Today you can help someone escape poverty by trying out microlending platform Kiva, and it won’t cost you a dime. Go to kiva.org/free where Reid Hoffman has put up $1 million of his money to let 40,000 people give $25 microloans to help those in need start farms and general stores that can support their families. The Kiva Free Trials program hopes to introduce people to the positive impact of microfinance philanthropy, and get them to lend their own money next time.
TechCrunch is proud to work with Kiva to officially announce the Free Trials, and we’re challenging you our readers to see if we can loan out $250,000 in a day. So visit kiva.org/free and share it with friends. Let’s use entrepreneurship to makes the world a better place.
[Update: We’ve helped lend out $125,000 so we’re halfway to our goal. Let’s hit $250,000 by 12:30pm on Tuesday March 13, 2012.]
For those less familiar, Kiva allows you to choose between profiles of borrowers in need of start up capital to launch a small business. Unlike a typical charity, once the business is bringing in money you get yours back and can withdraw it or reinvest in another borrower. Today it’s even easier since you’re investing Reid Hoffman’s money, so you can “get the Kiva experience but you don’t have to pull out your wallet right away” says president Premal Shah.
Kiva’s been around for 5.5 years and Shaw tells me that so far 700,000 lenders have microloaned over $291 million. 98.9% of loaned money is returned, so it’s a very high-leverage, low-risk form of philanthropy that often doesn’t actually cost anything. In the Free Trials, Reid will be the one getting his money back, but you’ll still get monthly updates on how the borrower you chose is starting to support themselves. The program is only for new Kiva users. If you’ve already given a microloan, you can still invite friends.
Reid Hoffman tells me the principle he lives by is “Do something that’s not for yourself everyday”. The LinkedIn co-founder chose to fund the free trials because they “engage lots of people with what they can do to alleviate poverty, help the entrepreneurs to take control of their lives, and you can repeat and scale it. We build a better future by empowering individuals to empower themselves.”
A previous pilot of the Free Trial program lent out $200,000 in a day, and 15% of lenders came back and invested their own money. We think TechCrunch readers and the whole tech community can come together at kiva.org/free to beat both of those records and use Kiva to change the world for years to come. And all our high net-worth readers can email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about putting up money to power more free trials.