• Emma Gunther

Kiva: Rethinking how we give

Founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco, Kiva has reinvented charitable giving. Through microlending, Kiva is building self-sufficient, confident and business savvy entrepreneurs in more than 80 developing countries.

How does it work?

To be considered for a Kiva loan, a borrower applies to either a partner or direct loan. For a direct loan, they apply through the Kiva website itself. For a partner loan, they apply through their local Kiva-affiliated Field Partner, which manages the loan from the borrower’s area. Beyond distributing Kiva-sponsored loans, many Field Partners also offer business training and other support.

The loan applications then go through an approval process. Although many of Kiva’s borrowers would not be considered for a loan through a conventional bank because they lack credit scores and collateral, Kiva considers their trustworthiness based on social factors, such as their reputation within their community.

Once a loan is approved, a borrower profile is written by the borrower or field partner, and translated and edited as needed by Kiva’s team of 450 volunteers. Once online, lenders from all over the world contribute as little as $25 USD towards making the required loan to a borrower.

Where does the money go?

Lenders use Kiva’s website to choose the borrower they want to lend to. Once a lender has chosen a project to help fund, 100% of the funds they contribute goes directly to the borrower. Like any such organization, Kiva has operating costs. Upon confirming a contribution, lenders are prompted to give $3.75 USD as a donation towards Kiva’s overhead, but are free to change that amount or choose to donate nothing at all. If ever a loan is not completely funded by a pre-determined deadline, each lender who contributed gets a refund on their Kiva account for the amount that they contributed.

As a borrower becomes able to repay their loan, each lender receives repayments until they have gotten all the money they invested back. Kiva has an impressive average repayal rate of 97%. Once the lender has received the money they invested back, they can choose to withdraw the money from their Kiva account, or reinvest in. The withdrawal option is great for those who want to make charitable donations, but don’t have a lot of extra cash (like students!). The microfinance model allows you to put your money to work until you find you need it. On the other hand, for those reinvesting, the value of money they put in multiplies. For example, $25 loaned 4 times makes a $100 difference!

Kiva and the lenders do not collect any interest on the loans they make. Borrowers sometimes pay interest, however, which is collected by the field partners for their operating costs and, in some cases, for development programs offered to the borrowers.

Meet a borrower

One such borrower, pictured above, is named Genevieve. She is a mother of one and runs a general store in the Philippines. She is asking for a loan of $350 USD through the field partner NWTF (Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation) to buy additional stock for her store. All contributions towards her loan are being matched by a Kiva supporter. In order to receive her loan, she must be fully funded within 30 days. However, 7 leaders have already made contributions and she only need $50 more.

Because she is working through NWTF, she will receive access to insurance and benefits as well as the loan.

Lending through Kiva is not only an efficient way to make your charitable donations, but it builds up the economy in developing communities around the globe. Kiva lenders are committed to empowering women (83% of borrowers supported are female), supporting those living in conflict zones, and to respecting the ambitious entrepreneurs they lend to.



A loan to Genevieve. (n.d.). Retrieved February 03, 2017, from https://www.kiva.org/lend/1231036

Kiva. (n.d.). Retrieved February 03, 2017, from https://www.kiva.org/

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