Kiva – an example of online fundraising at its best


Quite a bit has already been written online and offline praising Kiva, a charity harnessing the power of online social networking to enable everyday donors to directly support micro enterprise projects around the world.

However, just incase you haven’t heard of them, I thought I’d mention them here too – because as one of their ‘lenders’ (the lady above is Mrs Edowu in Togo, whose bicycle repair business I’m helping fund) I think their approach is fantastic, and because I think it can teach us all some very useful online fundraising lessons.

Kiva works like this: on its website it displays profiles of small business owners who need funding – typically around $1,000. You simply select the project you like the sound of and then contribute by credit card to its loan pool, in units of $25. Once the full funding is reached, the loan is disbursed via a local microcredit field partner. Over the next 18 months or so, the recipient pays it back on a monthly basis – with you receiving email updates as their business progresses. Once the money is paid back, you’re free to loan your share to another project. I’m no microfinance expert, but it seems like a wonderful idea to me – and I really enjoy being part of it.

But, what can we learn from Kiva for our own online fundraising? Well, here are just three things that occur to me – take a visit to their site and it’s sure to spark more ideas for you.

Firstly – I get a completely free choice as to which projects I wish to support – so, immediately I am more engaged. The internet enables us to do this without massive administration hassles – yet I know of very few charities who currently use technology to offer donors such personal choice.

Secondly – while other charities send me wizzy e-newsletters full of information of little relevance to me, it is my simple Kiva text emails that I really enjoy receiving – because they are ‘real’ updates about projects I have specifically chosen to support. The technology to enable complete personalisation of email communications is now pretty accessible – yet most organisations still use the same one size fits all ‘batch blast’ approach.

Thirdly – Kiva really understands the power of network marketing. As well as structuring their whole site like a social network – so I can see the profiles of all of the other ‘lenders’ to my projects – they also make it very easy to promote the site to your friends. From suggested email footer text to downloadable banner ads. Given how personally engaging the whole experience is, I’m sure ‘lender get lender’ recruitment must work a treat for them.

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