Saturday, April 17, 2010


We have always given to a few charities on a regular basis. Marc donates to the Jewish Federation and the Shrine Circus every year, sometimes to the 100 Club (aid to slain police families) and I picked the Special Olympics and Children's Wish Foundation. I never really kept track of what time of year my two charities would call, thinking that they only requested funds once a year. It finally dawned on me that they were calling me twice a year for donations so I asked that they only call once a year which they agreed to do. Only they didn't so every other call I would remind them that I was only able to donate once a year.

Some number of years ago, the recent past as opposed to the far past, I saw a program about charities and how a large percentage of any donation did not go to the actual charity but to the 'collection' agencies for those charities and it was recommended that potential donators should ask what percentage of the contribution actually goes to the charity. They are required by law to tell you if you ask. Well, needless to say, I started asking and I was appalled at the answer.

The unacceptable percentage coupled with the fact that they would not honor my request to only call me once a year finally led me to stop donating to these two charities. I asked to be taken off their call list. Special Olympics was sorry to lose me but they stopped calling. Children's Wish still calls. The last time they called and I told them, again, to take me off their call list the lady told me she didn't have the authority to do that, that I would have to talk to a manager. For some reason that just really pissed me off. They had called when I was very busy in the middle of some fabrication work. I yelled at her to 'stop calling me' and hung up.

So it was a couple of years that I didn't donate to any charity and then Haiti got wiped off the face of the earth. Money started pouring in, there were a million ways to donate and we were interested in helping but we wanted our money to actually go to help people, something concrete and not general administration. As it turned out, we never did send any money to Haiti.

Margarita Albarico
Sagay City, Negros Occidental, Philippines
Loan to buy a fishing net and materials to repair her fishing boat

Enter Kiva. Kiva is an organization that connects people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty. They organize, collect and oversee microloans to individuals and small groups of people who are trying to better their lives. 100% of your loan goes to the person whom you select. When you make your loan, Kiva will ask for a $15 donation to help with the administration but it is not required. When your loan is repaid, they will refund your money or you can reuse it to loan to another person. In this way your money goes to help many people over and over instead of just going down into the bottomless pit of general charity. Our initial investment of $100 went to four different people across the globe. Minimum donation is $25.

Kasanja 1 Mariam Nasiwo Group
Mbale, Uganda
Loan to add working capital and stock more bags of charcoal and more bananas

Two of our loans are already being repaid a little at a time and when the full amount is repaid by any one person, we will loan it out again and again and again. Wow. I feel so good about this, being able to help actual individual people and I know who and where they are.

I encourage everyone to visit Kiva's website and join in. $25 can help change a life for the better.


  1. This is a terrific post. Sweet Man and I got so fed up and inundated with, by and for the phone calls and mailings from charities a few years back that we did something similar to what you did. I spent time investigating charities and how the monies were allocated. There were still 10 on our list that we could see giving money to but could really couldn't afford all ten, so here came our plan. We don't go out on New Year's, have always stayed home and celebrated. We have a top hat that was Sweet Man's Dad (useful for many crazy things) and we put the names of the charities on slips of paper and draw three for the year. This way we have given everyone a shot and chosen our winners. So when they call I make them listen to my "how to" and tell them, I will add them for the drawing next time and let them know. Stops them dead in their tracks (very few have ever even said another word, even had one hang up on me), gives me a giggle and I am still giving how and when I can. Now I will add Kiva to the drawing this year. (((hugs))) until next time

  2. It's so bewildering trying to figure out where, and how much, to give. With Haiti, people advised me to give to an organization that was already set up and whose building had survived. I think I ended up giving to Doctors without Borders.

    I'm fond of Heifer Internat'l, too. And I just adopted a gorilla, care of an organization suggested by my African blog fellows.

    A part of any fantasty about winning the lottery includes giving away vast amounts of money to solid, functional charities.

    Thanks for this!

  3. We are split on a number of charities including a sponsored child with World Vision and Kiva. This is a wonderful overview. The idea of empowering small businesses in challenged countries with seed money is commendable.

  4. very cool ellen - kiva's new to me. i fundraise from april to august for several charities that support local initiatives and then also for one that supports people in jamaica and this year one that will send bikes and a bike shop to malawi to get wheels under women travelling to and from wherever, and also care bikes that are used for deliveries and ambulances.
    administration costs and personal connection are two big criteria for me. i like the model of kiva and i'll look into them because that just makes sense. steven

  5. I also have a problem with Charities administration fees. I like to donate locally... to our food bank every time I go grocery shopping and a local children's charity both have no paid employees all the money goes directly to helping folks and for the Salvation Army if you donate to their kettle fund at Christmas time or on the counter at their thrift stores... then they do not have your info to call you and the money goes directly to the community... for Haiti I donated a piece of my glass work to an auction and the money raised is helping a local volunteer from here travel to Haiti to do direct work with children...and the extra money earned at that auction 100% will go the foundation she is working with.. I do want 100% of my donation to go to those who need it....Love your blog Ellen thanks Janet

  6. Bravo. Thanks for spreading the news about this wonderful boost for aspiring entrepreneurs in third world countries.

  7. What a wonderful charity. It's not even is giving working capital to deserving individuals. I love it. I will check out Kiva...thanks for the heads up.

  8. This is such a wonderful idea, I shall check into it.

  9. I heard about KiVa. We all want to connect to people who need help, but it is hard to accept that some charities spend way too much money on administrative fees.

  10. Ellen, there are various organizations that rate charities as to how efficiently they operate. One is the BBB at:

  11. We are not consistent with charity giving- sometimes we do sometimes we don't and it all depends on where our heads are at the moment. Animal rights and humane society are usually right up there and local groups, women's care mostly. This is oone I have not heard of and sounds so worthy.
    By the way, my pod bowl thingie is about 10" in diameter. I think that I will try to make larger ones next week, inspired by the large size of the basket I made that my fingers regret...

  12. You're right about those percentages. Every year, I give to what basically amounts to the United Fund, and I choose my individual charities from a book that tells those percentages.

  13. Great post. Some charities give all of the others a bad name. I looked up once what the major charities were that used the highest percentage for the actual cause (and lowest overhead) and the top 2 were Catholic Charities and some Lutheran organization. There are a lot of good ones, smaller organizations, who are even better, too.

    You know, when you get a call from Disabled Veterans, you are not dealing with a disabled veteran. you're dealing with a paid employee. Even though he'll say "We" as if he's sitting there in a wheelchair and shrapnel in his ass.

    I have a rule: I don't give any money to anyone by phone. I say, "I'm sorry I don't give any money over the telephone. If you'd like to send me something, mail it to me and I'll look it over and consider donating." They never send anything. Because the caller doesn't care if you donate. They just want the donation to be from their call list.

  14. I HATE being solicited for donations over and over, though I do like to give...

  15. Oh thank you so much, Ellen! I LOVE this information. We have our usual charities (World Vision, Red Cross, and the Jacksonville City Rescue Mission), but I will insist that Larry look at Kiva immediately. What an awesome organization and a truly wonderful and ongoing way to give.

    Sorry I haven't been around Blogland much lately. It's all I can do to put out my own posts, and even THAT I've been bad at doing. The sun has finally come out and it's Spring. I have such a hard time justifying staying inside on my hiney. Always love swinging by you're place and seeing what's new inside your head. Cheers!

  16. Unacceptable percentages are one of the big reasons why I've not been giving to major charities.

    I'll check Kiva out.

  17. Sounds like a wonderful charity : )

  18. I'm bookmarking this. It sounds like the perfect organization. Thank you for this.


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