How does Kiva, a revolutionary marketplace for microfinance lending to entrepreneurs, successfully empower so many to give back? Kiva is one of the quintessential examples of an organization that has mastered the power of The Dragonfly, focusing their goal to provide loans to entrepreneurs in the third world, grabbing the attention of others through powerful storytelling, engaging others to get involved, and empowering them to take action.
In 2005, its first year, Kiva, one of the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending enterprises, distributed more than $500,000 to entrepreneurs. Since Kiva’s inception, more than 631,345 people have loaned over $111 million. And though the numbers are impressive, Kiva is about much more than that. It’s about replacing daunting statistics on global poverty with compelling individual stories, and enabling personal connections; it’s about establishing a bond between lenders and entrepeneurs that feels meaningful; it’s about making a difference in the world, one small and easy donation at a time. And in four years, Kiva is well on their way to achieving these goals, enhancing the lives of 217,000 entrepreneurs in 49 countries through small loans online.
In The Dragonfly Effect, we explore the many aspects of Kiva that have made it such a huge success.
They know the power of a story. Kiva’s founders and staff are committed to sharing stories that earn respect instead of evoking pity. “When I see a picture of a woman on our site and it shows all the information about her, I begin to call her an entrepreneur,” says founder Jessica Jackley. “She’s not just a nameless face. She lives in a particular place. She has a business name. She has a nickname, Lizzie, and she needs $900. She has plans and a story.”
From the founding of Kiva, Jackley’s goal was to engage people by making them feel a positive emotional connection. She wanted to offer an alternative to what her generation had seen growing up—ads to alleviate poverty where “the message was to feel bad for these people and then to act.” Kiva’s engagement strategy has never been to make you feel bad about the money you just spent on a double latte, which if you were a good person, you would instead have used to feed a starving child in the developing world. Instead, Kiva strikes a fine balance between sharing compelling information and overwhelming potential lenders with too much information.
They are authentic. Being authentic is as simple as being genuine. Much of Kiva’s success is due to its authenticity. Kiva’s philosophy and culture was built upon trust and what its founders call “radical transparency.” The model is based on disseminating real information about the entrepreneurs—not marketing them. “The entrepreneurs on Kiva are not promotional material,” says Jackley. “They are real people who have real challenges and dreams.” This authenticity engages users and keeps them coming back – knowing they are part of an organization that is genuine in their goal to make a difference in the lives of people around the world.