Frequently Answered Questions
Table of Contents
General Kiva U.S. questions
What is Kiva U.S.?
Kiva U.S. provides 0% interest loans to small business owners all over the United States. The loans are crowdfunded on the Kiva website by lenders from all over the world. It was originally launched as a pilot in November 2011 under the name Kiva Zip, and was integrated with the main Kiva platform in June 2016.
What are comments?
Comments are a way for borrowers, lenders, and Trustees to directly interact with each other on U.S. loans. On each Kiva U.S. loan page there is a section called comments and updates where borrowers and Trustees can provide updates on the business, and lenders can share words of encouragement and advice.
Anyone can view the comments section for any loan during its fundraising period. Once the loan is fully funded, the comments section will remain open only for the borrower, Trustee and the lenders who supported the loan. After the loan is fully funded, borrowers and Trustees are strongly encouraged to continue engaging their lenders for many reasons, including growing their brand, and expanding their customer base. Ground rules on posting comments can be found in our Community Guidelines.
Questions about applying for a Kiva U.S. loan
Do I qualify?
There are a number of criteria that you must meet in order to qualify for a Kiva U.S. loan.
The criteria are as follows:
- You must live in the U.S.
- You must be over 18.
- You must be using the loan for business purposes.
- Your business must not be engaged in any of the following activities:
- Multi-level marketing / direct sales
- Illegal activities (e.g. gambling, scams)
- Pure financial investing (e.g. stocks)
- You cannot currently be in foreclosure, bankruptcy, or under any liens.
- You must be willing to demonstrate your social capital by making a loan to another fundraising entrepreneur, and by having a number of your friends and family make a loan to you.
How do I apply for a Kiva U.S. loan?
To apply for a Kiva U.S. loan, you can start an application by clicking the “Apply Now” button on borrow.kiva.org.
After completing your application, a member of the Kiva U.S. team will reach out to you to better understand the business and ask any follow up questions. After reviewing the completed application, the Kiva U.S. team will determine if you qualify for the full loan request. If you have any questions during the application process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is social underwriting and why is it a requirement to get a Kiva U.S. loan?
At Kiva, we envision a world where someone’s creditworthiness is determined by the strength of their character rather than their credit history. We’re working to re-insert human relationships into the financial system by using social underwriting to assess the creditworthiness of our borrowers.
To demonstrate social capital, we require all borrowers to meet 2 requirements when applying and fundraising for a Kiva loan.
- Support another entrepreneur with a $25 loan.
We ask that borrowers lend $25 to another small business on our site. This is in an effort to help borrowers understand the lending experience, as well as engage them in our vision of creating a supportive community that works to expand economic opportunity.
- Gather support from their community through the private fundraising period.
Once approved, each borrower must recruit lenders from their network to make a loan to them before the loan is publicly posted on Kiva. We view this as an important measure of the borrower’s trust network and hope these lenders keep the borrower accountable for repaying their loan.
We’ve also found that loans fundraise much more quickly when the borrower’s immediate network is engaged during fundraising.
Depending on the size of the loan and multiple factors, borrowers must invite between 5 and 35 lenders from within their network.
What due diligence does Kiva U.S. do on borrowers?
Kiva has developed increasingly robust due diligence checklists for U.S. borrowers.These checklists include verifying the identity of borrowers using a third party platform called EarlyIQ; conducting online research on borrowers and their businesses; connecting with borrowers on social media to establish the extent and strength of their networks, and requiring them to invite their own personal network to support their loan.
Our due diligence processes are being continuously improved and refined.
Borrowers’ performance on their first loan affects their eligibility for additional loans of higher amounts.
What are the loan terms for U.S. loans?
The maximum amount that U.S. borrowers can borrow depends on multiple factors in their application. Borrowers may request loan amounts from $25 to $10,000, and will be notified of the final amount they qualify for after submitting their application.
How do borrowers use their loan?
Borrowers use their loans for a wide range of different reasons.
Some examples include:
- A $4,000 loan to begin commercial production of granola bars to employ ex-convicts.
- A $5,000 loan for marketing material to expand a non-profit.
- A $10,000 loan to build a walk-in refrigerator for an organic farm.
- A $3,000 loan to help a first-generation migrant make a website for their hazelnut spread business.
- A $500 loan to pay for a stall at a artisan jewelry fair.
What interest rate does Kiva U.S. charge?
Kiva U.S. loans are at 0% interest and have no fees.
How does Kiva U.S. manage delinquency?
Loans are marked as delinquent when a borrower has paid back less money than owed to date, as indicated on their repayment schedule.
When loans become delinquent, Kiva follows up with the borrower and Trustee to create an open channel of communication with the goal of understanding the cause of late repayment. We work to create new repayment schedules they can follow towards eventual repayment of their loan, and also encourage them to update their lenders.
In traditional finance, borrowers are subjected to high interest rates, late fees, and inflexible collection methods. We take a more compassionate and understanding approach to best support the borrower and repayment to lenders.
We are continuously striving to develop, analyze, and improve these processes. For more detailed information on delinquency management, please see this blog post (as of December 2015).
Questions About Fundraising
How do I communicate with my network during the private fundraising period?
When you begin the private fundraising period, we recommend you make a list of 30 friends and family members that you can email or call directly asking to contribute to your loan. We've found that personal emails and phone calls are generally more effective than impersonal social media posts or generic emails.
You can find email templates, sample phone scripts, and other helpful resources to make your campaign successful at our fundraising hub.
For more advice on fundraising, and answers to any of your questions, please reach out to our team at email@example.com.
Why is my loan amount raised fluctuating?
It’s normal to see fluctuations in your amount raised during fundraising. This is caused by lenders putting a loan share into their basket but not completing the checkout process. When a loan share is added to a basket, you’ll see the total amount raised on your loan increase to reflect that. If the lender doesn’t complete the checkout process, their basket will be emptied and your percent raised will decrease to reflect that.
How does loan matching work?
As a non-profit organization, Kiva receives funding from generous corporations and individuals to match contributions to specific loans on the website. Loan matching isn’t guaranteed for each borrower and may be allocated based on geography, industry, or the endorsement of a Trustee.
Can lenders contribute to my campaign offline?
In order for lenders contributions to count towards your goal, they must create a Kiva account and lend through the website. Unfortunately we’re unable to process offline contributions.
Why isn't PayPal accepting my lender's credit card?
PayPal provides Kiva with free payment processing on all financial transactions, which means that regardless of whether a lender pays using a credit card or PayPal account, PayPal will process their payment and send them a receipt. Because of this, if your lenders run into trouble using a credit card to make a payment on Kiva, we unfortunately can't do anything directly to figure out why your payment isn't going through.
To help troubleshoot the issue, you may advise them to use a different browser, use a private browser or go into "incognito mode", to clear their current browser's cache and cookies, or use a different credit card.
If they continue having trouble using their credit card, they can give PayPal's customer service team a call at 888-445-5032 (Toll Free US) or 402-952-8811 (International), or reach out and explain their issue to Kiva's PayPal representative, Tricia Wallace, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about lending on Kiva, please visit our lender help center here.
Can I see how much each of my lenders contributed and their contact information?
Due to privacy reasons in our lender agreement, we are not able to provide that information. However, we encourage you to reach out to your lenders in the comments section of your loan to engage with and thank them.
How does my Trustee endorse my loan?
If your Trustee hasn’t done so yet, they must first apply to become a Trustee here.
If their Trustee application is approved, they can submit their endorsement of you by following these steps:
- Log into their Trustee account
- Visit their Trustee dashboard
- Click “Endorse a U.S. Borrower”
- Complete the endorsement and hit “submit”
Once the endorsement is submitted, you can approve it through your borrower dashboard to display it publicly on your loan profile.
What happens if I don't reach my required number of lenders during the private fundraising period?
If you're not able to recruit the required number of lenders during the private fundraising period, your loan will expire and you will not receive any portion of the loan. You may reapply for another loan from Kiva only once. To begin a new application, you must create a new account and submit a new application using a new email address here.
What happens if my loan doesn't fully fund during public fundraising?
If your loan doesn’t reach it’s goal during public fundraising, it will expire and you will not receive any portion of the loan. If you reach at least 50% of your fundraising goal, you are eligible to reapply once. To begin a new application, you must create a new account and submit a new application using a new email address here.
If you do choose to reapply, we encourage you to consider requesting a lower loan amount as well as work to improve the quality of your profile by following these guidelines.
If my loan expires, what happens to the lenders' contributions?
If your loan expires, each lender will receive the funds they contributed back to their Kiva account as Kiva credit. At that point, they can choose to relend the funds to another entrepreneur, or withdraw into a PayPal account. To withdraw the funds, lenders can follow these instructions:
First, go to http://www.kiva.org/withdraw. You can also access this page by signing into your Kiva account and clicking "withdraw" under your available credit balance in your portfolio.
On this page, enter the amount you wish to withdraw and the email address registered with your PayPal account (you will need to type this email twice), then follow the prompts.
Kiva and PayPal will process your withdrawal request, your funds should be deposited into your PayPal account in 1 to 2 week's time. Currently all withdrawals must be completed to PayPal accounts, and Kiva cannot deposit funds directly into your personal bank account. If you do not have a PayPal account, please create one at: https://www.paypal.com.
How can I increase my fundraising speed?
The most powerful way that you (or your Trustee) can increase fundraising speed is by inviting your network to become lenders.
You can invite lenders to contribute to your loan by sharing the link to your loan, which can be found on their Borrower dashboard.
Additionally, you can work to increase your fundraising speed by doing the following:
- Post a high quality profile with a good photo. The best photos are ones that clearly and colorfully show your face (ideally smiling!) and show you doing something related to your business.
- Post comments and updates in the comments section.
Finally, the endorsement of a Trustee with a proven repayment history of other endorsed borrowers can increase fundraising speeds. Lenders can sort by repayment rate when looking for credible Trustees and borrowers.
Best practices, tips and templates for fundraising can be found here.
What guidelines are there for fundraising?
While fundraising on Kiva, borrowers should expect to recruit some lenders from within their own network. However, borrowers may not:
- Engage in self-promotion, advertising or solicitation. FOR EXAMPLE: Do not promote your loan in private lender messages or in lending teams (unless you have permission from the team captain).
- Fund any portion their own loan.
In the event of either of these instances, the share purchase will be refunded, and further, more severe steps might also be taken, depending on the circumstances.
What guidelines are there for borrowers’ loan photos?
The loan photo must meet the following criteria:
- The borrower must be in the photo.
- The borrower’s face must be clearly visible.
- The borrower must not be wearing sunglasses.
- The borrower must be at their place of business, or doing something related to their business.
- The photo can not be a passport photo or “mugshot”.
As well as meeting all of these criteria, the best photos are colorful and well lit, and feature smiling borrowers.
For some examples of great borrower photos, please see this slideshow.
How long do I have to fundraise on Kiva?
When a loan is posted into the private fundraising period, you have 15 days to invite the required number of lenders to fund your loan. Once the loan reaches the required number of lenders, it will be posted to the public Kiva website and have 30 additional days to raise the remaining amount.
Questions about paying back a Kiva U.S. loan
How do I make payments on my Kiva loan?
All payments are processed through PayPal. You will receive a monthly payment reminder email which you can click through to submit a payment, or you can follow the instructions below:
- Log into your PayPal account.
- Select "Pay or Send Money" at the top of the page.
- Select "Send money to friends or family".
- Send your payment amount to email@example.com.
- Click "Send" and you're done!
Can I make a payment in cash or by check?
At this time we only accept payments through PayPal.
I made a payment several days ago. Why isn't it showing up?
There are a few different reasons your payment may not have been received yet:
1. Processing Delay: The payment is still processing. Typically payments take about 1 business day to process.
2. E-check: The payment was sent as an e-check, which takes 3 to 5 days to clear. To check if your payment was sent as an e-check, log into your PayPal account, view your recent history, and confirm if the payment was sent as an e-check. Learn more about e-checks (and how to avoid them) here.
3. Wrong Email: The payment was sent to an address other than firstname.lastname@example.org. To check if it was sent to the wrong email address, log into your PayPal account and view your PayPal transaction history. If you used the wrong address, cancel your initial payment and re-send it to email@example.com.
For any other issues related to payment, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I make payments early?
Yes, you can make payments ahead of schedule and there is no penalty for making early payments.
What should I do if my payment is going to be late?
If your payment is going to be late, please email our team at email@example.com. As a best practice, we also recommend updating your lenders via the comments section on your loan.
Does my Kiva loan affect my credit score?
As of January 2016, Kiva reports to business credit, which means that payments on your Kiva loan will impact your business credit score. Borrowers who began an application before January 2016 may not qualify for business credit reporting; to find out if you do, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on how business credit reporting works can be found here.
How do I apply for a repeat loan?
Once a loan is repaid in full, you are eligible to apply for repeat loans. For loans up to $5,000, you must wait at least 6 months between receiving your initial loan and applying for the next one. For loans between $5,025 and $10,000, you must wait at least 12 months between receiving your initial loan and applying for the next one.
When you’re ready to apply for a repeat loan, you must create a new Kiva account using a new email address, and apply at kiva.org/borrow.
What resources can Kiva U.S. borrowers take advantage of?
There are a number of public and private resources that are available to borrowers. You may want to consider some of the following options:Pacific Community Advisors
Pacific Community Ventures creates jobs and economic opportunity in low-income communities through the direct support of small businesses as well as by advocating for systemic change to increase investment in these vulnerable communities.
They are offering Kiva U.S. borrowers 5 hours / month of free expert business advice to help you grow your small business.
If you are interested in PCV Online Business Advising you can visit their website or contact Jarlene Choy directly at email@example.com for more information.MicroMentor
MicroMentor is a completely free, non-profit network that connects entrepreneurs with volunteer business mentors. They help entrepreneurs start, run and grow their business from an experienced business mentor.
They are offering Kiva U.S. borrowers the opportunity to take part in their mentorship platform for free.
If you are interested in the MicroMentor program you can visit their website or contact Loren Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org.Small Business Development Centers
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC’s) provide a vast array of technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. By supporting business growth, sustainability and enhancing the creation of new business entities, SBDC’s foster local and regional economic development through job creation and retention.
There are over 900 Small Business Development Centers around the country and you can find the location nearest to you by visiting their website.SCORE Advisors
SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. SCORE is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and has a network of 11,000+ volunteers.
SCORE offers free services to entrepreneurs across the United States. To find your local SCORE chapter you can visit their website.
Questions for and about Kiva U.S. Trustees
What is a Trustee?
Trustees play a crucial role in Kiva U.S. loans and are responsible for recommending borrowers for loans, providing business advice, and inviting their network to support loans. Trustees also play a role in communicating with lenders and encouraging borrowers to make payments during delinquency.
A Kiva U.S. Trustee can be an organization or an individual.
What are the qualifications to become a Trustee?
Trustees should have compelling answers to the following questions, which appear on their public profile:
- How will you determine whether or not the business plans of the borrower(s) you endorse are sound?
- How will you know whether the borrower(s) you endorse will have the "character" to repay a loan?
- Please describe what type of business, financial, technical or other support you plan on providing to the borrower(s) you endorse.
- How will you establish whether the borrower(s) you endorse are in debt, or have a history of debt? How will what you find affect your endorsement of their loan application?
- Why can't the borrower(s) you endorse access traditional loans?
Individual Trustees should have at least 2 years of experience in a relevant field -- for example, small business ownership, economic development, community development, etc.
Within that scope, anyone (an individual or an organization) can become a Trustee, so long as they can provide strong answers to these questions.
How does Kiva U.S. screen Trustees?
Every Trustee must fill out an online application form. We then review every Trustee's application, following up where appropriate.
The performance of loans that a Trustee endorses affects their ability to endorse additional borrowers. Trustees that endorse borrowers who do not repay their loans will be prevented from making future endorsements.
What financial involvement do Trustees have in the loan?
Trustees have no fiduciary duty to Kiva, borrowers, or lenders, including repayment of a loan on behalf of a borrower. Trustees never handle the money associated with the loan – loans are sent directly from Kiva to the borrowers, once fully funded by the lenders.
Trustees also don’t receive any interest rate or flat fee (e.g. servicing fee, referral fee, access fee, etc.) related to the loan.
How many loans can Trustees endorse? What are Trustees' credit limits?
Trustees are categorized by a tiered structure that determines the number of endorsements they can make.
Additionally, a Trustee’s tier can help determine the loan size that a borrower qualifies for. Borrowers endorsed by Trustees with a proven track record are more likely to qualify for a larger loan amount.
Trustees are assessed then upgraded or downgraded on a monthly basis, and Kiva does reserve the right to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
Underperforming Trustees will be paused and unable to endorse future borrowers.
The requirements to reach each tier and the associated credit limits are set out below:
|Pilot||Approved Trustee application, >50% repayment rate||3|
|1||10 repayments made, >85% repayment rate||10|
|2||25 repayments made, >90% repayment rate||20|
|3||50 repayments made, >95% repayment rate||30|
What happens to the Trustee if a borrower they endorsed doesn't pay back a loan?
The Trustee will face no financial penalty in the event that a borrower defaults on a loan. However, the repayment rate of each Trustee is publicly displayed on their profile, and a defaulted loan will reflect poorly on their reputation. Over time, we will stop working with Trustees who endorse borrowers that do not repay their loans.
How do I apply to be a Trustee?
If you want to apply to be a Trustee, follow this link and select "I want to be a Trustee".
After submitting the application and being approved, you can begin endorsing borrowers on their Trustee dashboard.