My Kiva loan stats and rationale.

October 2, 2020 Incoherent ramblings , ,

For most of the time that I was at IBM (before leaving to LzLabs), I was enrolled in the Employee Charitable Fund (ECF) program.  The ECF was a really easy way to do charitable donations, as the donations were small biweekly payroll deductions.  As all the charitable options were official Canadian charities, I also got that tiny little tax deduction kickback as well.

Despite those benefits, I never really liked the ECF charity options, as it felt like my money was just going into a black hole.  I heard about Kiva on the “How things work” podcast, and decided to bail from the ECF for a while and make some Kiva loans instead.  Kiva is a microloan service, where you can loan selected individuals money in $25 increments.  You get to pick who you want to loan to.  As you get paid back, you can funnel those funds back into new loans.

Switching my funds to Kiva loans isn’t a charitable donation in the traditional sense.  In particular, it doesn’t count as an offical Canadian charitable, so I don’t get any tax kickbacks.  Those are usually just pennies anyways, so that’s not a big loss.  If you are in the US you can get a tax kickback for donations to Kiva itself, but not for your loans.  However, I treat my Kiva account like it’s a one way donation, funneling money in, and recycling all of it into new loans when I get payments.

In a rather timely fashion, as it’s was my end of month “Kiva donation time”, I got a notification of leanpub royalties today:

Leanpub is a pay what you want e-book publishing service that provides the purchasers with automatic updates, and purchaser only forums for Q&A.  I didn’t really expect anybody would buy my stuff on leanpub, since I also make pdfs of all those books available for free.  However, I don’t feel guilty about that for a couple reasons.  One is that the purchaser has freedom to pick their price, and most seem to go over minimum.  The other reason is that I have been funneling my leanpub royalties when I get them into my Kiva account.  Usually, y leanpub sales, as they are batched and sporadic, don’t cover my regular Kiva contributions, but this month, they did.

Having been making kiva loans and contributions for so many years now, I’ve got a pretty decent distribution of countries covered:

I regularly reset my ‘Saved Search’ to remove the most frequently leant to countries, and it looks like it’s time to do that again.

I’m pretty selective about the categories that I select my microloans, and that bias is obvious looking at the distribution of the loan categories I’ve selected:

I particularly like the construction loan category, since I can pick somebody looking for tools to improve their business.  I like the self sustainability of that.

This strategy of small regular loans that feed back on themselves really accumulates nicely.  I’ve been making only small monthly contributions, yet that has added up to $6K of total loans over the years, and I’ve now got $1500 of loans in the pipe.  I’ve lost only about $100, which compared to the management fees of a typical charity, is actually pretty extraordinary.  I’ve also lost a small amounts to donations to Kiva itself.  They are asking for lots per loan these days, and I cheap out those contributions, but that has probably still added up.

Leanpub editions of my books.

August 5, 2020 Uncategorized ,

I’d had a leanpub version of my geometric algebra book available for a while and have now added editions of all my older class notes compilations that I have on amazon.  My complete leanpub selection now looks like:

I believe that leanpub essentially provides a pdf to the purchaser (I haven’t tried buying a copy to verify), and I give the pdfs away for free, so you (and I) might ask why somebody would opt to buy such a copy?

There are a few possible reasons that I can think of:

  1. Many of the leanpub purchases have been above the minimum price, so at least some of the purchasers are compensating proportionally to their personal valuation of the material, and aren’t strictly trying to buy for the minimum price.
  2. A leanpub purchase is subscription like.  Anybody that purchases a copy will automatically receive any updates made without having to check for a new version manually.
  3. There is a per-book forum available for each of the books (if the author enables it.)  I didn’t realize that feature was available, and have now enabled the forum for my geometric algebra book.  I’ve also enabled a forum for each of the class notes compilations as I configured them.
  4. The purchaser did not know that I also offer the pdf for free, and found the title in leanpub search, not through my website where I make that obvious.

I’ve been putting all my leanpub proceeds into my kiva loan portfolio, so if somebody had the bad luck to buy a copy of my book because of (4) above, I don’t feel very guilty about it.

Kiva, a fun alternative to standard charitable donations.

November 17, 2016 Incoherent ramblings , ,


This year, when I was still at IBM, I had opted out of the IBM Employee Charitable Fund (ECF) and chose to put cash into Kiva microloans instead.  I was tired of just blindly dumping money into some big charity like United Way.  I don’t really have any idea what United Way or any other charity is doing with the money I provide.

At the time I had no idea that I wouldn’t be working at IBM for much longer.  When I left IBM and started working as a contractor for LzLabs in the spring, having made this switch already made it easy for me to continue doing so.  The only change I made I was increase the amount that I was making for my monthly Kiva funds topups.  I’m now an employee of LzLabs Canada (3 of 5 at the time of the incorporation), but since we don’t have an IBM style employee charitable fund, I am still putting funds into Kiva that I used to put into explicit registered charities.

I quite like Kiva as an alternative to standard charity. For one, it isn’t straight up charity, since I can choose to fund people who look like they are trying to improve their condition.  That’s a sustainability difference that I think is very important, and part of the trap of the welfare system.  If you reward welfare recipients by providing it unconditionally as we do, you create the welfare state.  Most of my Kiva loans have specifically targeted individuals who have some sort of business venture that they are trying to improve.  My preference has been for people that want tools or livestock (example: a milk producing cow) that will continue to provide value long after the loan is paid.

Its fun to be able to specifically choose who my funds are going to, and when the loan repayments come in, I can often recycle those repayments directly into a new loan without even waiting for my next top up period.

I don’t think that the default overhead that Kiva wants for each loan is reasonable ($3 on $25), so I lower that significantly each time.  Note that if the loan that you try to fund doesn’t get the backers required, Kiva keeps that overhead donation amount.  When I recycled funds after such an unfunded loan into a new loan, I explicitly set the corresponding Kiva donation amount to zero.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can get a Canadian charitable tax credit for the sort of permanently recycling Kiva loans that I am doing, but it’s fun enough to see my loan portfolio grow that I don’t care too much about the tiny little tax kickback Uncle Trudeau and Aunt Wynne “give me” in exchange for me financing their spending sprees.