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How Do We Make SVP More Sticky?

Posted by Sofia Michelakis

how-do-we-make-svp-more-sticky.jpgSomething I don’t often do is comment on other great philanthropy blogs out there.  I was inspired by a recent Tactical Philanthropy blog post (seriously good stuff on there, read it!) “Kiva.org: Made to Stick.” The author analyzed how “sticky” Kiva’s message is, following Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made to Stick” model perfectly.

It made me wonder, how does SVP rate on the Made to Stick 6 factors?

[excerpt from the Tactical Philanthropy piece in the section that follows – my additions and comments are in blue italics]

Kiva.org: Made to Stick

Posted: 19 Mar 2010 09:37 AM PDT by Sean Stannard-Stockton

What if there was a way to trigger a $150 billion influx of new money into the social sector?

Recently, in my public speaking, I’ve been talking about Kiva.org and why Kiva is like a “gateway drug to social investing”. The fact is, most people are not sitting around wishing that they could make high impact social investments. When Kiva was formed, it was not designed in reaction to a large group of everyday people who were looking for a simple way to make small loans to impoverished people in the developed world. Instead, Kiva built a model that was incredibly compelling and hooked everyday donors into the world of microfinance, which until Kiva was a social investing practice reserved for institutional grantmakers.

How did Kiva do it?

Well, one model of what makes ideas spread is outlined in the book Made to Stick, by Chip & Dan Heath. The model is called SUCCESs and it lays out six principals of what makes an idea “sticky”. It is amazing how perfectly Kiva, which is one of the “stickiest” ideas in social investing, follows the SUCCESs model.


Simplicity isn’t about doing little things. It is about focusing on a core message. Kiva offers the simple premise that you can lend money to aspiring entrepreneurs in impoverished countries and help them improve their lives.

SVP has two messages – building stronger nonprofits and creating more effective philanthropists.  Add into that our systems change work, which builds upon the first two.  Is this simple enough to understand?  What if we tried something like:  “SVP is changing how the nonprofit sector is funded to set orgs up for success”?  Reactions?  Other ideas?


To get attention, you need to do something unexpected. Kiva’s pitch is that you can lend (not give) your money, get it all back and still make the world a better place.

Is SVP’s pitch that philanthropists can do much more than give money – they can invest their time and skills – still “unexpected” after 12 years?  How has the landscape evolved?


While the Red Cross says that they “help prepare communities for emergencies and keep people safe every day”, the home page of Kiva asks you to make a $25 loan to a specific person with their photo and bio.

We offer our partners a menu of ways to participate, and most do get involved with their time.  But is it overwhelming?  Do partners have a concrete enough sense of the IMPACT their involvement has on the community?


According to the SUCCESs model, credibility comes from “human-scale statistics and vivid details”. Kiva’s website is overflowing with information about all their historical loans so that a first time visitor can quickly see specific borrowers and lenders and reams of fully paid back loans.

Measuring outcomes is one of our core values.   Are we offering enough “vivid details” about our work to invoke credibility?


People care about people, not numbers. The Chip brothers argue that people care more about self-identity than self-interest. Again, the home page of Kiva features a constantly updating profile of Kiva lenders, with short bios and their answer to the question “I loan because…”. After a few minutes clicking around their website, potential lenders will run across an existing Kiva lender whom they identify with.

All of our outcomes surveys show that the activities that create the most impact are those where people are connecting – e.g., grant/advocacy committees, volunteer consulting – and that takes time.   How can we better tap into the huge asset we have – the pool of leaders and great thinkers who are part of SVP – and develop these emotional connections to a greater degree?


Kiva borrowers keep a journal that explains to the lender how they’ve used the loan and how things are going. A lender is first presented a story about the individual requesting the loan and then given story updates as the borrower deploys the loan.

Our newsletter is chock full of personal stories about partners and nonprofit staff and clients.  And we’re doing much more to harness the social media channels out there.  We have several new videos as well telling stories about our investees.

Data Point: An average of 15% of newsletter recipients click through to the stories.  Is that good?  How could we improve telling our stories so we don’t get lost in the mix?

Kiva isn’t a freak accident. It is a masterfully executed, “sticky” idea.

We tend to spend a lot of time talking about what sort of giving is effective. But there is another issue facing philanthropy. During the last 100 years, charitable giving has run at about 2% of gross domestic product. Making philanthropy and nonprofits more effective isn’t going to change that number. Making philanthropy and nonprofits “stickier” is the key. Bumping giving from 2% to 3% would trigger a $150 billion influx of money into the social sector. That’s real money. That’s the kind of number that is thrown around when wars are started, banks are bailed out, health care is reformed. What if that kind of number was channeled towards effective philanthropy? What if giving went to 4%?

If you care about effective philanthropy, then you need to care about making effective philanthropy “sticky.”

SVP has undoubtedly sparked a movement.  We have hard evidence that partners are giving more – more dollars, more time, and developing real community impact – as a result of participation in SVP.  With over 2,000 donors across the network in 25 cities, we are a force that’s making change.

We can also look at how much the conversation among grantmakers is changing. 

Capacity building used to be a very small practice among funders, and now in Washington State alone we see large and small foundations coming together to discuss gaps in the funding system, trying to ensure nonprofits aren’t left behind by lack of support for their internal capacity.  Five years ago this conversation wouldn’t have been on many funders’ radar, and I believe SVP has been part of this shift.

But on the flip side, what if the SVP network counted 10,000 donors strong in 50 cities, connecting individuals with the power to give time + money with the best ideas for social innovation?  What kind of impact could we have then?

So, what I’m asking is – do you think SVP needs to become more “sticky”?  If so, how?

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