The Hand-out vs. Hand-up Approach to Bailouts

by Victor Cheng

A few months ago, I discovered Kiva.org the microlending website where you can lend money to entrepreneurs (usually in the 3rd world) to help them expand their businesses.

At the time, I made what I thought was a donation to this very worthwhile cause–after all there is nothing that inspires me more than someone who wants to make their life better and is eager to work to make it happen.

When it came time to do my taxes this year, I expected to be able to deduct the donation on my income tax return. BUT, the something interesting happened.

I checked my Kiva account and 80% of the money I thought I donated (but in reality had actually only lent) had been paid back!

So much to my simultaneous disappointment and delight, you can’t deduce money given to someone who gives it back.

I have made loans to entrepreneurs in Cambodia, Senegal, Honduras, Moldova, Bosnia, Tanzania, Benin, Peru, El Salvador, Benin, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Ghana, Vietnam, and Togo.

I’ve been lending mainly to women entrepreneurs, a few single moms, located in countries I know little about. I’ve had a lot of fun getting out my old world map and trying to find where in the world some of these countries are located. I tend to lend to those with established businesses looking for additional working capital to expand.

The most common situation is someone in retail selling goats, used clothing, fish, or beverages, and wanting a loan to add additional products to sell to their existing customers.

It has been quite an interesting experience. In my work as a business coach, I am accustom to working with entrepreneurs in the US and Canada. It really impresses me to see that the entrepreneurial spirit is live and well in countries I didn’t even know existed. And in many respects it is MORE alive elsewhere than here in the U.S.

I’ve been quite disappointed at the bailout addiction culture that seems to be developing here.

Amongst the big companies, the message seems to be the key to survival and success in this recession is to get really, really good at asking for bailout money.

What a shame.

Whatever happened to the old fashion approach to business, like earning it?

I’m all for helping others and one another with a hand up. I’m equally opposed to the pure handout and the handout/bailout addicts it creates.

Well I’m putting my time, money, and effort where my mouth is and am planning to do something big about it. Stay tuned for details.

Comments

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Terri Zwierzynski June 23, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Kiva is such a cool idea! I made my first loan a few weeks ago, to a group of women entrepreneurs in Peru. I plan to make more loans in the coming months 🙂

I was introduced to Kiva by mastermind colleague Denise Wakeman, who is offering a Big 5-0 challenge (she’s turning 50)…she wants to get enough folks to join and make loans at Kiva to reach $5000 in the month of June (if you’d like to join her effort: event:http://budurl.com/big50).

Whether you join Denise’s challenge or not, please do consider lending a hand via Kiva.

Victor Cheng July 24, 2009 at 8:33 PM

I’ve found the process of being lender on Kiva surprisingly fun. I’ve been making loans for about a year. In looking at the repayment history of my borrowers, something like 98.5% are current on their payments. That’s like 30 times better than subprime borrowers here in the U.S. Amazing… puts us to shame.

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