Fiona Ramsey, Kiva’s director of public relations responds to my post speculating on the implications of Kiva turning donor/investors away for lack of available borrowers to fund. Tomorrow at noon eastern, Kiva co-founder Matt Flannery will be in a live discussion on the Chronicle of Philanthropy website. I’ll post a follow up to Fiona’s comments after participating in Matt’s discussion. Just to be clear, I think Kiva is a fascinating, innovative model. I think the issue they currently face does not speak poorly of them in anyway, but I do think that the issue brings up complicated new issues that the social capital markets will have to deal with over time.


It’s exciting for me, as Public Relations Director, to read your comments about one of the most intriguing parts of Kiva’s model. I agree with your comment that “Kiva?s problems are a great example of how strongly donors respond when social capital markets are created” – which is an exciting indication of how far lenders/investors will take this!

A couple points of clarification: does not consider or to be competitors. While these models are similar in that individuals can choose the specific project they would like to contribute to, they are donations, not loans, and Kiva only facilitates loans at this time.

One element of the Kiva model that is often under appreciated is that the platform operates 24/7, so a “shortage” that exists at one time, may not exist a matter of hours later. Kiva’s Field Partners update loans for funding from the developing world as they are received, they are translated and submitted to the live site as quickly as possible. So, we can literally have a site with no funding needs one minute, and thousands of dollars with of funding needed minutes later. This is the beauty of the Kiva platform – needs being delivered from the developing world. Real-time, real people and real needs.

Of course the flip side is that a potential lender can come to the site and not find any lending opportunities at that time. However, that’s what makes the site so “addictive” for many lenders. Because you don’t know what needs will be listed an hour later, and find yourself checking back hours later to get an update.

One additional comment: there is not a shortage of people in need of a loan. What there is, is a bottle-neck. undertakes a significant due diligence before partnering with any microfinance institution, and it takes time to both satisfy’s due diligence and train MFI staff on the Kiva system. As such, the partner portfolio is not growing at the rate of our lender community. The other solution to building our partner portfolio is to increase the amount of funding each partner can raise (each partner has a monthly fundraising limit), but that simply wouldn’t be responsible. is committed to creating an online microlending platform that helps MFIs to scale only at a rate that is healthy for both the MFI and

On a personal note, watching these “shortages” occur excites me because it sends a strong message to our Field Partners, that Kiva Lenders believe in their work and wish to support their programs, and to developing world entrepreneurs, that Kiva Lenders are supporting them from over 70 countries in the world, and want to give them a chance to be successful entrepreneurs.
As you said, Sean, this is a “great example of how strongly donors respond when social capital markets are created.”

Fiona Ramsey
Public Relations Director


  1. Basti says:

    Interesting reply, although I wished she would have a say about MicroPlace as well since this is at least closer to a real competitor than DonorChose etc.

    Anyway, if not seen yet I strongly recommend to watch this great video of Premal Shah (President of Kiva). I really wish that more NGOs would be run by guys like him…

  2. As a repeat lender for, I am someone who checks back often to see what new listings are available. There are some amazing MF companies working with Kiva, including Christian Children’s Fund in Sierra Leone, Africa. I appreciate the fact that Kiva spends time researching the groups and business owners to make sure the loan is in good hands and will be repaid.

    The bottle-necking is a difficult scenario for lenders to handle. Perhaps Kiva could institute an e-mail system that allows potential lenders to be notified when a new batch of business opportunities are uploaded. It could be divided into categories based on region of the world, types of businesses, and amounts. It usually only takes 2 or 3 days before a business opportunity is completely funded, so time is of the essence.

  3. Danielle, as a Kiva user, do you think that them being sold out makes you feel more inclined to use the service long term? Does the “exclusivity” of the sold out status increase your enjoyment of the process? Or does the fact that it is sometimes sold out make you less likely to use it in the future?

  4. For the long term, I hope they expedite their research process, streamlining their review system, allowing more researchers to be available, thereby increasing the amount of borrowers. This seems to be the hold-up, so to speak.

    As for the ‘exclusivity’ of the service, I could care less for the cool factor, whether Bill Clinton has mentioned it, or that it was featured on Oprah. I do care that they have an excellent review process, amazing repayment stats, excellent collection rates, and regularly updated business bios to let me know the status of the loan and repayment schedule. I receive regular e-mails updating me on the repayments, which prompts me to browse the site again, finding other businesses that need help.

    It’s frustrating to see other blogs & newspapers compare Kiva to GlobalGiving or other donation sites, trying to capitalize on Kiva’s success in the MicroFinance realm. These are completely different! I’m not giving a donation through Kiva. It’s a loan that will be repaid, and I can plug my $25 back into another business. It’s comparable to the Grameen Bank, on a smaller scale. If I wanted to give a donation, I could do that with thousands of other websites and nonprofits, including the 2,000+ nonprofits that I currently work with. (Note: There ARE currently 5 opportunities for MF through GlovalGiving, but it is obviously NOT their main focus.)