Google and Kiva kickstart crowdfunding for sustainable projects

Global crowdfunding provider Kiva.org has launched a new initiative, Kiva Labs, designed to make it easier for environmental and development projects to access crowdfunding.

The new initiative, launched yesterday, is backed by a $3 million Global Impact Award from IT giant Google and is designed to take Kiva.org's established crowdfunding model and connect it with high-impact green and social development projects being pioneered by nonprofits and social enterprises that often struggle to gain access to capital.

"Kiva's crowdfunded loans provide a unique opportunity to increase access to products and services that have a high potential of success and impact, but are seen as too risky among traditional lenders," explained Premal Shah, president and co-founder of Kiva. "Through Kiva Labs we can prove what works, share what we learn with a global audience and ultimately deliver new solutions into the hands of people who need them."

Kiva's approach

The nonprofit, San Francisco-based organization claims already to have crowdfunded 132,000 agricultural loans, 4,600 green loans and 670 mobile tech loans through its network of 230 microloan organizations in more than 70 countries, raising $500 million while retaining a 99 percent repayment rate.

However, it now hopes to raise a further $25 million in crowdfunded loans through Kiva Labs, which are "tailored to the unique needs of more than 100,000 borrowers seeking flexible capital to access to solutions that work." 

"Through Kiva Labs, Kiva is opening up partnerships to more nonprofits and social enterprises that are creating innovative solutions in poverty alleviation and economic opportunity, designed specifically for people who need them," the organization said in a statement. "Visitors to Kiva.org are able to crowdfund these loans by lending as little as $25 to the borrower of their choice."

Crowdfunding's ascent

The move is another boost to the fast-expanding crowdfunding sector, which is providing an increasingly popular model for financing relatively low-capital projects that offer long-term returns, such as community-scale renewables projects and agricultural improvement programs.

"Microfinance 1.0 showed that we can get financial services to people who never had them before," said Kevin Starr, managing director of the Mulago Foundation development NGO.

"With Kiva's thoughtful, well-executed and sometimes daring experiments, Kiva Labs is leading the way toward Microfinance 2.0, the coupling of microfinance with high-impact products and services. The work of Kiva Labs is leading to a new understanding of how microfinance can create maximum impact in the lives of the poor."

This story first appeared at SustainableBusiness.com

Piggy banks photo by Stuart Miles via Shutterstock.