Tuesday, January 26, 2010

First Lending Team to surpass $1 million in loans

Pete is the team captain of the Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious Lending Team. Last year, his team became the first Kiva Lending Team to reach $1 million in loans. We had the honor of interviewing Pete about his teams’ accomplishments.

1) How does it feel to be the first Kiva Lending Team to surpass $1 million in loans?

It's a thrill and something that could not have been accomplished without the support of thousands of my fellow team members! Special thanks goes to those team members who I unofficially consider my “Circle of Motivators.” In my “Circle of Motivators,” I have team members who write software to keep detailed statistics on our team progress, those who write Firefox plugins to allow us to surf the Kiva lending pages and dynamically flag MFIs using a white or black list, team members who help with press releases or spread the good news about our team on their blogs, those who keep track of details when we have fun little contests, and those who come up with great ideas like the original Halloween Loan-A-Thon. Others are frequent posters on the team message board and try to keep everyone's energy levels high with helpful information or jokes. I wish I had a way to give these team members "gold stars" so other members would know which team members are held in high regard.

2) When and why did you come up with the idea for your Lending Team?

I sometimes lurk on KivaFriends.org when I'm looking for more information on Kiva or just to hear what the passionate Kiva lenders are discussing. I heard about the new Lending Team feature on their message board. I then checked on Kiva for an Atheist team and didn't find one. So, I decided on August 28th, 2008 to start a Lending Team at Kiva for secular folks and an associated blog where I could share my ideas and post information relevant to the community of lenders who joined my team. I decided on such a long team name because I wanted to aggregate all of the secular-minded folks, so our presence could be quantified and appreciated. If we splintered into different teams our impact may have gone unnoticed.

3) When you first started the Lending Team, did you have any idea that it would be so successful? Did you set any goals as to the number of members or the number of loans your team would accomplish?

When I started the team I hoped it would become one of the largest teams. The success is far beyond the initial goal I set for the team to raise $50,000 in four months. We raised $150,000 in four months and $1,000,000 in 13 months. I had hoped we would be the number one team and the rapid pace with which we reached that spot is a testament to all my team members who rallied around the cause.

4) What types of things have you been doing to get the word out about your team?

We use blog posts, press releases, social networking (Facebook, FriendFeed, etc), word-of-mouth and focus on maintaining our number one spot on the Community page, so it's easier for like-minded folks to find us. A big reason for our success is that I'm not the single point of communication for getting the word out. Many of our team members are actively spreading the word by doing all of the things I mentioned above.

5) Your team does a Loan-A-Thon 4 times a year. Tell us more about this event and how successful they been for your team.

The Loan-A-Thons have been wildly successful for our team, not just monetarily but as a fun ritual we can look forward to. The original Halloween Loan-A-Thon was the brainstorm of our team member Shaun. Many of us rallied around his idea and this created a great bond between many of our team members. After that one, we had many discussions and came to the conclusion that we should have four Loan-A-Thons each year and spread them out. The Loan-A-Thons are scheduled for Halloween (Oct. 31/Nov. 1), New Years (Dec. 31/Jan. 1), April Fools (April 1) and Mohammad Yunus's Birthday (June 28, but celebrated July 1). Since Kiva adds new loans on the first of the month, all of our official Loan-A-Thon dates are the first of the month and generally run for 48 hours. To participate in the Loan-A-Thon we ask our team members to deposit new funds, make loans, and post to the team message board. Of course "recycled money" is welcome too, but we don't want people holding onto their "recycled money" waiting for the Loan-A-Thon, so we aim to add new funds to increase our lending base.

6) Now that your team has accomplished $1 million in loans and almost 8,000 members, what are your goals for the team in the upcoming year?

By the end of 2010. our goal is to have $3 million in total loans.

7) If you had one piece of advice to give to other Kiva Lending Team Captains, what would that be?

Create a Circle of Motivators, listen to their ideas, thank them for their help and encourage them.

Thanks to the members of the Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious Lending Team for all of their efforts in their New Year’s 2010 Loan-A-Thon. The team raised $29,700 in loans, with 958 loans and 69 new members in 3 days. Thanks for all of your hard work!