Make Meaning and the Money Will Follow

Study Shows How New Social Ventures Can Find Speedy Kiva Success 

Entrepreneurs who seek funding for their new socially-oriented ventures can find success on Kiva, an online prosocial platform that draws in people who want to make “loans that change lives.” But, how can your new company stand out from the crowd?

New research suggests the secret to success lies in the language used to describe your new venture. Todd Moss, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, examined more than 83,000 microenterprise descriptions spanning 15 industries and 60 nations to determine the themes and words that best resonate with potential Kiva funders. And while Professor Moss acknowledges Kiva is effective with about 98 percent of loans receiving all their funding within 30 days, knowing how to describe your new venture can speed the funding time.

“Social and environmental themes resonated most with potential funders, including words, such as ‘family,’ ‘support’ and ‘happiness,’” said Professor Moss. “What also caught funders’ attention were descriptions that showed the good their ventures would do.”

He added that many of the keywords that emerged were emotional or soft, such as care, concern, well-being, humanity and peace.

“Additionally, microenterprises seem to be ‘learning’ that lenders prefer reading about the socially beneficial things that will come from the loan because over time, the loans are increasingly emphasizing such themes,” said Professor Moss.

What advice would Professor Moss give to a start-up looking to develop its message to potential Kiva funders?

“Make meaning,” he said. “People who set out to make money without meaning will likely do neither, but if they set out to make meaning for customers – such as to right a wrong or prevent the end of something good –  it will create meaning for potential funders, too.

“It doesn’t mean that you need to start a nonprofit. What it does mean is that customers, and funders, want to spend their money in ways that will make meaning for them or their loved ones.”

Professor Moss’ study, co-authored by Maija Renko-Dolan (University of Illinois at Chicago), Emily Block (University of Alberta) and Moriah Meyskens (University of San Diego), is forthcoming in the Journal of Business Venturing.