A company that really lets you make direct microloans, no lie

I used to be a big fan of the microlending nonprofit Kiva.org, thinking my $25 and $50 loans were really going via Kiva to that goat farmer in Kenya smiling on its Web site, and the single mother in Guatemala running a clothing shop to support her kids. Then I read how Kiva doesn't really make direct loans. The storytelling method it used to get people to pony up money masked the fact that Kiva wasn't being forthright about how the loans were distributed. Apparently, other similar nonprofits often fudge when that tell you "your $2 a day can feed and clothe little Maria in Cuzco." Sorry, Sally Struthers, even you are hard to trust now.

So is there any way you can lend directly to a hard-working person, other than handing cash to your neighbor down the street starting a business in his garage? Yes, says this National Geographic-sponsored company. Novica is a Los Angeles company that lets artisans worldwide sell their work on its Web site. It promises fair trade by not charging artisans any fees and letting them lower or raise prices of their artwork as they see fit. Recently, Novica announced it would help its artists expand their businesses by helping them get access to microloans.