An even stranger way we’ve been giving to charity
14 July 2011, by Zoe Cunningham
Since my explanation of the charity process at Softwire (read the article here), there’s been a rather strange charity development.
It seems that one of our employees, who has yet to be revealed, has decided that we’re still not doing enough. Going by the moniker of Softwirian (a common way to refer to an unspecified member of the company), they sent the email below plus a $25 KIVA voucher to the surprised members of the rest of the company.
After some initial debate, Softwire seem to have taken the idea on board and we’ve now got a KIVA community page (http://www.kiva.org/team/softwire) with 35 members and $2,100 donated.
If you want to find out more about KIVA, one of our guys found this TED talk (no doubt while Googling frantically to try and work out what was going on) http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jessica_jackley_poverty_money_and_love.html.
Softwirian’s cryptic communication follows.
Softwirian is interested in happiness. Everyone’s happiness. One way of achieving happiness is not dying young after a brief life of simply surviving. Another is helping someone else achieve the first method.
As positive action to enact the former is not an option for us here, Softwirian has bought you all $25 vouchers for www.kiva.org which is a crowd-sourced 3rd-world microlending site. You should all get an e-mail with it. If anyone has been forgotten, reply and Softwirian will set you up too.
This should only take a few minutes unless you are particularly fussy over who you want to lend to (which Softwirian recommends). Softwirian isn’t exactly sure how vouchers and groups work together but it can’t be very hard.
- It should be easy to set up an account following a link from one of the e-mails, accept the group invite to join the Softwire team if you wish.
- Pick a cause to invest in and do so, using the voucher you should have got by e-mail. Feel free to add your own money if you wish.
- You can donate extra to functioning of Kiva.org itself, if you wish.
- Change someone’s life!
- Keep tabs on the people as they pay it back and read how it helped them.
- Lend it out again!
Obviously peer pressure and feeling guilt tripped into doing stuff is bad. Therefore Softwirian thinks they should remain anonymous and has such has tried to write this e-mail in a way that does not make it obvious who they are. Besides, Softwirian does not crave attention & it makes it slightly more interesting. As Softwirian is terrible at lying (see what they did there), feel free to a) claim credit, b) be ambiguous or c) deny everything so Softwirian can blend in.
Q: You don’t get money for nothing. Is this a scam?
A: No, Softwirian has fronted the $1400.
Q: Do I get any interest?
A: No. That’s the point. It’s like a donation that you get back so you can give again!
Q: Don’t microlenders charge enormous rates?
A: Yes they do. 30% is not uncommon. The reason why is that if you source money, employ people to organise it, travel to remote villages and then lend someone $25 you need a high rate to be sustainable. These aren’t loans for trivialities like flash cars. These are genuinely needed by people who often can’t get to normal banks. Kiva only partners with groups that are reasonable.
Q: I still don’t believe in them. Can you count me out?
A: Softwirian does. I suppose the voucher can be cancelled and lent out in Softwirian’s name. Tell Softwirian that you want to opt-out and they will cancel it.
Q: How many of the loans get defaulted?
A: About 1%. Way less than normal loans.
Q: What happens if the loan gets defaulted?
A: You lose your money. Consider it a donation.
Q: When it is paid back can I withdraw the money and spend it on shoes/beer?
A: Yes there is nothing stopping you eventually getting beery shoes with it, though Softwirian would prefer it if you either, a) re-leant it b) donated it to a worthy cause or c) spent it on a completely random act of kindness. (Random acts of kindness are effectively anti-terrorism.)
Q: I can’t be bothered to do it. What happens?
A: Eventually the money will get returned to Softwirian or turned into a donation to Kiva. You’ll miss out on a proven source of well-being.
Q: Isn’t doing it like this a mistake as it avoids tax benefits etc?
A: It’s not technically a donation so Softwirian doesn’t see any clever thing to increase its value.
Q: Why didn’t Softwirian lend it all out in his name?
A: Half the point is that it makes everyone happier. That and Softwirian hopes it will become a thing of collective interest.
Q: You can’t remain anonymous forever can you?
A: Well Softwirian might if you don’t try to find out very hard…
(who feels very silly with all this 3rd? 4th? person talking)”