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What is "Social Underwriting"?

Photo credit: Matheus Ferrero


Social underwriting is the process we use here at Kiva to determine whether or not to grant a loan. While banks and most other financial institutions use a data-based system, examining credit score, cash flow, and collateral value, social underwriting is a more personal, character-based approach.  


What social underwriting boils down to is this:
Your creditworthiness is determined by the strength of your character and your standing in your community.

We use the following factors to assess your creditworthiness:

  • During the Private Fundraising Period, the review team will ask you to show us a network of people that know you, somewhere between 5-25 lenders, who will vouch for you by lending to your campaign.

  • During the Public Fundraising Period, your loan must be fully funded within 30 days for you to receive the money. It is an all or nothing campaign. Your efforts to connect with and bring in lenders shows the viability of your idea and your entrepreneurial spirit.

  • Business owners can be endorsed by Kiva’s trustees, who are entrepreneurs known and trusted by Kiva. An endorsement from a trustee shows Kiva you fit the spirit we look for in our borrowers. This is entirely optional, however, and you will not be penalized if you do not have a trustee. 

  • While filling out your application, you have the opportunity to add three references from other businesses. This is also optional, but a reference from an established and successful business does speak to your seriousness as an entrepreneur.


We have found the number of lenders invited by the borrower and endorsements a borrower receives to be an incredibly powerful predictor of a loan’s repayment rate. By focusing on these personal aspects, Kiva U.S. hopes to help people who don’t meet the criteria set by traditional financial institutions. At Kiva U.S., what matters is whether you’re trusted by your community. 

If your community and lenders trust you and believe in your business and entrepreneurial spirit, so will we.


To learn more about the Public and Private Fundraising Periods, click here.

To read more about Kiva’s social underwriting approach, click here.

To see our research on the program’s results, click here.


About the author

Emily Fockler

Emily is a recent graduate of Princeton University with a major in English Literature. She is a Bay Area native who is happy to be back from the snow and humidity of the East Coast. She is an experienced writer and graphic designer, specifically focused on marketing and publicity. She has always had an interest in exploring and understanding the world and people around her. In her spare time, she reads, writes fiction, spends time with her family and her cats, and runs long distance. She hopes to be an author and a teacher later in her life.