This blog post is an attempt to bring you up to speed on some team knowledge that would otherwise take you a few weeks or months to learn by monitoring our team message board over at Kiva.
Want to know how to make your loans count for the team? You can't make any of your existing loans count for the team. You can only make new loans count for the team. During the process of making a new loan you will see a drop down menu where you can choose to count the loan towards this team.
There are no rules or guidelines for how and who you should loan to. The decision is up to you. Whatever decision you make you will be helping someone and that's what matters.
Some of our team members like to avoid religious Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs or Field Partners). For various reasons... maybe because some of those MFIs participate in religious evangelism or maybe because they contribute to the spread of false information. Some members of our team have sent emails to Kiva suggesting that Kiva have a new data field where the MFI information is displayed letting us know whether an organization is secular or not. They have said they will consider the suggestion but with no promises. In the mean time we have compiled a pretty good list of religious MFIs and a team member of ours, Chris Means, has created a plugin for Firefox (instructions) that highlights MFIs in your list right in the browser when you are surfing Kiva's loans pages.
Now that the serious business is over with let me tell you about some of the fun events we participate in. We have four annual Loan-A-Thons. On Halloween, New Years, April fools day and Mohammud Yunus' birthday. During our Loan-A-Thons we try and put new money into the system and have a fun and merry time making the world a better place.
Here is a schedule and description for each Loan-A-Thon (adapted from Joe's original summarization):
January 1st (New Years) - Make your Happy New Year by loaning capital to your fellow Humans who need it so that they can have their own Happy New Year!
April 1st (April Fools) - We're no April Fools! We will not waste our money tithing to a religious organization when we can do some actual good by lending capital directly to our fellow Humans who need it!
July 1st (Muhammad Yunus' Birthday and Many National Sovereignty Celebrations) - In honor of those throughout history who have thrown off the yoke of oppressive governments in July, we will lend capital to our fellow Humans who need it so that they can throw off the oppressive yoke of poverty! Also, we pay tribute to Muhammad Yunus's Birthday (June 28th) the Grandfather of Microfinance!
November 1st (Halloween) - The day after celebrating Halloween do something else to scare religious organizations! Lend capital to our fellow Humans who need it so that they can materially improve their lives and no longer need the false comfort provided by an irrational belief system!
Want to analyze our team's rise to the top by digging through some historical statistical data? Check out this cool Stats App by Daniel R. and for alternative stats check out this page maintained by Derek Morr. These team members are independently maintaining statistics of our teams performance and we owe them a debt of gratitude for it.
One thing to know about Kiva's system is that even though Kiva Lenders earn no interest on their loans, the Field Partner (MFI) charges interest. The reason they charge interest is so they can be a sustainable business or non-profit organization. The interest rates they charge sometimes seem high if you come from North America or Europe. However, there is good reasons for the high interests rates (which are much lower than the loan sharks in the respective countries). The reasons include, high inflation, high ratio between administration costs and loan amount, no collateral from the borrower, etc. Here is a good article (PDF) discussing high interest rates and MFIs.
Our message board at Kiva is not the only place to socialize with your teammates. Jim has created a Facebook Group and Edz has created a FriendFeed page that are more suitable for threaded discussions and multimedia links. A good place to find other Kiva discussions with the whole Kiva community is over at kivafriends.org
It's important to remember when chatting on the team board to be respectful of your fellow teammate. We may not agree on many things but we do agree on the inherent worth of all human beings and that we should try to solve our problems using reason and not superstition. Oh and please don't spam.