Kiva is one of the most well-known micro-finance platforms for disadvantaged entrepreneurs throughout the world. The bulk of Kiva’s loans go to poverty-stricken, third-world countries where the little bit of capital the loan provides can actually help ward off sickness and starvation in a community. However, Kiva is unable to provide this service by itself. Individual lenders, who can be anyone who feels a social obligation to help, provide the capital for the loan. Once a listing is fully funded, it then transfers to the field partner who made the listing for the entrepreneur, and this field partner issues the actual loan.
What is a field partner?
In short, a field partner is a relatively well-established financial institution that has a proven track record in trying to help the poor. Some smaller financial institutions have joined with Kiva to establish their own dependability, as well as offer an essential service to low-income business people who are willing to work hard to improve their lives. Field partners meet with individual entrepreneurs, do initial screenings to ensure the prospective borrower meets Kiva’s guidelines, take a picture of the entrepreneur, and then create a listing with a short description of the entrepreneur and what the money will be used for. Field partners are essential to Kiva’s operation because they already have all of the necessary permissions and expertise to lend in their own country.
What are the benefits of becoming a field partner?
The most important aspect of being a Kiva field partner is that a qualifying financial institution has an excellent opportunity to make a socially responsible contribution to the world community. However, especially for institutions that are a little tighter on the budget end, there are a couple of more concrete benefits. Though individual lenders offer their money for zero interest, field partners do charge interest on these microloans in order to cover operational costs and possible loss. The risk of these loans is much lower than non-Kiva loans because the loan capital comes from zero-percent sources, so the field partner only runs the risk of losing origination fees and processing time. This can be an excellent opportunity for smaller institutions that simply don’t have enough capital to make these kinds of loans otherwise, allowing the institution to help people that most likely would not have been able to get a loan without this service.
How can someone become a field partner?
If your financial institution meets Kiva’s guidelines, all you have to do is fill out an application, undergo some checks to make sure you meet the guidelines, and then adhere to the operational model Kiva has in place for its field partners. Read over the guidelines carefully, as they include some very specific requirements. The institution must already be serving as a microfinance institution and have at least 1,000 current borrowers, must have a proven track record in specifically trying to help the poor or otherwise disadvantaged, be able to show at least one year of financial audits, and have all the applicable registrations in their country that will enable them to do microloans.
The field partner has to be willing to put their own staff time into creating the listings for prospective borrowers and providing business updates after the loan is created. Because all Kiva capital is in U.S. dollars, the institution also has to not only be able to accept this currency, but be willing to accept any risk of loss due to fluctuating exchange rates. Any prospective field partner will be expected to be able to communicate reliably via the Internet in English, Spanish, or French.
If someone meets all of these requirements, they are invited to apply to become a Kiva field partner, though there is no guarantee they will be accepted. There are several fluctuating deciding factors that will also be considered, such as what other partners are already in the country or immediate area, how much need is in the area, and so on. However, those who complete the process will have the assurance they’re providing a necessary service in the fight to eliminate poverty worldwide.