Frequently asked questions

Browse Projects

Projects Funded

Amount Raised

Total Members

Quick Facts About Zidisha

Quick Facts

General FAQs

"Zidisha" is the Swahili word for "grow" or "expand", as in a business or a quality such as freedom or prosperity.

Zidisha is the first online microlending community that directly connects backers and entrepreneurs — without any intermediaries. Unlike more mainstream microloan websites that use local intermediary organizations, Zidisha offers a direct person-to-person connection.

Why is direct better? Because projects managed by local intermediary organizations charge high interest rates (often above 40%) to the entrepreneurs to cover their administrative costs.

Zidisha projects are more cost-efficient, allowing borrowers to keep more of the income earned from the project investment. We also give backers and entrepreneurs the opportunity to communicate with each other directly — so you can see everyone’s stories unfold right before your eyes and experience it with them from the other side of the world.

Finally, entrepreneurs themselves join backers in funding other entrepreneurs with the proceeds they earn from their projects via the Pay It Forward program (see below).

Zidisha entrepreneurs are located in low-income countries where small business funding is often unavailable, or carry expensive interest rates along with collateral requirements. Zidisha offers an easy, accessible alternative that allows the entrepreneurs to get business expansion funds on flexible terms and at a cost they can easily afford. The low cost allows entrepreneurs to keep a majority of their profits and use them to invest back into their businesses or to support their families.

Zidisha's direct person-to-person connection results in lower cost for the entrepreneurs, and a more transparent and interesting experience for backers. Our first-of-its-kind direct crowdfunding platform ensures that the profits go to the entrepreneurs (no cut of it goes to a bank or other intermediary). And the direct dialogue that takes place every day between lenders and entrepreneurs in our community maximizes transparency - and even builds friendships.

Instead of repaying lenders, Zidisha entrepreneurs commit to reinvesting the amount raised in other entrepreneurs on the platform once their project is completed. This allows funds to recycle into new projects as with traditional microlending programs, while giving entrepreneurs a more direct stake in the process and the chance to give back to others in the community.

Entrepreneurs find us! Anyone who lives in a country serviced by Zidisha may apply to raise a project — and potential entrepreneurs themselves take the initiative to apply. The majority of Zidisha applicants find us by word of mouth, as current members recommend Zidisha to others in their communities. Entrepreneurs also find us through web searches, blogs, or Facebook posts.

Entrepreneurs who apply to join Zidisha must provide their precise residential address, telephone number, and national identity number before we allow them to post a funding application. Applicants must also provide the contact information of colleagues who can provide a recommendation for them. The local banks and payment services that process Zidisha fund disbursements also check the recipients’ national identity cards.

No. Zidisha is a platform for philanthropy. Our organization is responsible only for maintaining the Zidisha website as a platform for the transactions that take place between its members. Accordingly, we do not make any representation or promise that participants will recover their funds and we do not offer a financial return on the projects.

Entrepreneurs pay a small service fee on each project they raise through Zidisha in order to cover the money transfer and administrative costs incurred.

We don’t charge any service fee to backers. But, we do ask that those who participate contribute what they can as a tip to support our growth. (And we’re incredibly thankful when they do!)

Yes! Backers and entrepreneurs can message each other back and forth to send updates about the impact of the project or even simple notes of thanks or inspiration. Entrepreneur stories, project applications and project updates are written personally by the entrepreneurs themselves, not by us or by partner organizations. Although we may provide English translations of foreign language postings and edit project titles for clarity, we do not otherwise modify entrepreneurs' content or write it on their behalf.

No, the amount to be repaid is fixed in local currency at the time entrepreneurs create a project proposal. Exchange rates can fluctuate during the course of the repayment period, causing the US Dollar equivalent value of the projects to increase or decrease.

The exchange rates applied to all Zidisha transactions are the exchange rates that were applied to our most recent transfer of US dollars to each borrower country. Here’s a breakdown of how conversion rates work throughout the life of a Zidisha project:

  • When entrepreneurs create a project application: the local currency amounts they request are converted to US Dollars, and the project amount remains fixed at that US Dollar value throughout the fundraising period until the project is disbursed.
  • At disbursement: project amounts are fixed in local currency, so that entrepreneurs' repayment obligations are not affected by exchange rate fluctuations.
  • Each time an entrepreneur makes a repayment: the amount received in local currency is converted to US Dollars at the exchange rate in effect at the time the repayment is received. The resulting US Dollar value of the repayment is then credited to the entrepreneur's Pay It Forward account, where it is used to fund other projects on the platform.

We currently offer funding to residents of Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania or Zambia.

Backer FAQs

When an entrepreneur posts a project application, he or she sets the amount he or she would like to raise and a description of the project. Backers can then fund any portion of the project, between $1 and the full amount requested.

When a project is funded, the entrepreneur must confirm his or her acceptance. Once that’s done, we disburse the funds to the entrepreneur in local currency.

Entrepreneurs are asked to share updates, photos and videos with their backers throughout the project period and upon repayment. In addition, the Your Impact page will track the follow-on projects funded by the entrepreneurs you backed, so that you can see your impact continue to grow over time.

You may view an example of a Pay It Forward project which has been repaid and used to fund new entrepreneurs here.

You may credit your account via PayPal, or with a credit or debit card. There is a 3.5% fee for both of these payment methods, to offset the fees charged by the payment processors and allow us to transfer 100% of your funds to the entrepreneur.

We also offer the option to set up automated monthly transfers to your account (via credit card). Unlike one-time payments, monthly plans carry no transaction fee. They can be adjusted or canceled at any time.

The minimum amount per project is one US Dollar, and the maximum is the full amount requested by the applicant.

If a project is not fully funded by the expiration date, the entrepreneur may choose to accept any partial amount that has been raised, or to start over with a new project proposal. If the entrepreneur does not accept the amount raised, then funds that had been contributed are returned to the backers.

Payments forward are credited to the entrepreneur's Pay It Forward balance, which the entrepreneur then uses to fund other fundraising projects on the platform. Each time an entrepreneur you funded funds a new project, you will receive an email notification (unless you opt out) and the new project will be listed in the Your Impact page of your account.

The majority of Zidisha projects are paid forward according to the planned schedule. That said, we cannot guarantee that each project will be paid forward. The business ventures of low-income individuals in developing countries are inherently risky. Most Zidisha entrepreneurs do not have salaried employment, substantial savings, insurance or other safety nets, and illness or family emergencies can often make it difficult to make payments as planned.

Small business owners in developing countries can’t afford to take as much risk as entrepreneurs in wealthy countries. That’s because they don’t have the same social “safety nets” that can keep them from losing their households and basic resources.

So small business owners often protect their households from this risk by maintaining multiple revenue-generating activities at the same time, or by switching quickly from one activity to another in response to changes in the market or other circumstances. For this reason, it is common for Zidisha entrepreneurs to apply for and invest loans in more than one business — and to raise loans totally unrelated to their previous loans if needed.

No. Only your display name, city and country, and photo (if you upload one) will be visible to the public, and no information not publicly displayed will be communicated to entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs may communicate with backers only via the discussion section on each project profile page.

Entrepreneur FAQs

Zidisha member applicants must fulfill the following eligibility criteria:

1. Reside in Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania or Zambia.

2. Not currently hold any overdue loans from other sources.

3. Have an active business or employment with sufficient income to ensure that the project can be paid forward to other members.

4. Have access to the Internet, and be able to fill out entrepreneur profile and application forms and respond to backer comments via the app or our website.

5. Be able and committed to posting frequent updates regarding use of the project and progress of the business on the Zidisha website.

6. Be at least 18 years old.

You may raise funds for almost any purpose, as long as the purpose is legal and ethical. Zidisha members have raised funds for business growth capital, professional tools, university tuition, home improvements, health care and more. If your project will not be used for a revenue-generating investment, you should explain in your application the source of income that will be used to pay the project funds forward. Please do not raise projects for businesses based on cigarettes or alcohol, or that promote deforestation or otherwise harm the environment.

Zidisha projects are not funded by any company or institution. Instead, ordinary people from around the world visit the Zidisha website and choose projects to fund. After using the funds for their projects, recipients then "pay forward" what they received by funding other Zidisha members.

Backers choose to fund projects for various reasons. Most often, backers wish to help entrepreneurs succeed in growing their businesses. Through Zidisha, backers get the chance to hear directly from the entrepreneur about how their project funds have helped. They also get the opportunity to make a friend on the other side of the world and learn about daily life and culture in that country.

Project amounts for first-time members usually range from $5 to $300, depending on the quality of your application and supporting documents. After that, the amounts you can raise increase depending on your payment forward timeliness contributions to the community, up to a maximum of $10,000 per project.

If you choose the optional expediting service, you can have your project funded immediately. Otherwise, your project will be presented to backers for funding in our website. Projects normally take anywhere from one day to two weeks to be funded by through the website, depending on the amount you are raising and the quality of the photos and profile you have posted.

Once your project has been funded and you confirm acceptance, we send your disbursement immediately. The disbursement may take anywhere from a few seconds to a few days to reach your account, depending on the type of payment service used (mobile money payments are generally quicker than bank transfers). As we are not always able to guarantee immediate disbursement, we do not recommend depending on Zidisha for time-sensitive emergency funding.

While most projects are successfully funded, we are regretfully unable to guarantee funding of all project applications. If your dashboard indicates that your project application was not approved, we encourage you to wait for some time and try your project application again later.

When you raise a project, we ask you to commit to "pay forward" the amount you raised by funding other member projects. A contribution of between 10 and 23% is reserved when your project is disbursed, to cover the cost of transferring your project and to compensate the project fund for default losses.

At the end of each project, members are given the option to contribute an extra amount to fund projects for other members in the community.

Once you have confirmed acceptance of your project, your dashboard page will display the status of your disbursement. If payment has already been sent, the date, amount and account number to which it was sent will be displayed.

If your project is displayed as disbursed but you did not receive it, please go to the Help screen and select the Disbursement Not Received option to send us a message. Our team will then work with the payment service to track down the payment.

Follow the instructions displayed in your account dashboard or Payment Instructions page. We will also send payment instructions to you by email when your project is disbursed.

Payments forward are made in weekly installments for small projects, and in weekly or monthly installments for large ones. You may choose your own preferred amount to pay forward each week, and your own preferred day of the week on which to pay.

Use the Pay It Forward button in your project dashboard to make a payment, similarly to repaying a traditional loan. The amounts you contribute will go into your Pay It Forward balance which you can use to fund other members of your choice.

To fund another member, go to the Browse Projects page, select a project that displays the Pay It Forward tag, enter the desired amount and use the Fund button to contribute your funds to your chosen entrepreneur.

If you do not use the credit within one week of payment, we will allocate the unused credit to other Pay It Forward projects on your behalf.

Payments may take up to 24 hours to reflect in your account, depending on the processing time of your payment service provider. If you sent a payment and it is not posted on your profile within 24 hours, please send a message from the Help page and include your payment amount, date and transaction ID number so that we may locate it.

Your on-time payment score is the percentage of all weekly installments that have fallen due for all projects you have taken with Zidisha, which you paid on time. Note that payments are only counted once their due date has passed.

If you cannot pay the full amount due on the scheduled date, you must modify your installment in order to remain in good standing. To do this, log in to your Zidisha account and use the Adjust Installment Amount page to propose a payment amount that you can afford. Adjusting your installment will not affect your on-time repayment score as long as you honor the new installment schedule.

Yes, you may pay your project forward at any time.

Once your project is fully paid forward, you will be eligible to post a new project application for funding on the Zidisha website. If backers' experience is positive, they will likely be engaged and willing to fund you again to support growth of your business. In this case you will likely find it possible to fund a larger project easily in the future.

Each time you pay a Pay It Forward project forward according to the planned schedule, your fundraising limit increases. You can choose to contribute an additional amount of your choice to fund other Pay It Forward entrepreneurs. Your next loan credit limit increases by the amount you choose to contribute plus a matching amount from Zidisha.

Each project profile contains a discussion page, in which the entrepreneur as well as registered Zidisha backers may post text messages and photos. Entrepreneurs and backers may use this forum to ask and respond to questions, share information and news about the progress of the business and get to know one another. Backers highly value the chance to communicate directly with entrepreneurs whose projects they have funded or are considering funding, and entrepreneurs are encouraged to post comments as often as possible.

Zidisha does not authorize any person to collect money on its behalf. All payments to Zidisha should be deposited directly into the account listed in the Payment Instructions page of your Zidisha member account.

If any person claims to be collecting payments on behalf of Zidisha, do not give it to them. Instead, please send an email with that person's name and telephone number (if known) to our team in your account Help page. We will work with you to report the fraud to the local police.

We request that you do not invite or help non internet / smartphone users to join Zidisha, because we have learned with experience that it is very hard for individuals who do not personally use our website to thoroughly understand and participate successfully in our community over the long term.

Membership fees are refundable upon request at any time you do not have an outstanding loan or project and wish to end your membership.

All risk payments and Members Loan Fund payments for our former loans applied for before December 17, 2018 are refundable upon request at any time you do not have an outstanding loan or fundraising loan application. If you choose to receive a refund for these payments, your credit limit for future loans will be reduced commensurate with the amount you are withdrawing from the Members Loan Fund for your refund.

Risk payments for loans applied for on or after December 17, 2018 are not refundable.

To request a refund, please send a message from the Help page of your account at any time you do not have an outstanding loan or project.

You may use the Help page of your account to send our team a message at any time.