Oprah kicks off huge lending spree!

Kiva weaver/entrepreneur Sophea Chum from Cambodia.

It was like the Black Friday of Microfinance. Last week, Oprah set off an online frenzy when she consecrated Kiva, a person-to-person microlending marketplace for the world’s working poor, as one of her 2010 Favorite Things, specifically mentioning that $15 buys a $25 Kiva loan on Groupon.

When Oprah talks, the world jumps!

At the same time, Groupon was having a sale on Nordstrom’s shoes, and the twin imperatives of women wanting to give to others and score some great stilettos collided in the perfect storm of Internet gridlock and crashed Groupon’s servers.

Hard-working hands deserve support

But things are all fixed now – and you can still get the deal because Groupon and sponsors are adding $10 to every $15 Kiva loan, up to $500,000, until November 30! Which is great news for poor, hard-working entrepreneurs who need affordable credit around the world — and a wonderful incentive for you to go on Kiva and make your first loan (or give it as a thoughtful gift). It’s a totally addictive process – like facebook for budding philanthropists. When you go online to choose your borrower, you’ll get totally caught up in the photos and stories of poor working people all over the world, and you’ll get to peek at the other lenders, too. Plus, the minute you make your loan, your face will be up there — which is a micro-rush of lending satisfaction.

Getting down to the bun business in the Philippines.

Since 2005, Kiva (which means “unity” in Swahili) has been enabling anybody with a computer to be a microfinancier, in a brilliantly personal and interactive way. By offering interest-free loans to handpicked microfinance institutions (Field Partners) in 54 countries who screen local applicants and send their profiles to be placed online, Kiva has enabled over 500,000 individual lenders in 208 countries to make over $173 million in loans to 452,000 entrepreneurs in the developing world.

Magda Alicia with her textiles in San Pedro, Guatemala

The average size of a borrower’s loan is about $380, and 98.9% of those loans have been repaid (meaning you get your money back – and can then re-loan it to another person!). The Field Partners earn interest on the loans they provide, which keeps them in business, but generally at a significantly lower cost than the market rate (and Kiva scrupulously grades and monitors its Partner institutions).

A Kiva farmer at work

Just this week, some 30,000 people lent 7,000 people around the world a helping hand—giving them the means to improve their situations and create a better future for themselves and their families (81% of borrowers are women). And now it’s your turn…for a measly $15!

With my $100, I’m investing in Emma Villaflor from the Philippines, mother of 10 who is taking out her 4th loan to invest in her general store; the Wahida Farid Group in Afghanistan to buy a new sewing machine for Farida’s tailoring business; Ramona Zarza in Paraguay to buy thread and fabric for the hammocks that she makes so beautifully; and Copa De Nieve Group in LaPaz, Bolivia, a cooperative of nine women who sew, sell food, and make athletic wear.

I can’t think of a better gift than the Kiva experience to give to children to encourage a habit of giving – and to connect them with people less fortunate around the world. Yay, Kiva! To get the Groupon deal (1 per person) click here!