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SolarAid launches digital peer-to-peer fundraising network

SolarAid launches digital peer-to-peer fundraising network

Poverty and climate charity SolarAid has launched Speed of Light, its digital fundraising and donor recruitment platform. It aims to use it to inspire its supporters to help it fundraise and recruit new supporters, and for them to see the impact of their actions.

Its launch coincides with the beginning of the International Year of Light which begins on 19 January 2015. A SolarAid representative will be speaking at the launch in Paris.

SolarAid‘s Chief Fundraiser Richard Turner said:

“The aim is to give an experience of donating that people will enjoy and find inspiring enough to share with their friends”.

Impact at the Speed of Light

When you donate online via the platform SolarAid shows you the location of the solar lights you have helped fund. Donations fund the cost to SolarAid so its social enterprise SunnyMoney can sell solar lights at a fair market price. This is currently £3 per solar light, although the cost has already fallen as SolarAid’s operation has scaled up.

SunnyMoney is already the largest seller and distributor of solar lights in Africa.

SolarAid's referral link

SolarAid’s Speed of Light platform gives donors a unique referral link

When you donate you receive a unique referral web link which you are then invited to share with your friends, family and colleagues, to spread the message. Specifically the charity suggests you “nominate three friends” to do so, using the same approach as that which underpinned the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in August 2014.

The platform can track the impact of the chain reactions that this will initiate. It does in two ways:

SolarAid's Speed of Light donation platform

SolarAid’s Speed of Light donation platform lets you see the impact of your donation.

1. the impact of the donation itself – you see where the solar light was donated. In my case it went to Bukene Secondary School in Tanzania.

2. the impact your promotion has achieved – you can see how many supporters you have recruited and how many lights they have donated and where.

You can also of course see the impact of donations of the whole community of supporters.

Turner likened the chain reaction process to that of online giving platform GivTree, which recently successfully completed its crowdfunding campaign.

UK Aid doubling donations

All donations on the platform by individuals in the UK will be doubled by the UK Government until 5 February 2015 by the government’s UK Aid initiative.

Why develop a platform?

Richard Turner explained that he had first had the idea for the platform several years ago. He realised it offered an alternative channel to recruiting new donors as acquisition costs by other channels such as cold direct mail, face to face and DRTV proved too expensive for their small organisation.

He told UK Fundraising:

“So I hit on the idea what if we could get our supporters to engage their own networks and leverage their “social capital”. Books like the Networked Nonprofit and Sticky Marketing helped seed the concept”.

He added:

“The potential of donors attracting in new supporters could be as valuable as the value of donations!”

He admitted that it had taken longer than anticipated to develop the project, “especially in a small organisation with a limited budget and limited capacity for project managing something like this on top of everything else. I’ve come to appreciate innovation is as much about determination (and patience !)”.

Following a workshop with staff to build on the idea, facilitated by Alison Ive of Treehouse, SolarAid developed a mock site, and then stripped it back to start afresh.

Supporters were then given a preview of the site in November 2014 and asked to test it out.

Turner says that there are more functions to be added, including linking donors’ impact to the new impact calculator that they have produced.

Although he is working to maximise the impact of the platform for SolarAid he hopes that “it wil give fellow fundraisers ideas so they can use the principle for their own causes”.


Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp and co-founder of Research massive growth in giving.

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