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How we got to $1 billion: A look at Kiva’s history

There’s a saying that goes: “Don’t give me a fish, teach me how to catch it.” We’d say this encapsulates Kiva’s mission pretty well.

Over 14 years, Kiva has crowdfunded more than $1.3 billion in loans for entrepreneurs, farmers, students, educators, and more in over 90 countries around the world. 

And $1 billion of these loans? They went straight to women. 

How did we get here?

Kiva founders Matt and Jessica Flannery were newlyweds working in East Africa when they came up with the idea for Kiva. They were inspired by a lecture by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, a social entrepreneur and the founder of Grameen Bank.

In March 2005, made its first loan to a woman in Uganda named Elizabeth, who used the $500 loan to expand her fishmongering business off the coast of Lake Victoria. 

Meet Elizabeth, Kiva’s first borrower.

By November 2006, over 1,000 women had applied for Kiva loans. By the end of that first year, Kiva had lent $1 million to women. 

A presidential recognition and a philanthropist’s favorite thing

By 2010, Kiva lent more than $100 million to women. Then Kiva went viral when Oprah featured Kiva’s work on her show. She even listed Kiva as one of her ultimate favorite things. 

Even former U.S. President Bill Clinton mentioned Kiva in his book Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World as a revolutionary change in the world of global financial inclusion.

"If you look at,” Clinton said in an interview with MSNBC, “People with a very modest amount of money can make a huge positive impact all around the world. There are so many people who want to give but don't really know how to do it.”

These recognitions led to massive crowdfunding efforts. In 2013, Kiva welcomed its 1 millionth female borrower, another amazing milestone. By April 2015, more than $500 million had been lent to women.

Meet another one of those amazing women: Arahama! She’s one of the incredible entrepreneurs who received a loan from Kiva. This loan helped her find a new business to support her family. Now she sells the rice from her husband’s farm and breeds sheep to fatten them and sell them at a higher price. It’s loans like these that go beyond the individual -- this loan supported her and her family. 

To put it in her own words: “Ce changement, c’est la joi!” 

Translated, “This change is a joy!”

Fueling her future

Passionate about the cause since the beginning, Chelsa Bocci was part of the founding team at Kiva in 2005. Now, she’s the head of talent programs and employee engagement, where she’s focused on making the Kiva community the best it can be. “It's mind-blowing to see how far we've come and the best part is that it's not about any individual anymore,” Chelsa said. “It’s about a collective movement made up of everyday heroes. Kiva has a life of its own and it's an incredible force for good in the world.”

Together, we’ve hit $1 billion in loans to women. With the generosity of our lenders and the passion of our borrowers, Kiva has become a leader in providing opportunity for financially excluded people around the world.

“You don’t have to change the world. Just change it for one person.”
- Premal Shah, Co-founder of Kiva

And we’re not stopping here. There are still more than 1 billion women around the world who are unbanked. But this week, we’re celebrating our progress (so far) by continuing to #FuelHerFuture.  

Starting on Monday, October 7, we're celebrating lenders as we celebrate the massive milestone of $1 billion lent to women. Make a loan and we'll give you a free $25 lending credit to make another loan! Find out how!

About the author

Hassan Hijazi

Hassan is an Atlas Corps fellow from Jordan serving at Kiva as Impact and Storytelling fellow. He earned his bachelor's degree in Journalism and Media at University of Petra in Jordan. He worked for different non-profit organizations in Jordan for more than 7 years, 5 of which being in emergency response. His experience is in media, communications and advocacy.