Although it’s a tough argument in a recession, some people are looking for an opportunity to invest. Some times, it’s not about making money or earning interest with your money, but instead it’s about doing good. Kiva, FINCA, Kickstarter, and more websites can provide this option if you’d like to make a difference in your community or around the world.
Kickstarter is the place for creative and ambitious entrepreneurs to test their ideas and get the funding they need to see them lift off the ground. All sorts of projects can be hosted on Kickstarter from getting a book published to making a national concert tour to creating a revolutionary new engineering method and on to an even wider variety of projects.
Kickstarter is not really a site for investment as the project leaders retain full control and ownership. Instead, it’s the entrepreneur’s job to pitch their idea to you in a way that makes you excited and wanting to donate. The best and most successful projects on Kickstarter also offer creative incentives for their backers. For example, with the musician trying to go on a national concert tour, they might offer you a signed CD of the album they’re touring with if you donate $20. If you donate $50, they might provide you with a pair of tickets to see the concert in a city near you.
One of the most successful projects on Kickstarter that I’ve seen is called MakerBeam. It seemed to do everything right and it actually managed to raise 179% of its funding goal. MakerBeam is an engineering-type toy and tool (think Legos and Tinkertoys) that generated a lot of excitement and a lot of Backers. Some of the incentives included components of the MakerBeam kit and Beta Tester abilities. MakerBeam (and many other projects on Kickstarter) also provide updates to how the project is going even after funding is complete so people can follow the progress making Kickstarter a communication channel for these projects as well. Many of these updates are exclusively available to people who made donations. If you find a project that you think sounds promising and you want to stay in the loop, you might become a Backer just for these updates.
MakerBeam reached its funding goal in October so it’s all set for Backers but there are plenty of other projects on the site like this waffle cookie startup, Van Wafels. You can read about this entrepreneurial adventure started by students at Brown University and how they want to raise $3000 for equipment at their project page on Kickstarter. If you pledge $12, you’ll get a pack of the Van Wafels cookies delivered right to your door.
As another example, there’s also a documentary project called Dear Mr. Watterson – a cinematic exploration of Calvin & Hobbes that has reached its goal of more than $12,000 that still has 58 days left to find additional Backers.
Dear Mr. Watterson is a film that will look to the readers and fans of Calvin & Hobbes to tell the story of the strip and its creator.As we explore the art and impact of Bill Watterson through this unique perspective, the undying appreciation and love of Calvin & Hobbes and the man behind it will be evident in the anecdotes, stories, and memories shared by readers of the strip and friends and colleagues of Mr. Watterson.
If a project meets its goal within its deadline (anywhere from 1 to 90 days), your credit card will be charged when the goal is met. If the project doesn’t meet its goal, you aren’t charged. This seems to be a good way of protecting Backers while also allowing Project Leaders to gauge the excitement and interest in their project.
Kiva is an organization that links you to people in developing countries (and more) that need a loan. In their situations, it is not easy to get credit or a loan. That’s where Kiva and you come in. You make a loan of $25 or more to a specific person or business to provide them with the capital they need to improve their living conditions or expand their business. As they pay back their loan, you get paid back.
Kiva realizes that access to credit is a challenge for entrepreneurs everywhere. Kiva started out as a website focused on developing-world entrepreneurs. In June 2009, Kiva began experimenting with allowing entrepreneurs in the United States to raise money on its website.
Kiva operates in conjunction with various field offices and organizations in countries around the world to administer loans and provide local representation. These organizations are able to charge an interest in order to sustain this microlending model.
Our Field Partners are free to charge interest, but Kiva will not partner with an organization that charges exorbitant interest rates. We also require Field Partners to fully disclose their interest rates.
These local representatives might charge an interest, but you’ll get paid back only the amount you loaned. Instead of interest, you’re loaning to improve people’s lives, like this gentleman in the agricultural business. He is looking to get a loan of $2,500 in order to purchase 4 additional cattle to expand his business. This would allow him to improve his standard of living while he pays back the loan.
As you browse through the list of entrepreneurs, you can choose how much you want to lend and add it to your cart to pay for them. This then gets added to your portfolio and you can watch as you are repaid over time. You can also choose to purchase Gift Certificates for individuals. You choose the amount of the gift certificate and the recipient chooses which loan to make. The recipients will then be repaid as the loan completes. You will be repaid in the form of (from the FAQ):
PayPal, their credit card or, if they’ve received some repayments, Kiva Credit. When lenders get repaid, they can re-lend to another entrepreneur, donate their funds to Kiva’s operating expenses, or withdraw their funds to a PayPal account.
You can also choose to create or join a Lending Team. Teams are just collections of individuals that continue to make loans on their own, but the investments are statistically tracked for your team. You can read more on Lending Teams from Kiva’s FAQ page.
To date, Kiva has a 98.26% Repayment Rate so there is some risk though it is minimal. There may also be some loss of money through international exchange rates, but there are clear warning when this might be the case and the amount will depend on how much you’re lending. Like all investments, it’s up to you to make wise choices of where to put your money and in a cause you believe in.
For more information and to see potential loans, visit the Kiva website.
Natalie, Queen of Scots
Natalie, Queen of Scots is a one-time chance to invest in the making of a movie with the possibility of seeing some real financial return. The fundraising effort started way back in June of 2009 through a website that has become We Have to Find a Way!. The movie Natalie, Queen of Scots is a product of Director Brian Carroll of Instant Classic fame (and many other people). Their goal was to raise $250,000 as the budget for their film. Since then, they’ve raised over $100,000 and completed filming and post-production of the film by many of the cast and crew going without pay and taking second jobs.
You can see the trailer here:
The financial return is pretty straight-forward. You are a full-fledged investor. If the movie doesn’t sell or sells for its $250,000 budget, you will get back the exact amount of money you invested. If it sells for more, you’ll get a percentage back. If the movie sells for $500,000, you’ll receive 150% your original investment and it goes up with higher increments. I’m really hoping this experiment succeeds because I believe it will encourage more wide-spread investment opportunities that your everyday Joes can participate in.
It appears that the Lobsterback Entertainment group is still seeking investments through the We Have to Find a Way! site. You can also follow the progress of the movie through its Natalie, Queen of Scots blog.
The mission of FINCA International is to provide financial services to the world’s lowest-income entrepreneurs so they can create jobs, build assets and improve their standard of living.
You can participate by donating to FINCA or investing in the FINCA Captial Fund (minimum investment: $50,000).
You can find out more information and get involved with FINCA through the FINCA International website.
ChipIn is not a site that will allow you to donate to the less fortunate, but instead it provides a tool for your fundraising campaign. You can use ChipIn as a method of collecting funds from your website for a specific cause of your own or a charity like Child’s Play. If you don’t have a website to place the widget, you can use the ChipIn site they’ll create for you.
Basically you configure ChipIn with the amount you want to raise, when it needs to be collected by, and what you’re raising the funds for and they’ll build you a widget that you can place on your website. Your visitors and regulars can then donate through the widget securely via PayPal or credit cards to the cause and you’ll get tracking information about your progress. You’ll then receive the funds in your PayPal account as they come rolling in.
ChipIn also has its “Sprout Builder” that allows you to customize the ChipIn widget with a lot of social network tools like YouTube, Twitter, RSS, and more. This can be free and ad-supported or can come at a cost for more specific uses.
Check out the ChipIn site for more details.
Of course, you have heard about the earthquake in Haiti that has taken tens of thousands of lives. If you’d like to donate to aid the country of Haiti and its people, you might visit the Google Crisis Response page for Haiti. This page allows you to donate to UNICEF, CARE, and a number of other organizations assisting with the Haitian response. You can also add information about people or to try to find people through Google’s page and find more information about the earthquake.