Kiva Lending Team in the Spotlight: Para México
Lending teams (in case you aren’t already aware) are one of the funner features on Kiva. The idea behind lending teams is to create a community of Kiva lenders rallying behind a common cause. Teams rang from the commonplace, such as those based on countries and universities, to the more quirky, such as Beer Goggles Never Lie and the Flying Spagehtti Monster. After joining your lending team of choice (you can belong to as many as you want!), you can choose to have the next loan you make on Kiva “count” towards the lending team, so that the loan will show up in the team’s collective portfolio. It’s a fun way to create a little friendly competition while doing some good, as demonstrated by the recent “Kiva Smackdown” challenge. Basically, Josh and Chuck of “Stuff You Should Know” podcast fame recently challenged Stephen Colbert to see whose lending team could raise over $100k on Kiva first (you can visit the the Colbert Nation and HowStuffWorks.com Kiva Lending Team pages to see who’s currently winning!).
I was interested in learning more about lending teams and how to best utilize them in recruiting Kiva lenders around common interests and causes. I recently had the chance to interview Kiva user and lender M+M, captain and creator of the popular lending team Para México. He’s done a really stellar job at creating an active and involved lending team that has had a great impact on Kiva entrepeneurs! Para México currently has a total amount of $46,75 loaned and is still growing with 204 members and an active message board. Our interview was as follows:
1- How did you hear of Kiva?
I heard of Kiva from an article I read at my favorite online magazine, Slate.com about two years ago. It was an article where the author (Jude Stewart) wondered what charity organization could get the most done with small donations. He concluded that microcredit organizations could deliver the most good, and he ranked Kiva as the top choice.
After reading the article and browsing through the Kiva website, I couldn’t agree more and joined in, using the initial letter of my girl’s names to form an ID (M+M, for Maya and Miriam). What immediately caught my attention was the big amount of loan requests from Mexican entrepreneurs, who as a Mexican citizen myself, felt compelled to help fund.
2- What inspired you to create the lending team Para México?
When I first joined Kiva on May 2008, the ability to create or join a lending team was not in place yet. I was happy enough to find out that Mexican Entrepreneurs were available to fund, so I went ahead and started loaning to them.
When the lending team feature was available a few months later, it caught me off guard; teams were popping up really fast all the time for the most diverse interests and groups. It was immediately clear that teams were a great idea to promote Kiva and lending based on a particular cause. Teams such as AASFSHNR, Kiva Christians, Team Obama and Team Europe were having incredible growth in just a few days, and although I could have joined any of them, none was right to help me achieve the goal of helping entrepreneurs from south the border, so I went ahead and created Para Mexico. We had a rocky start, but to this day, we have loaned more than $45,000.00 with 200 members, and we want to keep growing steadily every month.
3- Do you have any personal interest or connection with Mexico?
Yes I do! I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. I got a job and came to live to the United States about ten years ago, settling in Alabama. My Wife, also born in Guadalajara, and I have adapted well, (I think we have even developed a bit of southern accent) and my two girls are American, but there are still many things we miss about Mexico: All of our parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, live there; and the food is incomparable! We visit our home city often, at least once every Christmas Season.
All these years in the United States I have reflected on how blessed I am to have been born to a loving family, who covered all my material needs and was able to afford a good education for myself. Thanks to that background I was able to get a good, stable job in the United States and provide for my family. Many Mexican nationals I have meet here did not have that opportunity, and their stories of economical struggle back in Mexico, and the dangerous trip they make to get into this country, are heartbreaking. You can think whatever you want of them; that they are illegal aliens and shouldn’t have any rights; that they should be imprisoned and deported, but these are human beings that only want to work hard. They have come by the thousands to try to get a better life for themselves and their families
The main reason for this Diaspora is the almost permanent state of economical emergency Mexico has. Nearly 40% of the population lives in poverty; every time I visit I can attest that fact. For years governments from every ideological side have come and gone, with no improvement on the situation. There are many things preventing people from breaking away from poverty in Mexico and elsewhere: Lack of good education, poor or nonexistent health care, high levels of crime, and of course, poor people in Mexico do not have access to any quality financial service of any kind. The might get a loan, yes; shark loans or loans from national corporations such as Elektra and others that cater to low income families, who end up charging anywhere from 60% to 85% to more than 100% interest on purchases of regular appliances, tv’s and other goods. That’s annual interest. Forget about getting a loan for home improvements or to fund a small business. Many families end up paying many times the amount of money they borrowed or can’t cover the payments after some time, ending up in a worst situation they began with.
This is where I think Kiva can have a great impact for Mexican entrepreneurs, and has given me an opportunity to help Mexico in a meaningful way. It may look like a small and insufficient effort, but by supporting the Field Partners operating in Mexico, more similar organizations may be pop up all around the country and really take a bit out of that huge poverty percentage my country currently has.
4- Do you have any tips or tricks for lending team member recruitment you’re willing to share?
I have recruited many member of our team by browsing regularly loans request from Mexican entrepreneurs, and then taking a look at the Kiva web pages of a few of the persons funding that loan. If a high percentage of their loans are going to Mexican entrepreneurs, I send them a message inviting them to join the team. I hate spam myself, so I always send a very respectful recruiting message.
During the last two weeks of October we had our first Halloween Recruit-A-Thon; every team member who could bring over a new member would get a 2010 Kiva calendar as a present from me. We were able to grow the team a little bit and I expect to try that again during 2010.
I also try Facebook to create awareness for Kiva and our lending team. And of course, recruiting the old fashion way: from friends and family.
Those strategies have been successful so far, our team is currently 200 members strong, and still growing.
5- And finally, what is your ultimate vision for the Para México lending team?
AASFSHNR team, we are on your tracks and we’ll surpass you soon! Yeah right!
I invite everybody with family links, general interests, who have vacationed, or who just plain like Mexico or Latin America and want to support their entrepreneurs, to join our team, Para México. Mexico is a great, beautiful country that we can help one microloan at a time. We want to help people who want to work to be limited only by their creativity and work ethic, not lack of affordable financial resources.
Kiva is currently working with two partner microfinance institutions in Mexico, Fundacion Realidad (based in Mexico City, where Kiva Fellow Julia Kastner has been working) and Fundación para la Vivienda Progresiva (in Nuevo Laredo, where I work). These two great organizations have their own lending teams, Friends of Fundacion Realidad and FVP Incredibles. You can make a loan to a Mexican entrepeneur by going to the “Lend” tab on kiva.org and searching for “Mexico.”
What lending teams do you belong to?