How the GoodLeap Founder Is Revolutionizing Nonprofit Fundraising

Hayes Barnard knows how much access to clean energy and access to water can change a community. He also figured out how to fund it consistently without the need for charity galas, grant applications, big campaigns, and concerns about fluctuating donations.

The former SolarCity executive is the founder and CEO of GoodLeap, a rooftop solar finance company backed by Michael Dell and now valued at $12 billion.

But before launching GoodLeap, Barnard focused on another passion with perhaps even greater disruptive potential. He founded GivePower, a non-profit organization that installs water pumps and clean energy generators in poor communities. It also established a new model of philanthropy, linked to the growing demand for clean energy and sustainable home improvements, which could revolutionize the way charities obtain financial support.

The GivePower story began in 2008 during the financial crisis, when Barnard traveled to a village in Mali, West Africa, to help build a school. He learned two important things: the community needed electricity to power the community, as well as laptops and other devices at a local school. Second, he heard residents waking up at three or four in the morning to fetch water. “I’m like, wow, they’re walking eight miles a day,” Barnard said.

When Barnard’s previous startup, Paramount Solar, was acquired by solar energy company SolarCity in 2013, he set a philanthropic condition for the deal: For every megawatt deployed in the United States, SolarCity would install solar power. solar energy in a school somewhere in the developing world. The deal materialized after a trip to Nicaragua to install solar power in a school.

Barnard’s pitch to business: “What if $20 could provide 20 years of water to someone who needs it most in the developing world?”

Her nonprofit GivePower, launched in 2014, expanded to installing and supplying clean water pumps after Barnard learned that women in the Central American country spent hours a day fetching some water. Sometimes the water came from dirty sources, causing serious health problemsand women lost learning opportunities by walking many miles a day.

“Women don’t want to sit in the classroom until seven or eight in the evening after drawing water until noon every day,” Barnard said, noting that the schools were almost completely full of boys. “What if we could create a magic water box that could produce enough water daily for everyone in the village? And could we leverage our experience and our solar and battery storage to build these systems? »

The philanthropic partnership that Barnard first developed at SolarCity is now integrated into GoodLeap. (SolarCity, founded by cousins ​​of Elon Musk, was acquired by Tesla in 2016.)

GoodLeap’s financial technology platform connects installers of residential solar and sustainable home improvement projects with lenders. It offers homeowners point-of-sale loans similar to Klarna, Afterpay or Affirm. BonLeap raised $800 million in its last funding round in October 2021, bringing its valuation to $12 billion.

The round was led by MSD Partners, an investment adviser affiliated with the founder of the Dell computer brand. The Growing Solar Panel Finance Company provided over $10 billion in sustainable home improvement loans, nearly half of that in 2021 alone.

GoodLeap donates to GivePower with every transaction on its platform. Barnard’s pitch to business: “What if $20 could provide 20 years of water to someone who needs it most in the developing world?”

Transaction parameters and donation ratios could be $20 per transaction, a penny per watt of solar power, or $1 per solar panel installed. GoodLeap also manages all of the association’s operational expenses. “So people knew that every dollar will go to a project on the ground,” Barnard said.

But one of the unusual things GivePower provides is “sustainability as a service” through the way it designs and implements its own systems. The organization has staff who bring teams of donors on treks to communities in Haiti, Nepal, Colombia and Kenya to directly participate in the installation of GivePower’s drinking water and solar energy systems.

GivePower handles all the logistics, in addition to providing donated fund happiness metrics and implementation information, stories from the people involved, even social media content that partners can use in their own marketing or internal communications. .

“They can see the impact,” Barnard said. “You know where you’re going to deploy one of these systems, you’re going to save the lives of 30,000 people in the developing world who drink poison every day.”

“[The philanthropic model] reduces turnover within these companies, it connects the hearts and minds of these organizations together, and then we are less than [only] a partner software provider for them.”

Donation agreements with GivePower are for five years, making financial planning easy. These long-term partnerships also free GivePower from the need to host charity galas or other types of traditional nonprofit fundraising. Partners include Google, Johnson & Johnson and European telecommunications company Vodafone.

Through GivePower’s work and philanthropic model, Barnard said he was able to help corporate partners interested in sustainability achieve these goals while increasing employee satisfaction and retention. Barnard said GivePower rides make participants grateful for their work in ways that go beyond paychecks. “It reduces revenue within those companies, it connects the hearts and minds of those organizations, and then we’re less of a partner software vendor for them,” he said.

“You just get this huge positive charge when you see people crying for the first time they see running water, or the lights come on inside one of these schools,” Barnard said. about previous trek participants. “They come back with GivePower tattoos.”

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