Kiva business microloans review
Interest-free crowdfunded financing for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
finder.com’s rating: 3.7 / 5.0
- Best for business owners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Pick something else if you need funds fast.
|Loan Term||1 to 3 years|
|Requirements||Have members of social network willing to contribute, live in US, ages 18+, not in bankruptcy, not a registered sex offenders or terrorist, not convicted of violent or financial crimes in past five years.|
First, do I qualify?
To be eligible for a Kiva direct microloan, you must:
- Have friends and family contribute to your campaign
- Live in the US
- Be over 18
- Not in bankruptcy proceedings
- Not a registered sex offender or terrorist
- No violent or financial criminal convictions in the past five years
- Able to cover monthly debt payments with income
What is a Kiva direct microloan?
A Kiva direct microloan is a crowdfunded loan with no interest or fees. Kiva allows first-time borrowers to apply for loans ranging from $25 to $15,000 with terms up to 3 years. Kiva generally recommends applying for different loan amounts depending on your time in business, with loans up to $1,000 for startups and higher amounts for businesses that are bringing in revenue.
How do Kiva direct loans work?
Applying for a Kiva microloan involves setting up a campaign and having between 5 and 35 members of your social network contribute to it within the first 15 days. If your network can make those contributions, your campaign will become public and you have up to 30 more days to reach your goal. Kiva claims that over 90% of campaigns that go public reach their goal.
What makes Kiva microloans unique?
Kiva isn’t a lender, but a platform that allows businesses to raise funding for a loan through its website. It’s not quite crowdfunding because you have to pay it back, but there are zero interest payments or platform fees.
Kiva loans are designed to help business owners who typically can’t qualify for funding get a loan. It doesn’t consider your credit score when you apply, is welcome to both new and established businesses alike, and doesn’t cost a cent to apply or repay.
It also introduced a six-month grace period before repayments begin, in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
What are the benefits of a Kiva microloan?
From its zero costs to its minimal eligibility requirements, here are a few perks of taking out a Kiva microloan for your small business:
- No interest or fees. Kiva charges nothing extra on its direct microloans for US businesses.
- All credit types accepted. Kiva uses criteria other than your credit score to evaluate creditworthiness.
- Startups welcome. You can get funding through Kiva even if you just have an idea for a business.
- No residency requirements. As long as you live in the US, you’re eligible for a loan — you don’t necessarily need to be a citizen or permanent resident.
- Small-dollar loans. You can borrow as little as $25 through Kiva — and without paying triple-digit APRs.
What to watch out for
From its difficult-to-navigate website to its long turnaround, consider these potential drawbacks before borrowing:
- Relies on your social network. If you can’t get enough of your friends, family and other members of your social network to contribute, you won’t qualify.
- Long turnaround. It can take you up to 45 days to raise the funds you need with Kiva. If you’re looking for something faster, consider an online business loan instead.
- Not ideal for large projects. Kiva’s maximum loan amount of $15,000 won’t be much help if you need financing for large projects like buying out another business or purchasing real estate.
- No customer service line. While you can call a phone number and leave a voicemail, Kiva recommends sending an email to get a quicker response. In other words, you won’t be able to get an instant answer to any questions.
- Hard-to-navigate website. Kiva’s website was designed with lenders in mind. It’s not always obvious where to find information for borrowers.
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Kiva reviews and complaints
Kiva has a strong, though small online reputation. Most of the reviews are from individuals who used it to lend money, rather than borrowers. But most were happy with how easy it was to help small businesses around the world. However, some warned that if the borrower defaults, you won’t get your money back.
How do I apply?
Before you get started, make sure you’re able to qualify. Kiva has an unconventional way of evaluating a business’s eligibility. In addition to checking off the age, residency and financial requirements, consider reaching out to your social network to see how many people would be interested in contributing to your campaign.
Setting up your campaign
Confident you can get the support you need? Follow these steps to set up your campaign:
- Go to the Kiva website and select Borrow in the main menu.
- Select Get started.
- Watch the short video and take the quick quiz underneath.
- Check off the minimum requirements and select Save and continue.
- Select the loan amount you’d like, the minimum you need and how you intend to use the funds. Select See if you’re eligible.
- If you’re eligible, enter your contact information and answer a few basic questions about your business before selecting Save and continue.
- Create a password and select Register.
- Follow the directions to set up your campaign — typically this takes between 20 and 30 minutes.
- Review and sign the contract before submitting your campaign application.
Private fundraising with Kiva
Got your campaign set up? You’ll have to successfully get between 10 and 35 people from your social network to lend at least $25 to your campaign. Kiva recommends sending out personalized emails to between 25 and 35 people in your network — assume some won’t donate. Don’t just stop at friends, but consider potential customers and other acquaintances who might be interested in your business.
Kiva recommends following up with a phone call after a few days as a reminder and to help borrowers figure out how to lend through Kiva.
Public fundraising with Kiva
Once your campaign goes public, Kiva recommends that you take daily actions to ensure you get the most donations. This includes:
- Uploading high-quality photos of you, your business and products.
- Posting on social media regularly.
- Posting in the Conversations tab on Kiva to attract lenders on the site.
- Reaching out to organizations that might be interested in contributing to your campaign.
After your loan is funded, Kiva will send the funds to your PayPal account within five to seven business days. You have the option to request a six-month grace period before repayments begin, after the funds are disbursed.
What do I need to apply?
Generally, you need the following to apply for a Kiva loan:
- A photo of you and your business. You must be in the photo, and it should also give a general idea of your business. Your face must appear clearly, and it should be well lit.
- Basic business information. Kiva asks for your business’s address, how long it’s been around and the number of employees.
- Business financials. You need to provide information about your personal credit score range as well as your business’s monthly income and major monthly expenses.
- PayPal account. Kiva only accepts repayments through PayPal, so you’ll have to set one up if your business doesn’t have one already.
I got the Kiva microloan. Now what?
Your first repayment will be due one month after the day your funds are disbursed. Kiva currently only accepts repayments through PayPal, so if you’re having trouble with your account, you might need to set up a new one.
If you have any questions or concerns, contact Kiva’s customer service department by going to the website, clicking Contact Us at the bottom of the page and filling out the online form. A representative should respond via email within 48 hours.
How to be a Kiva lender
Know someone with a Kiva campaign — or just interested in giving back? Anyone can lend funds in $25 increments by following these steps:
- Go to the Kiva website and click Lend in the main menu.
- Scroll down to browse by category or click View all loans. If you have a particular business in mind, you can search for it next to the magnifying glass symbol in the top navigation bar.
- Click Lend $25 under the campaign you’re interested in.
- Click Checkout now.
- Click Sign up for Kiva or allow Kiva to create an account through your Facebook page. Click Continue.
- Follow the directions to enter your bank account information and check out.
Keep in mind you won’t make money off your Kiva loan. But you also shouldn’t lose any, since borrowers are required to repay it. However, the risk remains that the borrower could default and you won’t get your money back.
Kiva is ideal for both small businesses looking for zero-interest loans, and entrepreneurs trying to get an enterprise off the ground. But with first-time loans topping out at $10,000, it might not be able to give you all the funding you need.
You can find other financing options by reading our guide to business loans.
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Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Business Insider, CNBC and the Simple Dollar feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.
Kiva is one of the only lenders to offers interest-free microloans to small businesses and entrepreneurs with a focus on companies that bring value to their communities. While there are no credit or revenue requirements, applicants must go through a round of crowdfunding before they can qualify for the loan.
It’s free to borrow and offers the option to hold off on repayments for six months. However, the long turnaround time means it’s not ideal if you need funding quickly.
Need funds fast? Check out our list of other business lenders that might be a better fit.