In 2015, the word “crowdfunding” was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary. But this word and the concept it refers to has been around for quite a while. The rise of the Internet has allowed individuals and businesses to secure loans and investments not just from traditional financial institutions, but from ordinary folks, too. As crowdfunding has grown, so have the organizations that first made it happen.
Take Kiva. Founded in 2005 with the goal of alleviating poverty around the world, this San Francisco-based microfinance nonprofit connects small business owners and individuals in developing countries like Uganda, Bolivia, and Azerbaijan with lenders eager to help them out. Those lenders are often chipping in as little as $25, but even lending a small amount can make a big difference to the borrower receiving it. “Loans that change lives” is the Kiva motto.
“One of my favorite examples involves a farmer in East Africa,” says Kevin O’Brien, interim chief technology officer at Kiva. “Elephants were trampling his crops and he needed money to buy bees to scare them away. After he borrowed the money from Kiva lenders, our Field Partner in the region taught him how to harvest honey from the beehives. By selling the honey he was able to pay back his loan even faster than expected.”
New Relic’s Nonprofit Program is working to support the important work done by nonprofits like Kiva by giving them access to New Relic’s broad-based analytics platform. In addition to the easy-to-use nature of the software itself, we believe that the cloud-based approach can work well for many nonprofits because it takes away the burden of having to run on-premise software and the complexities often associated with it. Instead, organizations such as Kiva can quickly improve their software performance and get new insights into their organizations without heavy upfront and ongoing infrastructure investments.
A mission to connect people
Working with more than 300 microfinance institutions and local nonprofits in 83 countries on five continents, Kiva has enabled 1.3 million lenders to make over $750 million in loans. That’s nearly 20,000 loans a month, enjoying a healthy repayment rate of 98.46%. Lenders often make multiple loans at a time, requiring constant updates on the progress their money has made possible.
All of which places considerable strain on Kiva’s website, where all of these transactions and interactions take place. “It’s important to lenders that we are up all the time,” says Kevin. “But as a nonprofit, we can’t always be upgrading our systems or investing in the next big thing. We have to do the best we can with what we have while working hard to keep improving.”
One example of a troubleshooting issue faced by Kevin and his colleagues is the huge spike in lending activity caused by special promotions, like “match days.” These take place when high-profile figures (LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffmann, for instance) offer to match every loan made by Kiva lenders, leading to a frenzy of lending that could overwhelm the site.
“Our job is to provide the tools that connect people, and make sure they run right,” says Kevin—a task that has become much more manageable with the help of the New Relic Software Analytics Platform.
A single tool
Of Kiva’s 100 employees, 26 are software engineers—a testament to the key role technology plays in the organization. Before they started using New Relic, those engineers had their hands full, relying on four or five different tools to deal with a wide range of issues. Kevin credits his colleague Mark Dantona with bringing New Relic to Kiva’s attention.
“We kept saying, ‘Why isn’t there a tool out there to help us solve all these problems?’ Then Mark found New Relic and said, ‘Guys—this is it.’”
Now Kevin can’t imagine Kiva without New Relic. “Doing this without New Relic would feel like piloting a submarine without sonar,” he says. “We wouldn’t be able to see what’s in front of us—we’d be in the dark.”
Helping here at home
These days Kiva is looking for ways to increase its reach. With its new initiative Kiva Zip, which facilitates peer-to-peer lending to socially impactful or financially excluded borrowers here in the United States, this organization is proving that helping people close to home is just as important as doing so in far-flung regions of the globe.
The challenge now, Kevin says, is to keep improving—technologically and otherwise. “I’m excited for us to develop new, more stable, more effective systems that support our mission as we continue to grow.”
Better software for a better world: New Relic’s Nonprofit Program aims to amplify the important work done by nonprofits around the world by improving their software performance, helping them to better serve their chosen cause. Proud to be in a position to give back, New Relic hopes to become the leading software analytics provider in the nonprofit sector. To find out more about New Relic’s offers and services for nonprofits, visit newrelic.com/nonprofit.
Photos courtesy of Kiva. Photo credits: Josefina Ordoñez Xirum (Guatamala) by Uncornered Market; Sophea Chum (Cambodia) and Dogo Ramadhan (Kenya) by John Briggs; Koffi Jean Hagbegnon (Togo) by Abby Gray.