December 01, 2006
A Little Goes A Long Way
BY FRONTLINE/World Editors
We don't usually comment on our stories, but in the case of "Uganda: A Little Goes a Long Way," we had to make an exception. The story, broadcast on October 31, received such an overwhelming response from FRONTLINE/World viewers that they actually became part of the story, helping change the course of one company's future.
For those of you who missed it (and you can watch the story online on our Web site), "A Little Goes Along Way" reported on Kiva, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that has built an innovative Web site allowing people to make individual loans to small businesses in the developing world. The story focused on businesses in Uganda, where Kiva first began its mircoloan operations. Within seconds of the broadcast on Halloween night, Kiva's servers crashed as FRONTLINE/World viewers tried to log on in their thousands, hoping to make a loan. Kiva staff quickly realized that the floodgates were open and posted a simple homepage explaining the site was overwhelmed and asking for contribution pledges via email.
Kiva then put out a call to engineers and technicians across the Bay Area for help. One company, Greenplum, immediately donated several servers to ease the situation. And even though only about 1 percent of those trying to access the site were still managing to get through, Kiva received $20,000 in donations in the first eight hours after broadcast. Soon after, Media Temple, another Bay Area company, came forward to offer a server-sharing solution, and Kiva staff managed to get the full site back online within a few days.
We also realized the impact of the story from the record traffic to our own Web site and from the hundreds of heartfelt responses we received from viewers. In a typical response, one reader wrote, "When I saw the program I was so impressed by the sense of hope that tears came to my eyes. Please send me Kiva's address to make a donation." (You can read many more viewer reactions here.)
As for the money pouring in to fund businesses featured on Kiva's site, that, too, was off the chart. In the month since broadcast, Kiva businesses have received more than $500,000 in loan funds; that's more than the company had taken in since it began operating in late 2005. Before the snowball effect of the broadcast, it typically took two to three days for a business to be funded on Kiva's site. Now businesses are fully funded within minutes or hours. Viewers have also donated $100,000 to Kiva itself, which has helped the company expand the breadth and depth of its services. By the end of this year, the small nonprofit, with only a handful of full-time staff, will have forged 25 loan partnerships in 20 countries around the world.
"FRONTLINE/World has created a whole new Kiva. Now organizations call us who weren't interested in talking before. The tidal wave hit and hit hard. And it's all because of the lenders."
Fiona Ramsey, Kiva's community and operations manager, explained the story's impact: "FRONTLINE/World has created a whole new Kiva. It's a whole new ball game. Now organizations call us who weren't interested in talking before. The tidal wave hit and hit hard. And it's all because of the lenders."
So thank you, FRONTLINE/World viewers, for your tremendous response to the story and to Kiva's work.
From all of us at FRONTLINE/World
For updates on Kiva's progress and successes, read founder Matt Flannery's "Kiva Chronicles" blog.
You can watch the broadcast again on the FRONTLINE/World Web site here.
To check out the latest batch of small businesses approved for loans and looking for funding, browse the Kiva Web site.
Also, visit our Social Entrepreneurs page to watch more stories we have produced featuring individuals and companies working to improve people's lives in the developing world.