The global team at Kiva has a mighty mission: to help individuals and aspiring entrepreneurs get life-changing microloans.
Through Kiva, anyone around the world can offer loans in increments as small as $25 USD to borrowers in more than 85 countries who might otherwise have limited access to financial services. Since 2005, the non-profit organisation has funded over $1.7 billion USD in loans to more than 4.5 million borrowers.
With headquarters in San Francisco, six international offices and remote teams throughout the world, Kiva relies on Slack as its digital HQ where everyone can work together to keep things running smoothly.
‘We have loan reps all over the world working on approvals,’ says Kathy Guis, the Vice President of Investments at Kiva. ‘Then we have our engineering team getting each loan live. From there, our marketing team launches campaigns, gets the word out and communicates to our global community of lenders – everyday people – to fulfil these loans.’
As Kiva grew from a team of four into the force that it is today, old ways of collaborating quickly proved insufficient. ‘With so many moving parts – global staff, a partner network of 300 organisations, millions of microtransactions and borrowers – emails and one-off chat tools weren’t getting the job done,’ Guis says.
‘We use Slack all day, every day. Creating that powerful space for efficient asynchronous communication has been integral to transforming our organisation during the pandemic.’
Swiftly breaking down silos while igniting powerful change
Slack empowers Kiva’s teams to work together from around the world, breaking down silos while authorising 200,000 microloans per year, from over two million lenders so far. Take designer and author Kiki Bryant. As a mother of a child who identifies as non-binary, Bryant was inspired to launch a business after realising that she needed better resources for her family. ‘I noticed a gap in the children’s book market in the representation of families that look like mine,’ she says.
This motivated Bryant to write and illustrate the socially conscious children’s book Lollipop Lola and the Power of Yet, complete with aspirations for Lola-themed merchandise. She finished her book in a week but, like many US borrowers, could not get funded – until she found Kiva.
‘I like that it’s based on loans,’ she says. ‘They’re saying: “I believe in you enough that I know this is coming back to me.”’
Bryant’s book was funded in less than an hour. ‘More than anything else, it validated my idea,’ she says. ‘People believed they needed it, and wanted to see it. I really needed it, too.’ Her second book is already on its way to shelves.
Today, with Slack as its digital HQ, the Kiva team can more quickly and efficiently connect borrowers and lenders. And time is of the essence: if a loan on Kiva is not fully funded within 30 days, the application expires and funds are returned. Across Kiva’s loans, campaigns and products, all the details, logistics and stakeholders come together in Slack channels, streamlining collaboration throughout the entire organisation.
‘We make Slack channels public so cross-department teams can opt in and out as necessary,’ Guis says. For example, she created
#kiva-capital during the pandemic to launch Kiva’s institutional investment arm of the same name.
‘A high-impact team of senior leaders created a new, complex line of business without being physically together,’ she says. ‘Slack was key to our success.’
Scaling flexibility and global collaboration in Slack
In another Slack channel, Brit Heiring, the Director of Communications at Kiva, collaborates with several teams on public relations and communications efforts. ‘We work with the marketing team, our external PR firm, strategic partnerships, corporate partners and more to develop articles and media pitches to tell the story of Kiva,’ she says.
These stories help to introduce Kiva to new audiences, leading to more lenders supporting more borrowers. Slack’s flexibility empowers Heiring and her teams to work collaboratively to achieve these goals.
Bringing media campaigns with multiple partners seamlessly from concept to reality requires intuitive internal collaboration. ‘Since I’m fully remote, Slack serves as my main connection to my colleagues each day,’ says Heiring. She’s recently taken to Slack huddles, a digital-first way to brainstorm, solve time-sensitive issues and chime in without the need for scheduled meetings.
‘Slack creates a very intentional space for play and joy in a way people need right now. It’s also a crucial way for us to communicate and reach consensus quickly from all over the world.’
‘Slack huddles is less of a commitment and more agile,’ she says. ‘It also gives me a way to say a quick hello or laugh together with a colleague on days I need more interaction.’
Kiva has capitalised on the ability of automation to simplify tedious tasks and save precious minutes throughout the day. ‘We use the Polly integration to measure employee sentiment, and the Zoom slash command to start video calls straight from Slack,’ Guis says. ‘We also have a Slack bot that sends out metrics for partners.’
In addition to facilitating work, Slack keeps things light for Kiva’s teams with features such as customisable emoji and GIFs. ‘Slack creates a very intentional space for play and joy in a way people need right now,’ says Guis. ‘It’s also a crucial way for us to communicate and reach consensus quickly from all over the world.’
By changing how its team collaborates, Kiva is quite literally powering businesses across the globe, funding the dreams of entrepreneurs, individuals and small businesses who might not get capital in more traditional ways, and turning impossible ideas into achievable feats.