Introducing the Kiva Advisor Program

Democratizing our team

We use the word “democratization” a lot on the Kiva U.S. team, and with good reason. Firstly, because we’re really excited about the potential of the concept; and secondly, because we’re really doing it.

Most companies have a centralized marketing team that tightly controls its messaging. On the Kiva Zip team, we want to empower our borrowers to be our decentralized marketing team. There are only 10 of us, but there are now 2,000 borrowers in our community – so “democratization” multiplies the size of our marketing team by 200. And we believe it’s a much more compelling message for a small business owner to say “lend to me” to their sister, than it is for our centralized marketing team to say “lend to that person” to the general public.

Most conventional lenders have a single, centralized, objective, black-and-white, underwriting algorithm that determines which small business owners qualify for a loan, and which are rejected. On the Kiva Zip team, we want to empower our lenders to be our decentralized underwriting team. By “democratizing” this decision-making, 200 of the lenders in our community might say “yes” to a small farmer’s loan request, where an objective algorithm might say “no”, because these 200 people are passionate about the cause of sustainable agriculture.

With the Kiva Advisor Program, we are hoping to democratize our team.

As well as a small number of people working out of our central offices in New York and San Francisco, our vision is for a vibrant, diverse and expansive network of thousands of small business advisors, serving as ambassadors and champions for Kiva in their own communities. From inner-city Baltimore to the suburbs of Oakland; from the beaches of Puerto Rico to the barrios of Los Angeles; from the Mississippi Delta to the coal-mining communities of Appalachia – we want to equip Kiva Advisors to empower startup entrepreneurs to take their first steps, mom and pop shops to make it through a financial crunch, and microbusinesses to take it to the next level.

In 1993, Bill Clinton Launched the AmeriCorps program to do for under-served communities in America what the Peace Corps does for under-served communities around the world. The Kiva Fellows Program has always been primarily focused on the developing world, but the Kiva Advisor Program is to the Kiva Fellows Program as AmeriCorps is to Peace Corps.

Through the Kiva Advisor Program, we hope to recruit new Kiva team members to serve in the most financially excluded corners of America, and ensure that every budding entrepreneur with the drive and courage to pursue their American dream, is given the opportunity to do so.

Outbound, Inbound

There are two principal roles of a Kiva Advisor.

Firstly, Advisors are “outbound” ambassadors for Kiva in their home towns and cities. If there is a panel on how small business owners in Mobile, Alabama can access capital to launch or grow their enterprise, the Kiva Advisor in Mobile is on that panel. Through social media, by attending community events, in the print media, on local TV and radio, or by any other means, Kiva Advisors are charged with making sure that every existing or aspiring entrepreneur in their region knows about Kiva’s 0% interest, crowdfunded microloans as a financial option that could potentially benefit their business.

Secondly, Advisors are responsible for following up with “inbound” Kiva loan applicants. If a plumber applies for a loan in Fargo, North Dakota, the Kiva Advisor in Fargo is reaching out to that plumber to help them understand Kiva’s process and policies, assess whether a Kiva loan is a good fit for their needs, and put together a successful Kiva loan campaign.

Deep roots, light touch

As we are just launching the Kiva Advisor Program, we do not yet have a fixed perspective on what the “perfect” Kiva Advisor looks like – will undergraduate students or retired executives be more effective? Will photographers add significant value by ensuring borrowers in their region have outstanding photos? Will small business owners themselves be best-placed to empathize with the desires and frustrations of our loan applicants?

Our initial impression is that the ideal Kiva Advisor will have a background in economic or community development, and will have deep roots in their community. Many of our first cohort of Advisors work for one of our 700 Trustee partners throughout the country, and are seeking to strengthen the partnership between their organizations and Kiva.

Wherever our Advisors come from, and whatever their skills and passions, they are required to attend a two-day training session with the Kiva team. This session covers Kiva’s mission and vision, the goals for our U.S. program, and how our model, policies and processes work. The aim is that by the end of this training session, Advisors are equipped to clearly communicate how Kiva works to small business owners in their communities. As a highly technology-focused and innovative non-profit, we also hope this training is a great opportunity for Advisors to see first-hand what life at Kiva is like.

Advisors are expected to contribute between 5 and 10 hours per week to their Kiva work, and commit to a six month term, which can be extended if both parties are excited to do so.

The Pioneers

In February 2016, we were proud to train our very first class of Kiva Advisors! The energy and enthusiasm was inspiring, and even in just a few weeks, the early results are very encouraging. Our 15 intrepid pioneers are as follows:

Let’s go!

We're already recruiting for our next class of advisors, and will hold regular training sessions throughout the year. If you are passionate about supporting entrepreneurs in your community, and want to join our rapidly-growing and deeply-impactful movement, we would love to hear from you.

If you'd like to learn more about the Kiva Advisor Program please reach out to Justin Renfro at justin@kiva.org.

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Posted by Jonny Price, Senior Director, Kiva Zip

Feb 28, 2016

Jonny first came to Kiva in 2009 as a volunteer on a 5-month externship from his management consulting firm Oliver Wyman. After 6 years at Oliver Wyman, first in London and then in San Francisco, he joined Kiva full-time in September 2011, to lead the Kiva Zip pilot project. Jonny is married to Ali, who he met at Kiva. He graduated with a BA in History from the University of Cambridge, where he represented his college at 14 sports (although 3 of these were table football, pool and chess).

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