Have you seen the light?

I’m so excited. And those of you that know me will know that can lead to some pretty odd behaviour. Why am I excited? At SolarAid we have just rolled out the garage our latest creation. It’s called the Speed of Light. It’s still a little rough around the edges, but I’m excited to be able to show it to you all the same. It’s the difference between explaining something and saying here have a go, see for yourself. Perhaps it will help you develop your own thinking for how to engage your own supporters? In fact I’d be delighted if someone could take inspiration from what we have developed. So what does the Speed of Light do and why am I excited about its potential? First the ask comes from someone you know. This is the landing page that my friends get to see if they click the link that I share to the Speed of Light. That’s me in the in the middle with the bright yellow shorts (your landing page will have you in the centre). SpeedofLight_ Landing Page Having donated you get to see where in Africa the solar lights you have helped get to families are located (note SolarAid sells solar lights through its social enterprise SunnyMoney at a fair market price – we currently make a loss if you take into account all our costs reaching remote areas and building trust in communities – that’s what donations pay for). Speedoflight_mapThen inspired by what you have just done you can begin to tell your friends.  And if they donate too we tell you. And now the number of solar lights you have effectively funded has grown. And once again you can see the impact not just of the lights you have directly funded but those by your network too. And if your friends friend donates then we let you know too. And so it grows. So hey presto I’ve directly funded 9 solar lights but my network has funded 91. I’ve had 10 times the impact!  Speed of Light - network The idea was seeded from reading books like Beth Kanters The Networked Non-Profit and Grant Leboff’s Sticky Marketing.  Any of you who have read my blogs will know the insight from these great must reads is the “social capital” they have with their friends will be greater than the social capital you will ever have with them. Just think if you could leverage your supporters “social capital” to engage their networks. Peer recommendation is so important in the way we make now purchasing decisions. Just think when you want to buy a camera what do you do? You ask a friend what camera do you have and would you recommend it or you go on line and you look at the customer reviews!  From a SolarAid perspective if we can attract just one new supporter a day that would double our background rate of acquisition (outside of windfall appeals from media coverage).  If you’ve worked for a small cause you’ll understand there is often little capacity or budget to develop new ideas, and invest the time and resources you need. So despite its name it’s taken time to get to this point. I’ve come to appreciate innovation has a hidden word or two – determination and patience! It’s not been easy – but at the heart of nudging it along is the belief that we are onto something. Maybe it will help others take the concept further. Partners we have shared it with are excited too. They see it as a way to engage their networks or members. We will launch it on January 19th in Paris when the UNESCO International Year or Light launches which SolarAid is proud to be part of. Will it work ? It will take time to see for sure. We will need to learn from its use. And of course in the context of rising acquisition costs it makes even more sense to at least give it a go. A special thanks to those who have acted as soundboards in its development and helped test it out (especially those that have given to my network above). But right now I’m excited just to able to share the concept as I think the approach could be applied by other causes – either in terms of location of their work and/or encouraging supporters to ask their own networks.

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