For World Refugee Day last year, Kiva—a nonprofit online crowdfunding platform connecting would-be entrepreneurs in underserved communities to microlenders around the world—facilitated the funding of $1 million in loans to refugees in a week. This year, the organization achieved the same amount in just a day.
Through Kiva’s website, anyone can offer loans in increments as small as $25 to borrowers in more than 85 countries who might otherwise have limited access to them. But with so many moving parts—a global internal team, a partner network of 300 organizations, millions of microtransactions and borrowers—piecemeal communication and one-off chat tools weren’t getting the job done.
With Slack, Kiva is able to keep its organization mission-focused and running smoothly throughout seven global offices, from San Francisco to Sierra Leone.
“Collaboration over email or Gchat was challenging for a global workforce like ours, which also has several remote teams. We needed an internal communication tool like Slack to keep teams connected and working cohesively.”
Scaling micro-funding to a macro level with Slack
Since 2005, Kiva has facilitated over $1.3 billion in loans to more than 3 million borrowers around the world. It’s also expanded its loan offerings beyond traditional business loans to include loans for education, farming equipment and family emergency care.
Two of Kiva’s biggest lending days of the year are International Women’s Day and World Refugee Day. For each, Kiva coordinates major campaigns to specifically fund women and refugee borrowers with help from its lender community and large corporate partners, many of whom will match loan amounts on that day.
“Collaboration over email or Gchat was challenging for a global workforce like ours, which also has several remote teams,” says Tess Murphy, a strategic partnerships manager at Kiva. “We needed an internal communication tool like Slack to keep teams connected and working cohesively.”
Each lending day requires seamless cross-functional collaboration within Slack channels—a place for teams to share messages, tools and files—among:
- The marketing team, which drives lenders to Kiva’s website
- The strategic partnership team, which secures funding from corporate partners for those days
- The investment team, which coordinates with organizations around the world to source potential borrowers
- The engineering team, which ensures that the platform itself will be ready to withstand the high-volume traffic
“It takes a lot of cross-team collaboration and checking in to pull off these days,” Murphy says. “So we’ll start a Slack channel called
#world-refugee-day, and every key stakeholder responsible for that campaign will join the channel, check in and have planning conversations.”
Managing external corporate partnerships within Slack
Corporate partnerships are a major source of funding for Kiva loans. In addition to supporting special campaigns like World Refugee Day, Kiva’s corporate partners coordinate internal campaigns as a means to bolster employee engagement. Companies might offer each employee a $25 credit to use to fund borrowers on Kiva, boosting a sense of camaraderie and morale in the process.
During one of these campaigns, employees from a corporate partner encountered a technical issue. Murphy escalated it to the engineering team in Slack, simultaneously alerting Kiva’s executive team, who quickly communicated with the corporate partner to address the issue. Through agile responses in Slack, Kiva demonstrated that it was fully committed at every level to the campaign’s success.
“I don’t think the issue would have gotten as much visibility with our executive team if it hadn’t been on Slack,” Murphy says.
Slack also helps the campaign organizers highlight inspirational stories in the moment to remind those involved who is benefiting from their efforts. “We were in the middle of this huge campaign, and an investment manager in the field was blown away by the story of a refugee she met,” says Murphy. “She was able to immediately Slack our all-hands channel with this story and a picture of one of the borrowers. I was able to take that story from Slack and forward it to our corporate partners to show them the impact of their funding.”
“Slack gives us an open platform for sharing the way our work is tied to impact on deliverables and, more broadly, our impact in the world.”
Successfully securing loan funding through Slack
One of the most routine challenges Kiva faces is making sure borrowers’ loans are successfully funded. If a loan on Kiva is not fully funded within 30 days, the loan application expires and funds are returned to the lenders. With Slack, Murphy says, Kiva employees can share loan applications for borrowers who are located in various regions that interest them. This gives employees the opportunity to make personal connections with each other over the stories of the borrowers who they are funding.
“Slack gives us an open platform for sharing the way our work is tied to impact on deliverables and, more broadly, our impact in the world,” says Chelsa Bocci, head of talent program and employee engagement at Kiva.
And if the borrower needs a bit more funding to cross the finish line? “With the messaging tools we were using before, you had to know exactly who to reach out to for specific problems or questions,” Murphy says. “But with Slack, we can post messages in a few channels and see who can jump in and help pitch in.”
It’s a practice that has been picked up by Kiva’s corporate partners. “When companies are running employee engagement campaigns, they’ll use Slack as a tool to bring awareness around this Kiva partnership,” says Murphy. “This gets employees excited about making an impact because they can share direct links to borrower profiles and stories on their company’s Slack channels, bringing visibility around how people can help.”
That workflow has become central to the way those companies operate successful campaigns too. “Every company that we partner with, we ask if they use Slack,” Murphy says. “It’s a really good way to bring people together to do good and support social impact.”
Using Slack to showcase Kiva’s values to employees
Last year, Kiva used Slack to introduce a new set of core values among its employees, boosting employee engagement in the process. The organization created unique emoji representing each value as a means to publicly acknowledge each other’s work, regardless of office location, in the
“Slack has been a way to show appreciation for one another and to infuse acts of kindness into our workplace,” Bocci says. “As we set out to embrace our new set of core values, we leveraged Slack to foster our culture and bring our values to life.”