What does $1 billion in change look like?

Kiva is on the verge of funding $1 billion in life-changing loans to people around the world. This is the second in a two-part series tracing Kiva’s path from nonprofit startup and crowdfunding pioneer to a global force for good, pushing the boundaries of lending.

Sometimes the problems in the world feel so big, it’s hard to imagine any individual can make a dent. In those moments of paralysis consider this: Kiva lenders collectively crowdfund more than $1 million in loans every 3 days. Those collective dollars translate into real power to do good in the world and have helped 2.4 million people pursue their dreams.

Each lender, $25 at a time, is helping create a compassionate bank – a unique, renewable pool of funds helping reshape access to financial services for many families in need.

While there is no silver bullet to alleviating poverty, expanding access to fair and affordable credit can open doors, and gives people an opportunity to improve their businesses, send their children to school, invest in equipment or green technology and much more. Check out some of the areas of impact you’ve made possible with your loans on Kiva.

Empowering women in a tangible way

From the very beginning the Kiva community has been passionate about supporting women — 81% of the loans funded on Kiva over the past 12 years have gone to women. More than 2 million women have received Kiva loans. To give you a sense of how many women you’ve reached, picture the packed National Mall and overflowing streets during the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and then quadruple it.

Providing women access to financial services helps support healthy families and communities. For every dollar a woman earns, she invests 80 cents in her family’s education and well being.

But financial access also has powerful implications for women themselves, giving them an opportunity to reach their full potential and pursue their own goals. Again and again we’ve seen that when women are loan recipients, they gain decision making power in their households and their family businesses. It can help elevate their standing in the community too, giving them an opportunity to act as role models for their children and other young women.

One shop keeper and beverage maker in Zimbabwe, Lindiwe, said she gained a new independence once she received a Kiva loan and created her first saving account. She is the only one who knows the pin number to her account and she has the power to use the funds in the best way she sees fit.

“The access to the money stays with me. No one else has that, even my husband,” said Lindiwe.

She, like many Kiva entrepreneurs, is determined to make her business a positive force in the community, something we like to call the ripple effects of a loan.

“I want to create as many employees as I can, especially girls,” she said. “Girls are so important to me.”

Us too Lindiwe, us too.

Offering flexibility to farmers

It’s easy to romanticize farming because it connects us with the earth and helps bring us to the table for life’s happy celebrations. But being a small scale farmer is hard, risky work, which is why Kiva is so proud this community has shown more than 590,000 farmers we have their backs.

Farmers have to contend with unpredictable yields, weather, pests and uncertain markets.

They often need loans at the beginning of a planting season but won’t have the income to repay until after the harvest. And when the harvest comes they may not have access to markets that will pay them fairly for their hard-earned crops.

Kiva lenders have helped more farmers access flexible loans with repayment schedules that work with their needs. Many Kiva Field Partners also provide training to help improve yields and link farmers more directly to larger markets where they can negotiate better prices.

Kiva loans can also help farmers purchase larger income generating assets, which can be game changers, like tractors, equipment or livestock.

Sunaphula in India took out a Kiva loan to purchase cows for her small dairy farm.

“Earlier I used to work in the fields and do labor work. It was difficult to make money…my field was mortgaged,” she said. “With the cows I earn a good living selling milk and I was able to free my fields with the money.”

Addressing what’s next for refugees and displaced people

The global refugee crisis is at an unprecedented level, with more than 65 million refugees and displaced people. While the hope would be that refugees are in camps for only a short time before they are able to move on to more permanent communities, the truth is that many refugees and displaced people are in camps and settlements for 10 years or longer.

Beyond emergency aid, there is a dire need for long-term solutions as well, including access to financial services, jobs and better livelihoods. But many banks and microfinance institutions are reluctant to work with refugees because they lack collateral, stable work and have uncertain prospects.

The presence of large displaced populations can also escalate tensions with host communities, so finding ways to support both refugees and their new neighbors is vital.

That’s where Kiva lenders and your compassionate capital come in. In 2016 alone, Kiva lenders funded more than $5 million in loans to close to 4,500 refugee borrowers or individuals living in host communities. By providing funding for these loans, Kiva lenders help Field Partners like Al Majmoua in Lebanon expand their work with refugees.

Al Majmoua has an innovative loan group structure that pairs Syrian refugees with local residents as a way to deepen connection between the two groups and encourage collaboration while providing new opportunities for both populations.

Your willingness to support these loans, despite the risks, and your interest in doing more for these communities is pushing us to work even harder. We are ramping up our work with refugee communities, posting even more loans in 2017, and recently joined the Tent Partnership for Refugees to formalize our commitment.

Boosting financial inclusion in the U.S.

We love that Kiva allows people to connect with the stories of entrepreneurs who live halfway around the globe. But we also know many lenders crave ways to create opportunity and meaningful change in their own communities, including in the United States.

By funding financially excluded and socially impactful businesses in the U.S., Kiva lenders are filling a critical gap faced by entrepreneurs whose businesses are too young, too small or too innovative to receive traditional small business loans. Traditional lenders reject 80% of small business loan applications in the U.S., and Hispanics and African American entrepreneurs are denied small business loans up to 3 times more often than their caucasian counterparts.

Kiva uses an innovative “social underwriting” system for U.S. loans which helps establish a borrower’s credit-worthiness based on their ability to recruit friends and family to fund a small portion of their loan. This demonstrates that they’ve earned trust among the people who know them best, and Kiva is a pioneer in this network-based lending approach.

Nearly 3,400 businesses have been funded in the U.S. and 72% of businesses surveyed reported a rise in revenue after receiving their loans. More than 50% reported hiring employees after receiving their loans, helping create jobs and furthering the ripple effect in their communities

“When you’re starting out, no one believes in you — that’s the big problem,” said Victor, a Mexican-American immigrant who used two Kiva loans to open a coffee shop and then expand to a second location. “I have not only been able to accomplish my dream of ownership, but with [Kiva lenders’] support I am moving forward with my dreams of expansion.”

Victor was also able to ‘graduate’ to a larger loan from a traditional bank after establishing his business through the support of the Kiva community.

Growing social businesses

Lenders gravitate to Kiva because it’s a great way to multiply the impact of every dollar. Over the years Kiva has expanded to work with larger social business enterprises for the very same reason, a chance to multiply our impact.

A quick crash course in what we mean when we talk about social enterprises: Developing countries often have a high quantity of very small mom-and-pop businesses, but far fewer small and medium enterprises — businesses with 5 to 250 employees. In high-income countries, this segment of businesses is responsible for the majority of GDP and employment but in low-income countries they only generate 17% of GDP and 30% of employment.

So why is this important? Because the resulting ‘missing middle’ of businesses in developing countries could be doing a lot of good creating more formal sector jobs, driving down unemployment and increasing national GDPs! Microfinance institutions unfortunately aren’t equipped to serve business this size. Meanwhile, banks, impact investors, and even governments don’t focus on medium size businesses but rather much larger ones because the risk is lower and the profits for the lender are higher..

Kiva lenders have stepped up to help fill the gap for small and medium enterprises with a focus on “social enterprises” that are creating jobs and addressing community-wide challenges such as access to clean water, clean energy and less expensive agricultural inputs.

Vava is the founder of the Kenyan social enterprise Vava Coffe, which links smallholder coffee farmers to markets that are willing to pay fair, premium prices for a quality product that’s ethically and sustainably made. More than 1,400 Kiva lenders funded a $50,000 loan that helped Vava pay farmers fair wages for their premium product upfront.

“It’s something that I started purely out of passion and the need to create positive change for the Kenyan coffee farmer and coffee farmers in Africa,” said Vava. Since 2009, she’s worked with 30,000 farmers and paid them 57% more than average market prices. And Kiva lenders backed this vision not just through loans but also by becoming customers.

Aiming for the next $1 billion in change

These are just a few of the areas of impact made possible by this incredible community.

As we approach the $1 billion milestone we are filled with gratitude to each and every lender and borrower for showing us how passionate, innovative and empathetic people are when given the chance. You give us hope for a better tomorrow each and every day.

We are also humbled by how much work remains to continue to level the playing field and create opportunity for all. We are committed to this work now more than ever and hope you’ll continue with us. Simply put: none of it would be possible without you and we’re so glad to walk hand-in-hand with you on this journey.

Visit kiva.org/billion to learn more about #1BillionInChange