Kiva is an online community that connects individuals willing to back small loans with entrepreneurs around the world (mostly in third-world countries). A Kiva Field Partner (the financial institution administering the loan) pre-distributes the money, then Kiva members backfill the loan. The entrepreneur pays back the loan, and the Field Partner pays back the Kiva members.
If that's not cool enough for you, you get to pick your businessperson. You can search by gender, industry and region of the world. You can see a short bio and description of the loan need. You can also see the other Kiva members financing the loan.
Loans start at $25. It doesn't seem like much, but a dozen or more members come together on each loan. John and I contributed $25 toward a $1200 loan to tailor in Lebanon who needs to buy a new sewing machine to meet the growing demand of her business. Her repayment starts in February, so I'll let you know how it goes.
Here, Josh and Chuck (my favorite Stuff podcasters) taunt the Cobert Report. Whose Kiva will make it to $100,000 in loans first?