Why Kiva Works

Seth Godin has a good section in Meatball Sundae on how Kiva serves as a good example of the difference between an organization that is in sync with the nature of the web and one that isn’t.

He writes:

I attended an all-day brainstorming session with one of the oldest, best-known nonprofits in the country. They have a fancy web site, loaded with Flash features, tell-a-friend buttons, and a blog.

Last year, the site raised two million dollars. This year they want to do more.

With a mailing list of five hundred thousand e-mail accounts, this organization has demonstrated that they can extract money from people who sign up for “e-mail blasts.” And the stated goal of the group is to increase the size of the list by a factor of six, to three million. Then, using free stamps (e-mail), they can hammer this list to raise a lot of money for their good work.

Compare this organization to Kiva. Kiva is a brand-new [it was a few years ago, when Godin wrote this] organization that, after just a few months, generated nearly ten times as much traffic as the older group. And they are raising more in a month online than competition does in a year.

Is it because they have a better site?

Nope. It’s because they have a different sort of organization. They created a web-based nonprofit that could never even exist without the New Marketing. One group uses the web to advance its old agenda, while the other group is of and by and for the web.

One is focused on market share, on getting big by controlling the conversation. The other is into fashion, in creating stories that spread because people want to spread them.

And that’s the schism, the fundamental demarcation between the Old and the New.

One organization wants the New Marketing to help it grow a traditional mailing list so it can do fundraising and support a traditional organization.

The other (Kiva) is creating an organization that thrives on the New Marketing rather than fighting it.

Kiva works because the very nature of their organization requires the Web at the same time that their story is so friendly to those who use the web. Kiva connects funders (that would be you) with individuals in the developing world who can put a microloan to good use. Doing this in a world of stamps is almost impossible to consider. But doing it online plays to the strengths of the medium, and so, at least for now, the users of the medium embrace the sotry and spread the word.

Please note that I’m not insisting that everyone embrace these new techniques. All I’m arguing for is synchronization. Don’t use the tactics of one paradigm and the strategies of another and hope that you’ll get the best of both. You won’t.

After just a few minutes of conversation at the older nonprofit, one person realized, “So, if we embrace this approach, we don’t have to just change our web site — we’re going to have to change everything about our organization. Our mission, our structure, our decision making. . . . ” Exactly.

  • http://theincarnate.blogspot.com Matt Stephens

    Intriguing. Even convicting. How in the world does an ordinary, if intelligent, person like myself assimilate this shift? How, in my world of pastoral leadership, could I maximize the web as a tool for ministry? How should I?