Kiva Interest Rate Finder is awesome. Big thanks to rajbot for making that!
posted by Houstonian at 8:05 AM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

As far as I know it's pretty much always been more like "buying existing debt" rather than the "making loans" they sell it as.

It's always been this way, but it took a lot of investigation to get this out in the open. I just find it a bit shady that they pretend like you are being paired up with a person with a good idea that you believe in, only to find out that's not it at all.

As an side, I'd love to have the Kickstarter discussion, but I think that deserves it's own thread.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:04 AM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've loaned 44 times. I've had one default (it was in Kenya, and there was a warning about the risk beforehand—I lost about half of my $25), one end in loss due to currency exchange rates (I lost less than $2), 1 expired unfunded (I lost nothing), two loans are delinquent but being repaid, 18 open loans are being paid on time, and 21 loans are fully paid back.

I wasn't a member of Team Metafilter, but now I am, and I've made a 45th loan to mark the occasion.
posted by Songdog at 3:23 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, I am sorry I mentioned the Kickstarter here, and anyway there is a Metatalk on that subject now. Didn't mean to derail.
posted by misha at 4:28 PM on December 28, 2013

I'm on my 57th loan, all credited to the Mefi team which finally reminded me to join the site. I ended up cashing out what I'd invested privately in the stock market and invested it on Kiva, as I can do a lot more there than I can with stocks... which says more about my stock picks than anything else. It helps to have a goal or goals to pursue with the site. I've been focused on entrepreneurs who mention hiring folks as a result of the loan, or in the future.

Geographically I focused on Africa at first, but then I got a little political and mapped out US drone strikes in Yemen and now try to find loans in those provinces (Sana'a is usually the only one available). There's a chance that triggering economic progress in those areas will offer an alternative to one of the only other paying jobs - terrorism - in those areas. I'm probably kidding myself by thinking I'm making a difference, but that's okay. It's better than loosing money in the markets. Once an investor gets around $900 USD deposited, it becomes kinda of nice because the payments allow you to make a new loan or two every month without having to deposit more money. I do anyway, but you can still do a lot without doing so.

If folks are interested, check out the International Bank of Bob, by Bob Harris. It adds a human element to the loans, and his lending team is one of the largest ones out there.
posted by jwells at 7:24 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

So is the "team" just a loose affiliate of independent Kiva lenders, or is there some centralized decision-making going on? I'd like to kick in money to support the project but I don't want to be sitting around judging which loan applications are best.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:29 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

No centralized decision-making, everyone picks their own loans and credits those to the team.
However, there is a way to add some money to the system and not be sitting around every time repayments roll in. Once signed up, you can set up automatic lending (it's under settings -> credit). This way you make the decisions one time and the system takes it from there.

The following criteria can be applied:

frequency: - whenever credit available, - no log in for X months/years, never
limit automatic loans: to $X
use keyword: x
countries: x, or no country filtering
sectors: x, or no sector filtering
partners: x, or no partner filtering
minimum risk rating
minimum loan repayment term
maximum loan repayment term
gender: f, m, both
donation to Kiva’s operating with each loan: x, none

I am with jwells in that I have a 'goal'. Geographically, I focus on the LDC's and I choose only women, often widows and single mothers. Plus some other aspects that I always check for. Even if the money does not go to that very person, it most likely will go to the next person who shows up at the org and fits into that category. So I am fine with that.
If you have loans with shorter repayment terms in the mix, it's enough to have, I'd say, about $200 - 300 in the system to make a new loan every month.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:07 AM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't wanna get all Holden Karnofsky here, but I've felt better about directing funds toward these people than letting them slosh around on Kiva.
posted by flabdablet at 2:39 AM on December 31, 2013

I'm a lender. Kivas is one of the ways I'm supporting change and development. I selfishly like Kiva because it's gamifying the lender process and makes it easier to follow my "impact". (I'm in the 99th percentile.)

Sure. Kiva and entire lender-model might have their drawbacks. But I consider it an "entry drug" into the field of charity.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 8:23 PM on January 8, 2014

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