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David Roodman pointed me to a typical reaction post to the Kiva story. In summary, the authors lament the lack of direct connection to a specific person they can give to and wonder why they can’t just dispense with the intermediaries.

I think the post is quite revelatory about why so many charities create the illusion of direct connection. They do so because donors demand it.

The demand for direct connection is baffling to me since most donors absolutely refuse direct connection to the people in need that are closest to them. Consider: how often do you or your friends take advantage of the opportunity to give directly and establish a connection by giving $20 to the guy standing at the corner with the cardboard sign saying, “Will Work for Food”?

I’ll bet the answer is “never.“ And there’s a very good reason for that. You believe that to actually help that person you should give the money to a knowledgeable intermediary like a homeless shelter that will do the research to understand this person’s situation, and ensure the money you give is actually used in a responsible way.

So if you would only give to an intermediary in order to help someone on the street outside your home, why do you want to do away with intermediaries between you and a person on the other side of the world whose circumstances you don’t understand at all?

I just don’t get it.

In the end I guess the donor demand really is for an illusion. They don’t just want connection—what they want is the illusion of connection where they can feel directly connected but not actually have to be directly connected—with all the messiness that such connections would entail—to people in need.

Comments

Spot-on.

November 17, 2009

I think there is a corollary here. Recall the angry reaction to Kiva’s announcement that it would broker loans in the US. The only way I could understand the outrage of those who lambasted Kiva was that it had pricked the bubble of their delusion.

November 22, 2009

I don’t think the concern with Kiva is that donors demand a direct connection to recipients—it’s obvious there are MFI who are pre-qualifying and administering loans.  The concern is that Kiva gives people the illusion that the receipients won’t receive the loans from the MFI’s until it is funded by donors (and that by a particular deadline).  The fact is, that person has already received the loan and so the deadline for funding is a essentially a ruse.

To take your analogy a bit further, that would be like a shelter telling me that that a particular homeless man, John Doe, will not have a bed to sleep in unless the agency receives $20 by midnight.  What would it say about that agency, if in fact, John Doe was already soundly sleeping in bed before the $20 came in?

As far as I can tell, there was never an uprising of donors who said, “We demand ways to loan money directly to desperately poor entrepreneurs around the world!“  No, Kiva was the one who came to donors with that proposition and promise.  As such, Kiva should just be crystal clear in their communication that loaned money does not go directly to the particular recipient (via the MFI) and no, there really is no deadline for a loan to be funded, because it has ALREADY BEEN GIVEN.

November 23, 2009

I feel like it’s a matter of trust, similar to what you’ve said. In other words, can you trust the receiver of your donation to use your funds for maximum benefit *and* according to your intent? This latter intent or expectation was the issue for Kiva. I think people trusted Kiva to put the money to work, but the way in which Kiva did so did not match up with donors’ expectations. Just my two cents.

SocentVC - http://socentvc.wordpress.com

December 01, 2009

i agree that donors can be a little naive in expecting the p2p connection to be anything other than fantasy.  you can never tell what those romantics will believe in next.  BUT just because the demand was there does not excuse any organization from misleading these poor idealists.  kiva’s intentions were good, but using any means necessary? 

also, getting to choose the exact person was a real bonus for many people because it allowed them to support or unsupport specific businesses or even industries.  what would a crazy SDA donor do if he found out that his money did not go to the goat herder and instead went to the pig farmer?  all in all, not kosher.

December 04, 2009

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