Kiva

Kiva

About

Kiva is a mission driven technology company. We run a global marketplace platform for crowd-funded micro-loans to serve the financially excluded. Kiva combines the culture and approach of an internet start-up with a mission to alleviate poverty. We aim to drive social impact and enable opportunity while providing a borrower-to-lender connection: “Loans that change lives.”

In just 10 years, Kiva has raised $850 million in loan capital for nearly 2 million borrowers in over 85 countries. Kiva’s lenders fund over $10 million in loans every month. Kiva is poised to take its initial success to a whole new level - targeting $1 billion in loans by 2017 and continuing our expansion into new areas (e.g. student loans, water, mobile, etc.). Headquartered in San Francisco with offices in New York, Nairobi, Istanbul and Bangkok, Kiva's team has 100+ employees and 500+ volunteers worldwide.

Website
www.kiva.org
Founded
2005

Reviews

Default avatar
Betsy
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Being a Kiva Fellows was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. I worked in Honduras and Colombia and was warmly welcomed into the local communities and the field partners where I was placed. I had a significant amount of responsibility, and while I felt supported by Kiva staff members, I was also able to design my own schedule and had a lot of autonomy. At the same time, I learned a ton about microfinance and met many borrowers in the field first hand. All in all, it was a super rewarding experience that significantly changed the course of my life, as I decided to continue working in microfinance after my fellowship ended.

Default avatar
gabriel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I became a Kiva Fellow because I had a specific interest in understanding more of what Microfinance is about. I had read books, but I knew I wanted to see it work (or not work) first hand.

My experience as a Kiva Fellow turned out to be everything I had wanted and more.

My fellowship was in Nicaragua and I had the chance to work with two "Microfinance Institutions". Since each institution had different branches, I had the chance to travel throughout Nicaragua, visiting the branches and visiting their clients.

Before hitting the field, Kiva trained me for a week. The training was pretty intense (tons of stuff to cover) but the staff as well as the other fellows were pretty amazing and they made the whole experience tons of fun. One thing that impressed me about the rest of my class was the number of professionals that were taking time off from their careers to travel to some foreign country and work for free.

By the end of training the Kiva Fellows staff had done an awesome job of preparing us with knowledge but also by giving us a healthy list of tasks to do in the field. They were realistic in understanding that some of tasks probably would not get done but they were also dedicated to empowering us with the tools to get them done.

One thing to note about the Kiva Fellows program is that it does a great job of screening candidates, and later training them and being there as a resource while fellows are in the field. However, for the most part they depend on fellows to be able to function on their own while working in various remote locations (wherever they have microfinance partners). I think this is great, as it gives fellows the opportunity to truly explore microfinance and the communities in which they are placed, but it also means that individuals should be driven, and know how to handle themselves in unfamiliar situations.

The Fellows Program also turned out to be a great way to meet like-minded people. Today, many of the alumni keep in touch and we even meet up every once in a while. In fact, I liked Kiva so much that I am now working for them as an engineer :)

Default avatar
MG
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was a Fellow in late 2009 and early 2010. It was a fabulous experience. I learned so much and it definitely helped me land my next job.

Since Kiva places Fellows all around the world factors like safety and social scene vary a lot. I was in Managua- so relatively unsafe and you had to fight for a social life (but it was there)

Programs

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Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Betsy McCormick

Tell us a little about Kiva and your role at the organization.

Kiva.org is a website where you can make a loan to an entrepreneur who needs capital for their business or for personal use. For example you can make a loan to a student in Kenya who wants to attend college, or a fisherman in the Philippines, or a farmer in Nicaragua. When they repay their loan, you get your funding back. Kiva's goal is to expand options for poor people who are otherwise excluded from the formal financial sector and unable to access basic banking services, including credit, savings and insurance. Our mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. We work with about 150 partner institutions in over 60 countries to fund their borrowers, since Kiva doesn't have the staff capacity to find and vet the thousands of individuals who appear on our website.

My job is to help find and monitor those field partners, to ensure that they are not only financially sound, but also that they are treating borrowers in respectful ways and offering products that are well suited to the populations they are trying to serve.

How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?

I started as a volunteer for Kiva for a number of reasons. First, I really missed Latin America. I studied Latin America in college and was having trouble integrating that interest into my career. Second, I was really fascinated by Kiva's mission and believed wholeheartedly in their model of empowerment. It seemed that so many volunteer opportunities are meaningful while they last, but do not leave a lasting impact on communities. I was drawn to Kiva because I knew that their volunteers were helping institutions to build systems that would enable them to have a really big impact on the populations they were targeting, even after I left. And, finally, I was ready for a break from my job and wanted to have an adventure!

In your experience, what characteristics make a good international volunteer?

A good international volunteer has to be humble and open. When entering a different community, volunteers have to accept that their assumptions and world view may not align with the values of their current location. Volunteers must also be flexible, understanding that time may have a different meaning where they are, and that the individuals they are meeting with have a number of competing priorities. A Kiva volunteer has to be ready to get in the trenches--spending hours on buses, sleeping in very basic conditions, or going to locations that are post conflict and have limited infrastructure. Finally, while volunteers certainly don't have to be microfinance experts, they do have to be excited about Kiva and Kiva's mission.

How do you ensure your programs are sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community, and the volunteers?

We send volunteers to local institutions (mostly although not exclusively microfinance institutions) that have already been vetted by our portfolio team after an extensive on-site due diligence process. The goal is to make sure that those institutions are sustainable and acting in the best interest of their clients. Kiva has been particularly focused on the social impact side of due diligence, partnering with institutions that are not only financially strong, but also working to bring really innovative and necessary services to the populations they serve.

The role of the volunteer is to make sure that Kiva programs are well-implemented at the partner institution and that the partner is using Kiva as efficiently as possible. This gives the volunteer the chance to work with a variety of staff members, from loan officers to executive directors, while really crafting the most effective structure possible at the institution. The volunteer also gets a taste of microfinance on the ground, frequently traveling out into the field so as to understand the reality of the clients their institution works with. Finally, Kiva trains volunteers extensively before they are deployed, so that they are experts in mircrofinance, Kiva and their role.

What makes Kiva unique?

Kiva is a really special combination - part tech company, part start-up, part international development organization. We were the pioneers of the crowd sourcing model for mircrofinance and just about the only organization offering interest free financing to our partner organizations. Kiva has gained a lot of recognition for these efforts, and the organization is continuing to grow by testing out pilot projects and partnering with non microfinance institutions such as universities and clean energy companies.

Further, Kiva understands that it could not function without the help of all of our volunteers--we have almost 400 at any one time! We take great care to recruit and train high quality volunteers and make sure that they are fully engaged in their work and assigned meaningful projects.