Kiva Can’t Get Growth Capital!?

Had a conversation (if you can call shouting into each others’ ears in a dim room over pounding bass a legitimate conversation) the other day with Matt Flannery, founder of Kiva. Went something like this:

SJ: “So, what’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now?”
Matt: (with not a moment’s pause) Funding.
SJ: (after a moment of disbelief) Funding? But…you’re Kiva…Funding!?

Yes, funding. Kiva, Matt explained, currently covers about 80% of program and operating expenses through the optional user donations that accompany each loan. The other 20% is made up by various fellowships, grants, and major funders. Kiva is essentially self-sustaining.

But Matt wants more–he wants to grow. And what founder of an organization that fundamentally altered the philanthropic landscape wouldn’t? But the funds for that growth have been hard to come by. In Matt’s words: “No one wants to fund infrastructure.”

Now I’m not saying that micro-finance is a silver bullet, or that Kiva’s model is perfect. There are legitimate questions about impact, about transparency and about long-term sustainability.

But there were a whole lot more questions before Kiva jumped in and changed the game. And if anyone should be given the risk capital to take a shot at these new, deeper issues, it’s Kiva. There are hopeful signs for change on the horizon, but if the foundations and investors of the world can’t or won’t wake up soon, we’re just going to have to find another way.

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