Inspiring a new generation of volunteers & philanthropists - Jessica Jackley of Alltruists
Play • 50 min

Kiva and Alltruists founder Jessica Jackley joins us today to talk about her journey as a social entrepreneur that started in 2005 and the lessons she had learned as a founder, an investor and a general partner of various companies since then.

As a graduate of philosophy and poetry, Jackley initially had no desire to venture into business. However, after having been exposed to the wonders of social entrepreneurship working a temporary job at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, she had realized how social enterprises could become a force for good. 

She would then go to Africa on an unpaid internship under Village Enterprise, a nonprofit organization, through which she saw firsthand the impact that donations had on the livelihood of different members of the community there. She and Kiva co-founder, Matt, then thought that while donations could be incredibly beneficial to the receiver, loans could also help members of the community take the next step forward in terms of their livelihood.

Building a social impact driven company in 2005 was not the norm, and shorthand terms such as “crowdfunding” had not existed then. This drove Kiva to work hard and strategize so as to inform people of the microloans they would be sponsoring, which is different from the usual donation strategy that nonprofit companies often adopted. At present, Kiva has issued more than $1.5 billion loans, with a repayment rate of 96%.

With the success of Kiva, Jackley also stressed the importance of actively exerting effort to maintain proper work-life balance. For her, this involved creating a spreadsheet that detailed her kids’ schedules, and how she would then divide her work hours accordingly to make sure she maximized her time with them. As determined as she was for the role she wanted to play in the lives of her children, she did not lose sight of the role she had at work, too. She notes even the importance of prioritizing which work emails to respond to right away, and how all of her strategies have helped her maintain the balance she needs to perform well both as a mother and the founder of Kiva.

Moving on to Alltruists, which is a subscription box for volunteer projects that delivers monthly mini projects to kids, inspiring them to have empathy for some of the world's biggest social and environmental issues. Jackley emphasized the importance of instilling empathy at an early age, which she said Alltruists achieves in three steps: learn, connect, and act. Finally, Jackley hopes that Alltruists can grow in the future to make volunteering more accessible and engaging for everyone.

Jackley’s  key lessons and quotes from this episode were:

  • “It's great to just want to be an entrepreneur, but you need to really quickly focus in on a particular theory of change or a problem that you want to solve or a segment of, you know, a persona or a group of people that you would like to help. You can't just stay in the general, "I want to be an entrepreneur," for too long. It's like saying you want to go to the Olympics, but you just haven't chosen a sport yet.” (4:10)
  • “I think it's very freeing to approach work as, what is the problem I want to go solve?  Who are the people that I want to go serve? And then you figure out the other pieces.” (9:13)
  • “I feel like quiet time to reflect and whether it's journaling, or just meditating or being thoughtful, I think everyone needs at least a little bit of that. And it's really hard to get, especially with a bunch of kids in the house, especially as you take on more work, etc.  But I think it's important because during those moments, when you can hone in on really what your priorities and your values are.” (20:10)
  • “Bring your own unique

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