Kiva Launches With a New U.S. Partner
Last week Kiva launched with a new microfinance partner in the United States: ACCION Texas-Louisiana.
Kiva first introduced U.S. loans last summer through Opportunity Fund in California and ACCION USA in New York. While the launch overall was a success and drove scores of new lenders to the site, it was not without its hurdles. As I’ve learned during my fellowship in San Francisco, it can be difficult to explain U.S. microfinance to people who are accustomed to lending in developing countries, largely because of the disparity in loan size. The average loan size on Kiva is $381.57. For Kiva’s U.S. loans, the average is around $5,000.
Kiva decided to work with ACCION Texas for several reasons. For starters, it is a leader in the domestic finance industry and has reached a large scale, which has been more difficult in the U.S. market. ACCION Texas-Louisiana also works in some very difficult regions of the country. The disasters of Hurricane Katrina and the recent oil spill left behind a an extremely underserved population that hopes to use microloans to rebuild.
Curious about the launch preparation this time around, I spoke to Libby Parsons, Kiva Coordinator at ACCION Texas-Louisiana.
Libby described the process of introducing their organization to Kiva. As the largest microfinance institution in the U.S., ACCION Texas had many moving parts to coordinate. Cameron Morris, Kiva’s Field Support Specialist for North and Central America, flew to San Antonio and spent several days mapping out their new Kiva operational process. This process, and the Kiva concept in general, was then introduced to staff at ACCION’s 14 branches. In the week prior to the launch, the atmosphere at headquarters was “hectic but fun,” as the staff worked to interview clients, write borrower profiles and post loans to the site.
Their work paid off: ACCION Texas-Lousiana launched on Kiva with 25 new clients, for a total of 150k in loans.
Make a loan in Texas
Carlotta Fite and her husband, Daniel started Santana’s Party Supplies after Carlotta lost her job at a car dealership. What started out as a piñata store quickly grew into a general party supply store, renting out chairs, tables, moonwalks and water slides.
According to Libby, one of her favorite aspects of working in the U.S. is that Kiva lenders can easily relate to U.S. entrepreneurs. A few days ago, one Kiva lender, a high school teacher, sent Libby the following email:
“I will take the stories you provided about Noelia and Maria to my students. Maybe it will resonate with one or more of them. Maybe someone will take a part of these exceptional women’s stories into their heart and life. By using these women’s stories, I hope I can demonstrate to my students that there are many paths into a life of endless possibilities — If one wishes to work hard to gain entry into such a world.”
Casey Koppelson is currently a Kiva Fellow at Opportunity Fund in San Francisco and San Jose. She is headed to the Philippines for KF13, where she will interview borrowers, gather data for CERISE, and track down her long-lost uncle.