Being Charitable

Nick Burka

Kiva Loans and Monthly Donations at silverorange

The first installment of our “20 years of silverorange” series.

At silverorange we try to take a caring approach to work and the world. We make an effort to tackle meaningful projects (for instance, we recently helped launch the amazing Connecting Families initiative that helps low income Canadians get $10/month internet), our work culture is built on compassion, we make time for families and friends, and we encourage community activism. What I’d like to highlight here is how we also use charitable giving as way to support causes that are important to different members of our team and to educate each other about issues that are important to us as individuals.

We’ve previously taken a quiet approach to charitable giving in order to avoid patting ourselves on the back for just giving away money. I’m making an exception here because I’ve been struck by how well these ideas have worked as an addition to our company culture, and because I hope one of the ideas might prompt another group to try something similar.

Man with glasses smiling Motorhome with Dans La Rue sign
Dans La Rue, one of the charities we support.

Kiva Loans

Most years at our retreat we give each employee some sort of gift. This year, we did a combination of money for self-care (to be used for anything from yoga, to massage, to psychological healthcare) and $500 to give out as microloans through the amazing Kiva platform:

Kiva is an international nonprofit, founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco, with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. We celebrate and support people looking to create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.

By lending as little as $25 on Kiva, anyone can help a borrower start or grow a business, go to school, access clean energy or realize their potential. For some, it’s a matter of survival, for others it’s the fuel for a life-long ambition.

100% of every dollar you lend on Kiva goes to funding loans. Kiva covers costs primarily through optional donations, as well as through support from grants and sponsors.

Kiva lets you search for the types of projects you’d like to support such as women-run, single-parents, sanitation, eco-friendly, etc. They also have some really nice features where you can see what types of projects other people on your team have donated to and where they’re located:

Pie chart of sectors: Agriculture (17), Food (14), Retail (11), Education (10), Services (8), Clothing (5), Housing (5), Arts (1), Construction (1), Personal Use (1) Pie chart of countries, leading with Kenya (13), Colombia (7), Lebanon (6), Palestine (6), Uganda (5), Ecuador (5), Peru (5), and others
Kiva graphs of what the silverorange team has done with their microloans.

So far we’ve made a total of 95 loans (and counting) to help small businesses who otherwise would be denied credit by traditional lenders in their countries. We’ve funded a farmer in Kenya so she can purchase high-quality seeds and good fertilizers, a family in Jordan who plans to start a home products store after restarting their life there after the war in Syria, and a man in Armenia to install solar panels to save money on energy costs, among many other worthy projects. It’s great to be able to share these stories with each other as we choose projects to support and to see people across the world who are improving their lives and their communities.

Monthly Donations

Since 2014 we’ve been giving back to our communities through company-funded donations. Every month, two employees get to each choose any registered charity to give $1,000 to. Over the years, we’ve given to over 35 amazing charities with a huge variety of interests such as the environment, social causes, health, poverty, and literacy. It’s a great way for us to teach each other about the causes that matter to us. For instance, our CEO Isa, who’s a genderqueer trans person, made an example of this by donating to Trans Lifeline —a gesture of support for an important cause, as well as a chance for us all to reflect on the struggles trans people face in our society on a daily basis.

Pie chart of charity types: Health 32.7%, Poverty 26.5%, Nature 12.2%, Humanitarian 10.2%, Literacy 8.2%, Family 4.1%, Children 4.1%, Accessibility 2.0%

Some of the charities we’ve donated to include:

  • PEI Family Violence Prevention: “providing a place of safety for women and children who are victims of abuse, educating the public about the issues of violence against women and family violence, and advocating for the needs of abused women and children.”
  • Diabetes Canada: “leading the fight against diabetes by helping those affected by diabetes live healthy lives, preventing the onset and consequences of diabetes, and discovering a cure.”
  • Rainforest Alliance: “building an alliance to create a better future for people and nature by making responsible business the new normal.”
  • Dans La Rue: “the only organization in Montreal which takes a multifaceted approach to respond to the needs of homeless youth and youth at risk.”
  • EM:RAP GO: “while access to expert emergency medicine has developed rapidly across high resource nations, in many lower resource communities it is still in its infancy. EM:RAP GO plans to change that.” EM:RAP is also a client of ours.

Good Feels

Our experience with charitable giving as a group has been extremely positive in so many ways. Personally, I keep a watchful eye on our donation calendar and look forward to my month so that I can choose an interesting organization to donate to and share the reason I chose them with my friends at work. When my Kiva loans are repaid, I give a little fist-pump for the entrepreneur who completed their project and then I get the joy of looking for a new person to fund.