When I was looking for submissions for Best Web Companies and Innovators of 2006, a R/WW commenter pointed to a non-profit site called kiva.org - calling it "web 2.0 meets the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize".

Kiva.org lets you loan money to an entrepreneur in the developing world. On the homepage there is a list of relatively small loan requests (usually $2000 or less), from people in developing countries. Incidentally, Kiva is a Swahili word meaning “agreement” or “unity”.

For example Rabil Hamzayev is requesting $2000 to expand his foodstuffs business. He's described as a "30, single, internally Displaced Person ( IDP ) from the Armenian-ocupied territory of Azerbaijan Lachin". He says he will repay the loan over 12-16 months. Here's his business history so far:

"Before he wanted to open his own market, but he could not do it.He decided to borrow the loan $400 and to built his own market. For the second time he borrowed the loan $800 and bought the foodstuffs. The third loan amount $1400 he spent to expand the area of his market. Now he wants to built the household shop."

Rabil is 69% funded so far and on his Kiva webpage there is a facewall of people who have loaned him money. Kiva.org even addresses the question of "Will I get repaid", with a little popup box that states: "So far, Kiva has experienced a 100% repayment rate on all businesses with completed loan terms."

In terms of utilizing the Web for non-profit purposes, Kiva.org is a shining example. It has the usual 'web 2.0' things like RSS feeds, journals with comments (like blogs), facewall that links to user profiles, badges for websites, easy Web payments (using credit card, Paypal, etc), recommendations, and more.

As Kiva.org explains on its About page, they facilitate connections using the Web:

"Kiva is using the power of the internet to facilitate one-to-one connections that were previously prohibitively expensive. Child sponsorship has always been a high overhead business. Kiva creates a similar interpersonal connection at much lower costs due to the instant, inexpensive nature of internet delivery. The individuals featured on our website are real people who need a loan and waiting for socially-minded individuals like you to lend them money."

Interestingly, Kiva.org seems to have good support from Silicon Valley - in the FAQ it states that "Kiva.org currently has financial support from a number of angel investors, including Silicon Valley donors, and corporate sponsors including Microsoft Research."

Also Kiva.org has received good press coverage. The Seattle Times called it "Philanthropy 2.0" and noted:

"The power of the Internet not only makes it possible for donors to find organizations and causes they support around the world, but it means that even small amounts by individuals can make a big difference because of the sheer volume of givers."

Overall Kiva.org is an impressive use of the Web and shows there's much more to web 2.0 than just Flickr, del.icio.us, YouTube and MySpace. Read/WriteWeb will be profiling more of these web-empowered non-profits in future posts - they literally give new meaning to 'world wide web'!