Finance club fights poverty

By Caitlin Liesen

A new student organization is on campus that hopes to have an impact on students, the community and even the world by contributing to the aid of those impoverished in developing nations.

What started off as a class project for business majors has developed into the start of an organization for students in which they can develop loans for entrepreneurs in developing nations.

Kiva is a non-profit organization that partners with microfinance organizations across the world to fulfill their mission which, according to their website, is to “connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty.”

The microfinance organizations, which Kiva refers to as field partners, collect profiles of their clients in developing countries, including loan details. From there, the profiles are available on and loans can be made on the website in $25 increments.

Field partners then are in charge of distributing loans and collecting repayments.

Melissa Newman, part-time professor at UK and Alumni Affairs director, introduced her business students to Kiva as a way to demonstrate her lessons on small business principals as well as microfinance.

“[Kiva] makes lending a possibility for people who otherwise can’t get the money they need,” Newman said. “It’s not as simple as it would be in the United States, going to the bank to get a loan. Kiva gives opportunities that were never there before. It’s about helping people help themselves.”

After showing a video to her two different sections of classes, Newman set each section up with their own accounts on Kiva.

Newman contributed $100 of her own money and gave each class the opportunity to look through profiles and pick which small business they would loan $25 (two loans for each class).

One student showed a particular interest in the class project and decided to take it one step further.

Business management senior Derek Dennis was inspired to start the club as a way to use the skills acquired from his business class. He initially had looked into individually setting up an account on Kiva until he found there were campus chapters.

Newman helped Dennis start the club by becoming the official faculty adviser and assisting him in making the club an official organization at the university.

Dennis is now the president of the Microfinance Club at UK and is hoping to get the word out about Kiva to students, faculty and the community.

Before graduating in May, Dennis wants to build a foundation for the organization to ensure its existence and success in the future. He explained that the club is beneficial for business students as well as non-business students.

“There’s a lot of ways average students can benefit by participating,” Dennis said. “Not only can they become active in the club, but even if they join Kiva, they can learn a lot and make a difference by investing in these people. Students can also benefit by understanding the financial trends in the global marketplace.”

Newman agreed that the club is not just an interest to business majors as it is more of a community service initiative, and a way for individuals to get involved and make a difference no matter what field they’re in.

The first meeting of the club was held Monday, Nov. 29, and will continue every other week.

Dennis said the first few meetings will focus on educating members on both microfinance and Kiva. After the club is on its feet, the meetings will focus on using to search through profiles of small businesses to loan to as well as track the loans it has already made.

Newman explained that club members will be informed in the meetings of the risk factor associated with using Kiva.

“Group members understand that with microfinance, there is always a risk of not being repaid in full,” Newman said. “But Kiva has a 98.99 percent repayment rate so the risk is low. And, if it doesn’t get repaid it’s considered a donation so you feel good still,” Newman said.

As for the future of the club, Dennis said he plans to have speakers, whether they are faculty or otherwise, come to meetings to talk to group members about microfinance and its future.

Starting in the spring, group members and directors will also look for opportunities for fundraising campaigns on campus to encourage individual colleges, faculty and students to donate.

Both Dennis and Newman said the biggest goals in the future for the Microfinance Club are getting the community involved, raising awareness and setting up fundraising opportunities to make loans.

Newman said microfinance is a new concept that most people have never heard of, so it is important to inform the public.

“Through microfinance, $5, $10 or $25 can make a world of difference in someone else’s life,” Newman said. “A little can go a long way. Hopefully we can get contributions from people in the community. Most people think they won’t have an impact but with microfinance you can.”

The club is open to all students and requires a membership fee of $10 that will contribute to the funding for loans.