Partner Spotlight with Kiva Fellows: Improving the Impact of Microfinance

Derk Norde

Derk is a co-founder at, a global platform connecting people who want to volunteer their expertise with social impact organizations.

Kiva: Loans that change lives

This month, we’re featuring a renowned partner with an outstanding fellowship program, Kiva Fellows. For the last 10 years, Kiva has been transforming the field of microfinance, and we had the opportunity to ask them a few questions about their Fellows program, and how it’s making an impact…

What is the story of Kiva?

Founded in October 2005, Kiva is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website.  Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.  Each month, Kiva’s field partners post thousands of loans to so that individual lenders can help fund entrepreneurs who have limited access to capital. Kiva is now proud to say it operates and connects people in 86 countries worldwide.

Ultimately, Kiva envisions a world where all people regardless of location or accessibility have the ability to create opportunity for themselves and others. Since our founding in 2005, 1,287,117 lenders have made $703,565,050 in loans to 1,628,892 borrowers, in 86 countries at a 98.72% repayment rate.

What is the Kiva Fellows Program?

8797851885_c3b591e229_zKiva Fellows are skilled volunteers from around the globe, selected from a competitive pool of applicants, who share a passion for Kiva’s mission. Fellows have a unique opportunity to witness the realities of microfinance firsthand by working directly with Kiva field partners, or supporting Kiva’s newest initiative (Kiva Zip) in Kenya or the U.S.  The Kiva Fellowship offers participants a unique insider experience into the microfinance industry, while providing a career opportunity of a lifetime. All Fellows receive a week of in-depth training at Kiva’s headquarters, plus ongoing access to Kiva’s network of staff and former Fellows.

What impact can Kiva Fellow make?

Kiva Fellows directly contribute to Kiva’s mission of poverty alleviation and increased access to capital by working with Kiva’s partners to more effectively and efficiently leverage Kiva’s 0% interest crowdfunded capital. In addition to training new partners on the Kiva system, conducting ongoing monitoring and auditing of existing partners, and streamlining Kiva operations, Fellows support the development of new loan products designed to maximize social impact, and help identify potential partners that are reaching underserved populations.

How does the field placement process work?

Kiva currently has active partnerships with over 200 field partners in over 80 countries, while Kiva Zip currently operates in the United States and Kenya. Fellowship placements may occur at any of these locations, but availability is dependent upon partner need and organizational priority. Fellows are invited to indicate their preference in terms of region or country placement during the application process, but the Kiva Fellows Program team assigns fellows based on fit, taking into account relevant skills for the assignment, travel experience, professional background, and language skills. Fellows are typically accepted into the program about two months prior to training, and informed of their placement about six weeks prior to training. Fellows serve for a minimum of 16 weeks (4 months) in the field, and may opt to extend their Fellowship for up to a year.

What is one interesting thing that most people don’t know about Kiva Fellows?

One thing that most people don’t know about the Kiva Fellows program is the extensive diversity of our fellows.  There really is no such thing as a typical Kiva Fellow.  While many fellows come from the banking or consulting sectors, we have also had filmmakers, lawyers, public policy researchers, firefighters, engineers, teachers, dentists, veterans of the Armed Forces, etc. succeed in the role and contribute in their own way. Furthermore, about a quarter of our Fellows are from outside of the United States, with an average of 8 nationalities represented in each class.


These individuals represent a broad array of perspectives and skill sets, but most importantly they are all humble, talented and adaptable.They all strive to make the most of every situation, and they are prepared to work through challenges to sustainably impact our field partners.

The Kiva Fellowship is a wonderful opportunity to get a real taste of microfinance, but it’s also a chance to join the incredible Kiva family.  All individuals who successfully complete their fellowships are highly valued members of the Kiva family and will join the dynamic network of 600+ Kiva Fellow Alumni. The Kiva Fellows Program is extremely selective, and alumni of the program are becoming industry leaders around the world.

Can you share a funny thing that happened with a Kiva Fellow on assignment?

Every week, we ask fellows in the field to share with us some of the highlights of their experiences. Here are a few recent stories from the field that we thought were worth passing along!

“After traveling to two different regions for a grand total of 1,716 miles to find her, I finally met with Kiva borrower Doña Demetria of Monteagudo, Bolivia (look that little gem up on Google maps). The first thing she said to me was, “So tell me Señorita Katherine, why on earth did you need to talk to me so badly? When we spoke on the phone you sounded so nice but I couldn’t understand a single word you were saying.” Then we drank banana smoothies and I learned I’ve been saying the Spanish word for banana wrong for the past 10 years. Success- ish?” – Katherine Leonetti, KF26 Bolivia


“The women that we have been meeting with have all been willing to let me photograph them and sign the media release form, another major score. They’ve all changed into their traditional special event attire in preparation and posed on their property in such beautiful settings.The craziest thing to hear was that some of them didn’t initially think they were special enough to photograph. After seeing their Kiva profiles and realizing that we thought they were more than “special enough” they gained a little more confidence. It was wonderful to witness.” – Kari Derenzi, KF26 Vietnam


“While we were visiting the first SHG, one of the members was convinced to sing what sounded like a traditional Hindi or Oriya song. Other members of the group joined in during the chorus and I clapped along. Then when she finished, the CEO suddenly turned to me and said, “Now you sing an English song.” I tried to protest, but he was insistent and everyone was looking at me expectantly. In the moment, the only song I could think of was the Star Spangled Banner, so I sang a few verses until I forgot the words.” – Darcey Tindall, KF26 India

So how can you apply to be a Kiva Fellow?

The next application deadline for the 28th class of Kiva Fellows is May 17th, 2015. Fellows must attend a one-week training in San Francisco from August 31-September 4, 2015, and deploy into the field within two weeks of training.

For more information on the application process, and to see information on upcoming application deadlines and training schedules, please visit the Kiva Fellows Website.

For Experteering projects with Kiva and Kiva-affiliated organizations, see live listings here.