Sometimes it’s the numbers that tell the most powerful story. That’s certainly true at this seminal moment in the history of the nonprofit Kiva organization. A pioneer in crowdfunding, Kiva was founded in 2005 to connect non-traditional lenders and borrowers in ways that would empower both to change the world.
In just 12 years, Kiva has managed to achieve an extraordinary milestone: one billion dollars in loans, mostly in small increments, from one individual to another.
Doing the math
If you break down that breathtakingly big number, Kiva’s underlying stats are equally compelling. 2.5 million borrowers (more than 2 million of them women) in 84 countries. 1.6 million lenders investing amounts as low as $25. And, against all odds, despite all naysayers, a repayment rate of 97.1%.
That remarkable repayment rate is key to the success of the Kiva formula. When a single mother in Zambia repays the loan she took out to buy inventory for her roadside stand, the money is returned to the account of the Kiva lender who extended her credit. That lender then has the option of reclaiming the money – or, as more often happens, reinvesting it. In entrepreneurship. In education. In equity.
By leveraging the same money over and over again, in far-flung cities and remote villages around the world, Kiva has found an ingenious way to multiply the impact of every dollar – and maximize the return on every investment.
Credit where credit is due
Kiva works with field partners on five continents (microfinance institutions, schools, non-governmental organizations and others) to identify and screen potential borrowers; help qualified individuals and groups apply for Kiva funding; administer the disbursal of funds; and collect loan repayments.
These partners, with deep roots in the communities they serve, perform an indispensible role in the Kiva process. Not only do they vet and vouch for local borrowers, they often provide additional training and services designed to help borrowers succeed. With localized know-how and international funding, previously marginalized people are being given the opportunity to improve their businesses, their lives and their communities through the simple expedient of affordable access to credit.
A proven approach
Tools for a mechanic in El Salvador. High-yield seeds for a farmer in Uganda. Hair dryers for a salon in a refugee camp. School fees for a nursing student in India. A single Kiva investor can choose to fund any – or all – of a wide array of surprising, inspiring ventures featured on the Kiva website. Every listing is a snapshot of a borrower’s aspirations and personal history. Every fully funded request is a pivotal moment in the trajectory of a borrower’s life.
Through millions of successful transactions, Kiva has proven that small individual loans can make an enormous difference in the fight against chronic poverty. But Kiva hasn’t stopped there.
An expanding network
Over the years, Kiva has expanded to include “medium-sized” businesses with 5 to 250 employees. Too big for many micro-lenders to support and too small to interest traditional lenders, these businesses have often been starved for the capital they need to grow.
Kiva is focusing its efforts on “social enterprises” dedicated to creating jobs and addressing challenges such as clean water, clean energy, sustainability, fair trade and gender equality, A struggling and disregarded sector in many developing countries, these businesses have the potential to pay huge dividends in terms of employment, GDP and societal outcomes.
Lending a helping hand
Kiva doesn’t give donations – it gives loans. From the start, Kiva calculated that requiring recipients to repay their loans lent dignity to the process of helping small borrowers help themselves.
For lenders, Kiva offers a unique opportunity to extend compassionate, life-altering credit to individuals typically overlooked and underestimated by traditional financial institutions. Every investment is a vote of confidence. Every success is a shared achievement. Every repayment is proof of the power of this simple concept.
To find out more about how you can change the world by becoming a Kiva lender, visit kiva.org
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