An API With a Social Conscious

KivaEarlier this month I wrote about a new type of lending and investing service called “Micro Finance” which enables anyone to make a small investment and help end poverty.  The blog post I wrote about was an eBay organization called MicroPlace

Today, a similar service called Kiva.org released an interesting API that allows outside developers to connect to their database and build applications around their data.

Web Services and API’s are nothing new… companies like Google, Amazon, and eBay have been integrating them into their services for years.  However, this is the first time I’ve seen a non-profit organization open up their data for outside developers.

Here’s a few examples of the types of data available through this service:

  • all of the loans at Kiva currently raising funds
  • all of the entrepreneurs from Uganda and Peru which have fully repaid their loans
  • the latest lending activity on Kiva
  • financial nitty-gritty for any of our loans
  • the list of loans made by any one of Kiva’s lenders with a public lender page

API’s can be a very successful way of extending the brand and reach of an application and I’m extremely pleased to see Kiva embrace this type of model.  It will be interesting to see what developers create.

CharityWater.org – Providing Clean Drinking Water to the World (MLK Day 5)

charity:waterWater is one of the basic necessities in life.  However, 1.1 Billion people in the world don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water.  That’s one in six people in this world.

Charity:Water is trying to change that by bringing clean, safe, drinkable water to some of the world’s poorest regions.

A 100% Charity

One of the things I like about this charity is that 100% of the public donations go directly to project costs.  This means that all other business operations, hardware, and manpower comes from corporate donations and volunteers.  Many other charities and organizations will use mostly public donations to pay for operational costs.   That can mean that only 20-50% of public donations will go to the actual project costs.

$20 = 20 years

The donations you give don’t have to be much.  According to their web site, even a modest donation of $20 can provide a person in Africa with clean, safe drinking water for over 20 years!  Now, that’s what I call an investment.

ModestNeeds.org – Helping Break the Cycle of Poverty (MLK Day 4)

modest-needsModest Needs is a unique and award winning charity that helps low-income working families afford short term emergencies like unexpected car repairs, high heating bills, or unexpected doctor visits.

Many working families just above the poverty line are just a simple problem away from going under and being caught in a vicious cycle of dept and increased poverty. 

This type of scenario happens every day, especially in an economy such as we’re in right now; A family, living paycheck to paycheck, finds themselves in a problem.  It could be as simple as an abnormally high heating bill. 

Since the paycheck is just enough to pay for the rent and food on the table, they find themselves having to either borrow… or simply not pay the additional cost for heating.  This then turns a simple problem into a vicious cycle of dept, followed by more dept to pay off the original.

That’s where ModestNeeds.org comes in. 

It provides relief for these types of situations so they can stop this cycle before it happens. 

Tough Times for Everyone

With the current financial times, everyone is feeling the pinch.  Good, hard working people who, under normal circumstances, find themselves laid off at work, or their hours and paychecks reduced by their companies to save costs.  Suddenly they find themselves in a situation they may have never dreamed possible… the need for help.

So, if you’re in a position to give… even a small amount, I ask that you do.

FeedingAmerica.org – America’s Food Bank (MLK Day 3)

feedingamericaWith the current economic issues and rising food costs, the need for food banks has never been more great.  With this in mind, I’m profiling FeedingAmerica.org (formerly Second Harvest) as part three of my Martin Luther King Day of Service Series.

The web site is a centralized location that allows you to donate money, find volunteer opportunities and also find a food bank in your area.

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bestdayfoundation.org – Giving Special Needs Kids a Day at the Beach (MLK Day 2)

bestday_headerAs a kid, one of my favorite past times and best memories came from the beach.  It was always a chance to be in the sun, the surf, and just be wild… just be a kid.  That’s why I’m profiling the BestDayFoundation.org – A non-profit organization that provides kids with special needs a day at the beach to surf, body board, and kayak.

What first drew me to this foundation was the name “Best Day”.  It’s one of those phrases every parent loves to hear and as a father, it really resonates with me. By giving to this foundation, you’ll provide a special needs child and family a chance to experience just that… The Best Day EVER!

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MicroPlace.com – Micro Finance to End Povery (MLK Day 1)

microplace1To start off my contribution to the MLK Day of Service Series, I’d like to profile a non-charity charity called MicroPlace.com.

I first heard of this type of organization while watching a documentary on PBS.  I instantly became interested in this type of organization, because unlike other charities or organizations, “Micro Finance” companies helps people help themselves.

How It Works

MicroPlace is a organization that provides small loans – usually less than $200 – to the working poor across the world.  The recipients then take this money and invest in a small business to help bring themselves out of poverty.

As with any investment there are returns and of course risks.  By making an investment of $20 or more, you’re entitled to a return – up to 3% – on any profits or financing charges applied to the recipients. However, on the opposite side, if the loan goes into default and is not paid back, you will loose your money.

To explain the risks, here’s a small exerpt from their site:

All investments carry some risk.

Historically, 97% of poor people have actually paid back their loans through good and bad economic cycles. This means that the institutions that lend to them can generally pay you back too. And, MicroPlace thoroughly vets these institutions to make sure they meet certain business and regulatory requirements. To date, none of our institutions have ever defaulted on their payments to investors. See microfinance loan safety for more information.

Research, Research, Research

Like all other investment opportunities, it’s good to research your investments before you put down any money. Luckily, MicroPlace provides you with detailed descriptions of the different opportunities available before you make your investment.

The site allows you to search for different investments and provides you with tools to narrow you search; Social Orientation, return on investment, and geographic regions.

Teach a Person to Fish…

Like I said above, I love this type of organization because it encourages people to help themselves.  Like the Chinese Proverb says:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a Lifetime.

That’s not to say that charities are bad… not in the slightest.  They are needed in this world.  I do however believe that this very creative approach and a more feasable, long term solution to poverty.

Now, you might not retire young by only investing $20, but you will be helping people get out of poverty, all why putting a little extra cash in your own pocket.

Give it a Try… what have you got to loose?