Unite to Light

Change a life. Light the world.

Santa Barbara, CA   |  www.unitetolight.org

Mission

Unite to Light believes that access to clean and affordable light and energy are critical to improving health, education and prosperity globally. As a not-for-profit, we manufacture and distribute efficient, durable, low cost solar lamps and solar chargers to people without access to electricity. Since 2011 we have delivered 145,000 solar lights to people in 78 countries. We focus on projects that help children learn to read and study at night, to equip midwives with the tools save lives, and to offer relief to those suffering from disasters and homelessness.

Ruling year info

2010

President & CEO

Megan Birney

Main address

1117 State Street #19

Santa Barbara, CA 93101 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

27-2942180

NTEE code info

Energy Resources Conservation and Development (C35)

Human Services - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C. (P99)

Reproductive Health Care Facilities and Allied Services (E40)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2019, 2018 and 2017.
Register now

Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Globally, 1 billion people - one in seven people - LIVE WITHOUT ELECTRICITY. The darkness brings: ILLITERACY: Children unable to study cannot advance their education. ILLNESS: Kerosene smoke and soot cause more deaths than malaria. POVERTY: Expensive fuels for light consume more than a third of family income.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Educating Children

In places without electricity, children often do not have the opportunity to read or study at night. This inhibits their education and future economic opportunities. We aim to give lights to children across the globe.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Adolescents

Provide lights to midwives and community health workers in communities without electricity. Maternal and infant mortality is a major issue worldwide. Training and equipping midwives with solar lights can improve the chance of survival for all mothers and children.

Population(s) Served
Women and girls
Infants and toddlers

Provide lights to people impacted by natural and man made disasters such as drought, hurricanes, war and violence.

Population(s) Served
Adults

In the United States the homeless population faces safety and security threats that can be aided by the addition of a simple solar powered light.

Population(s) Served
Homeless people

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of products distributed

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Economically disadvantaged people, Victims of disaster, Pregnant people, Children and youth

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Includes Luke Lights and Chargers. Leadership change in 2016 led to refocused efforts. In 2017 we saw the benefit of those efforts. In 2018 both we revamped both products.

Number of carbon emissions prevented (estimated by CO2 equivalent)

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Economically disadvantaged people

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Calculated using GOGLA impact metrics. Lights have 2 year warranties so each year includes lights from current and one previous year for a total GHG offset per year. Measured in metric tonnes.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

We fight inequality one light at a time. Unite to Light believes that access to clean, affordable light and energy is critical to improving health, education and prosperity. We manufacture and distribute solar light and power to people living without electricity across the globe.  

Our products are the tools people need to live and thrive. We focus on projects that help students study at night, equip midwives and community health workers with the tools they need to save lives, and offer relief to those suffering from disasters and homelessness.

We have three funding models:
1. We operate as a traditional nonprofit and raise funds to support our programs around education, health and disaster response.
2. We sell our products at a discount to other nonprofits so that they may serve people living without electricity.
3. We sell our products to consumers on a Buy One, Give One basis so that we have more products to donate to our programs.

For each of these models, strong partnerships are crucial. We have a small team and depend on our on-the-ground partners to ensure that we are effective and efficient in our giving. For each of our programs we have one or more trusted implementation partner that is responsible for distribution, impact tracking and feedback.

Our core staff is small but dedicated and diligent. They support our distribution partners, over 150 nonprofits, individuals and corporations that ensure our lights are getting to those in need.
In addition, there is a volunteer base of over 50 individuals ranging from students at the local universities, to career professionals that volunteer their time and experience for legal, branding, development, sales, accounting and quality assurance.

145,000 lights distributed to people in over 78 different countries.
Establishing partnerships with over 150 nonprofits, government organizations and individuals.
30% increase in graduation rates in schools in South Africa and Haiti.
Increased awareness of the problem of lack of electricity.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    We have a broad variety of people we serve. We primarily work through other nonprofit organizations and seek feedback from the organizations and encourage them to solicit feedback from the people they serve.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), Suggestion box/email,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    Serving people experiencing homelessness was a small portion of our service prior to 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a significant increase in the need for solar powered charging devices as buildings like libraries and coffee shops closed, where people had previously charged their phones. We heard from clients that there was an increased need and ramped up our program to serve those living on the streets. In 2019 we distributed 100 Solar Chargers to one organization in the city where we are headquartered. In 2020 we distributed 3000 Solar Chargers to 15 organizations in 10 cities across the US.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    Asking for feedback from our partners and the people we serve gives them ownership of the products. They help us refine and develop products that meet their needs, and the needs of others in similar situations. Feedback from partners has also influenced who we serve - we have broadened our programs focus on people experiencing homelessness and seek input for new partners.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, We don’t have the right technology to collect and aggregate feedback efficiently, The people we serve tell us they find data collection burdensome, It is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection, Staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time, It is difficult to get honest feedback from the people we serve,

Financials

Unite to Light
lock

Unlock financial insights by subscribing to our monthly plan.

Subscribe

Unlock nonprofit financial insights that will help you make more informed decisions. Try our monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights?
Learn more about GuideStar Pro.

Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Unite to Light

Board of directors
as of 3/8/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

John Bowers

Founder

Term: 2010 - 2022

John Bowers

Director Energy Efficiency University of California Santa Barbara

Wade Nomura

Rotary International, local businessman

Claude Dorais

Dorais, Polinsky & Reese, Law Corporation

Suzanne Cross

University of California, Chancellors Office

Gisela Voss

Consultant

Dawn Mitcham

CPA

Greg Padgett

Rising Phoenix Holdings Corporation- Tidal Basin Group

Katilyn Coakley

HUSTL'D

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 03/03/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability