Crowdfunding Solar Power for the World’s Poorest People

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In the developing world, finding a light in the darkness is not always easy or affordable. Sometimes the only available options are unhealthy and dangerous, such as burning kerosene, wood or coal. Other times, the only option is darkness.

But you can’t fight Ebola in the dark.

That’s where WakaWaka steps in. WakaWaka, which means “Shine Bright” in Swahili, is a social enterprise that provides sustainable power sources for families with limited access to affordable or healthy alternatives.  Not only is their attractive WakaWaka solar mobile charger the most efficient solar mobile charger in their world, their new compact, portable solar power kit – WakaWaka Base – provides 1 weeks worth of light, or multiple phone charges, for just 1 day of sunlight.

WakaWaka is currently crowdfunding the production of WakaWaka Base on Kickstarter – so now’s your chance to get it for 40% off the retail price. Not only is this compact power & light kit badass paraphernalia for outdoor enthusiasts, adventure backpackers, survivalists, disaster preppers and digital nomads, as a WakaWaka backer you help send 10,000 power & light kits to Liberia and Sierra Leone for the fight against Ebola.

wakawaka-solar-base90% of the population in Liberia and Sierra Leone are not connected to the electricity grid. Once Ebola is gone, the WakaWaka lights will remain there to help people be more resilient for future crises and provide light to peoples homes.

This is one of WakaWaka’s many campaigns to fight energy poverty and their 3rd successful Kickstarter campaign.

How to Raise a $1 Million on Kickstarter to Provide Light to the World’s Poorest People

WakaWaka has cracked the code to successful crowdfunding on Kickstarter. To date, they’ve raised nearly $1 million dollars to fund the production of their solar products. Their most successful Kickstarter campaign raised over $700,000 in one month and sent 12,000 solar lights to Haitian families affected by the 2010 earthquake.  How is it possible to achieve such massive crowdfunding success?

In his in depth interview on the Entrepreneurs For a Change podcast for social entrepreneurs, Camille shares powerful advice for social entrepreneurs who are considering using crowdfunding as a way to raise capital for their social venture:

  • Your prelaunch period is as important as your campaign itself. The more time you can prepare for your campaign, network with influencers, and inform the media of your upcoming launch, the better.
  • Make sure you set an attainable funding goal.  It’s much better to set the bar low rather than set the bar high. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding platform, so you want to make sure you keep all the funds you raise, even it’s a smaller amount than what you would like to raise.
  • Take advantage of stretch goals to raise more money after your initial goal is reached. When you offer a product add-on as a stretch goal benefit, not only does this it keep backers motivated & inspired to keep promoting your campaign, it allows you to raise a significant amount of money beyond your original funding goal.

Buy One Give One is An Effective Social Enterprise Business Model

Through their “Buy One Give One” model, WakaWaka sells their stylish, rugged, highly efficient solar chargers at a premium price to Western markets. For every unit sold, WakaWaka Foundation then provides WakaWaka units for a very low cost or for free to people in need, through their partners, like the United Nations and the IRC (International Rescue Committee).

According to Camille Van Gestel, WakaWaka’s co-founder and CEO:

“There are over 1.2 billion people around the world with no access to electricity and hundreds of millions more face regular blackouts. The effects of this energy poverty are enormous.”

How does this translate into real human experiences?

This means that when the sun goes down:

  • All work ceases
  • Children cannot continue to do their homework
  • Going to the bathroom outside or in public toilets becomes a security risk, especially for women
  • In disaster areas, searching for food, water, or loved ones can be a dangerous endeavor

WakaWaka has impacted almost 650,000 people in 32 countries, via 30+ projects, providing 142 million extra hours of light for work and study per year, in addition to displacing 143,00 tons of CO2. However the impact that just one WakaWaka unit can have on a household is priceless.

In Nigeria, a blind village headman was overjoyed with his WakaWaka unit. Why would a blind village headman care about receiving a solar light?

Living at the base of the pyramid isn’t the happiest life. Life is a constant struggle. Kerosene is expensive, so the family used it sparingly. With the WakaWaka unit, they were able to extend their evening another 3 hours.

“And all of a sudden, people are talking to each other, kids were studying, women were doing chores in the evening. They were more productive during the day. It changed the whole village’s way of life and that’s why he was so incredibly excited about that.”

Even though the blind village headman couldn’t any of this happening, the sounds of evening activity gave him comfort and joy.

If you are considering crowdfunding your a one-for-one startup social enterprise, check out Camille Van Gestel’s crowdfunding strategies on Entrepreneurs for a Change.

[About the author: Lorna Li is an internet marketing consultant and business coach to social entrepreneurs and sustainable brands. She’s on a mission to inspire 100K entrepreneurs to start a business that makes a massive positive impact, through her iTunes podcast Entrepreneurs for a Change. Receive the free Business Changemaker’s Toolkit to jumpstart your changemaking business today.]

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