Where Are the U.S. Borrowers?

27 September 2010 at 16:00 6 comments

If you’re a Kiva lender hoping to make a loan in the good ol’ USA, you may have trouble finding a borrower. Kiva loans from the U.S. are funded quickly—within 4 or 5 days, sometimes overnight—despite being larger than international loans. If you see one that is fundraising, jump on it! It may be gone by tomorrow.

At Opportunity Fund, Kiva’s partner in the Bay Area, I help the marketing team interview borrowers and post loans to Kiva. This summer our pipeline of potential Kiva loans slowed down to a trickle. In a visit to ACCION USA in New York last week, I learned of a similar falloff in Kiva loans.

What’s behind Kiva’s U.S. loan shortage?

For starters, not every U.S. client is appropriate for Kiva. Kiva requires loans from the United States to be $10,000 or less. Both Opportunity Fund and ACCION make loans much higher than that (although the average is around $7,000).

The client must also be willing to sign a waiver allowing their image to be published on the Kiva website. It’s not always easy to convince an American borrower to agree to this. When they decline, it’s generally for one of three reasons: a) Unspecified privacy concerns; b) Camera shyness; or c) They don’t want to be associated with poverty.

Another reason behind the U.S. loan shortage: there aren’t enough qualified loan applicants overall. While there are many people in the U.S. who want loans, not everyone is likely to pay them back. The small business team at Opportunity Fund works hard to separate the wheat from the chaff using a combination of traditional and alternative measures. Their loan application process, while simpler and faster than a bank’s, requires applicants to provide business and personal tax returns from the past two years and a year-to-date profit and loss statement.

It is no easy task to find underbanked business owners who will make reliable borrowers. This is why the clients who DO qualify for a loan and make it onto Kiva are so special.

My favorite U.S. borrowers thus far:

Aaron’s Barrels and Containers


Vika’s Island You a Hand


Casey Koppelson is a Kiva Fellow (KF12) at Opportunity Fund in the United States.

Entry filed under: KF12 (Kiva Fellows 12th Class), Opportunity Fund, United States. Tags: , , , , , , .

Innovation in Microcredit: Women, Children and Second Chances The Challenge(s) to Getting a Great Borrower Picture


  • 1. jane Ndegwa  |  6 January 2011 at 11:59

    My name is Jane a single mother of one and I have started a day care in my house to substitute my income. I would like to register my day care and have a decent place for Children but so far I am not able to due to financial hardships, and I cannot qualify for a bank loan because I lost my full time job I am now surviving on a part-time job which just pays for my rent and food period
    I came across Kiva sometime last year but thought they fund overseas countries only. I live in Delaware I would like to borrow $5000 to enable me locate an Ideal facility where children will be safe and regulations.
    I am also willing to take a picture any time. Thanking you in advance

  • […] I mentioned in a previous post, it can be difficult to find clients who fit this profile and pose an acceptable credit risk. To […]

  • 3. Erica  |  28 September 2010 at 08:57

    Thanks for the blog Casey–it as great to meet you while you where in town. It’s important to understand that at ACCION USA most borrowers will receive a loan regardless if they decide to participate on Kiva. It is our priority to disburse the loan to the client and optional for them to participate on Kiva. By doing so though they help to raise awareness about the need for microfinance in the United States. In addition borrowers that are represented on Kiva help organizations like ACCION USA and Opportunity Fund to expand their services, the generosity of Kiva lenders around the world makes it possible. It’s amazing to see the diversity of lenders that have chosen to support US based entrepreneurs–thank you for your support.

  • 4. Darci  |  27 September 2010 at 19:37

    I love to loan to borrowers in 3rd world countries, because I understand how much a relatively small amount of money can make a huge impact on their lives. I am definitely interested in loaning to the US impoverished, especially single/divorced/widowed women with children or other dependents. I know that the amount they need to borrow is greater because of economic differences, but I believe it gives them opportunities that would not exist for them otherwise. I want to support borrowers in the U.S as much as I support borrowers in other countries. I hope that the barriers to their ability to borrow become less in the near future.

    • 5. Arlito Gomez  |  27 September 2010 at 20:23

      My name is Arlito D. Gomez from the Philippines. I am a small entrepreneur who had been into a few small business ventures that never got out of its infancy stage due to lack of capital or resources available. Banks and lending institutions would just not trust to lend start-up businesses like mine, and it’s very frustrating.

      Currently, I am into ice cream making business. It has lots of potential, considering a 50+% profit margin, but then again, just like my other business trials, it needs enough capital so it can soar and succeed. As for knowledge on how to run a business, I have plenty. I graduated from a 2 months intensive entrepreneurial training of the Academy for Creating Enterprise by Called2Serve Foundation here in the Philippines and become part of its faculty staff for more than six months sometime in 2004.

      I have been into this ice cream business since last year, but I only have 1 cart (see picture attached) selling my produce which makes a net income of roughly P600.00 ($13) a day, which is just enough to feed my family. I want to expand it to 10 carts so that I would be earning around 7 times my current earning and employ 10 people at the same time, but I don’t have resources to do so. I have tried to raise the amount for more than a year now from lending institutions to no avail. To realize my dream, I would need at least P100,000 ($2,200). I hope you can help me realize my dream so that poverty die in me. I won’t die in poverty! I don’t want my 6 children to leave a poor life that I have been to. I want to make a change. Please help me, so in turn I can help others. I would be willing to do volunteer jobs for you in my country should you need one. I tried borrowing from one of Kiva’s field partner but all of them are lending too small with a maximum of only P5,000 ($110) which won’t any way achieve my goal of expanding the business.

      You may contact me on the following numbers: Tel: +6329231639 / Mobile +639237017550 / Skype: arliegomez.

  • 6. Pat S.  |  27 September 2010 at 19:22

    How sad! people complain about not having enough opportunities and yet do not search for them, and worse yet do not want to go by Kiva’s concept of having their picture taken, privacy or whatever else, if you want to start a business just take advantage of what is given to you and then fuillfill your goals. I hope this mentality changes when we need help the most.

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