Thanks to a thriving consulting career and a strong wi-fi connection, Kiva lender Frans lives in and works from a renovated old bakery in Oostrum, a historic town of less than 100 in the Friesland Province of the Netherlands.
“It’s a funny thing to think that a baker could once make a living baking for a hundred people,” muses the business tech consultant over Zoom. “Now everyone just goes to a large supermarket.”
It’s also fascinating to realize that because of such advancements in convenience and communication, someone based in a small corner of the world can have a tremendous impact on individuals and communities continents away—which is exactly what Frans has done as a Kiva lender.
Since 2011, he has made an astonishing 710 loans on the Kiva platform, always relending once a loan is repaid. Each month through Kiva’s Monthly Good program, he makes regular contributions of US$25 to his Kiva account and estimates that he has allocated around US$3000 to Kiva borrowers in the last decade—an amount that when factored by how many times it has been relent again and again, equals something closer to US$17,000.
“It’s a very small amount for me, and I enjoy using the Kiva platform,” says Frans. “Once a month, I log into my account and add a $25 credit. Then I see how much came back from repayments, sort and choose loans, and put in $25 each until I’m out.”
‘It felt strange to just give money away’
“I really like the fact you see where the money goes and what they’re going to use it for.”
When Frans first encountered Kiva, he was struck by the transparency with which it operates, in comparison to other nonprofits.
“[It] felt strange, to just give money away, and not have any feedback about how it is spent,” he reflects.
“I liked the idea of people generating income for themselves. And I really like the fact you see where the money goes and what they’re going to use it for.”
Understanding that access to credit is key, Frans recognizes the irony of how exclusion from financial services traps people in poverty, and how global economics favors the wealthy with rebates and other advantages.
“It’s like solar panels in Holland; they help reduce energy costs, but only people with enough money can buy them. The people who actually need to pay less for energy can’t afford them.”
Often, large start-up costs are barriers to long-term cost effective solutions & entrepreneurship around the world. By making small loans, Frans knows he’s helping others break the cycle that prevents them from improving their lives.
“The more money you have, the more money you’re able to make.”
An ‘analytical’ lender
“I’m trying to help close as many loans as possible”
Lending on Kiva can be personal, with many lenders opting to lend to causes that they feel passionate about. However, Frans takes a more methodical approach to the loans he supports — the first category Frans seeks out is “loans ending soon”. He sees pushing as many loans over the finish line as he can as the best way to spread the impact among the people who need it most.
“I’m sort of an analytical loaner. I could do a large amount for one loan, but I’m trying to help close as many loans as possible,” he says of his lending strategy.
“I do that so the loans close quickly and the money is used quickly.”
Challenging the notion of who needs help
Frans began lending to people around the world, from farmers in Madagascar to shopkeepers in Kenya, though it’s only lately that he has begun funding borrowers in the U.S.
“I always thought that people in the U.S. had plenty of resources, but then I read their stories. It challenges your preconceptions.” he acknowledges.
“Kiva has helped show me that it’s not only people in developing countries that need a helping hand.”
From the old bakery in Oostrum where he knows almost every person in town, Frans continues to make a global impact, loan by loan. As he posts $25 to his Kiva account every month and watches the repayments add up, he plans to keep disbursing his total sum into small amounts to those who need it most.
“There are so many people to help,” he says. “I’d rather share it with as many as possible.”