Unite to Light

Change a life. Light the world.

Santa Barbara, CA   |
GuideStar Charity Check

Unite to Light

EIN: 27-2942180


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


President & CEO

Megan Birney

Main address

1117 State Street #19

Santa Barbara, CA 93101 USA

Show more contact info



Subject area info

Energy resources

Reproductive health care

Human services

International development

Population served info

Children and youth

Women and girls

Homeless people

Low-income people

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 subsection

501(c)(3) Public Charity

IRS filing requirement

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

Tax forms



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

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

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


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


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.

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, reduce greenhouse gas emisssions, 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.

230,000 lights distributed to people in over 80 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.
  • 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

  • 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


Unite to Light
Fiscal year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

Revenue vs. expenses:  breakdown

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.

Liquidity in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 31.50 over 10 years

Months of cash in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 4.7 over 10 years

Fringe rate in 2022 info

SOURCE: IRS Form 990


Average of 9% over 10 years

Funding sources info

Source: IRS Form 990

Assets & liabilities info

Source: IRS Form 990

Financial data

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Unite to Light

Revenue & expenses

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data

Unite to Light

Balance sheet

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

The balance sheet gives a snapshot of the financial health of an organization at a particular point in time. An organization's total assets should generally exceed its total liabilities, or it cannot survive long, but the types of assets and liabilities must also be considered. For instance, an organization's current assets (cash, receivables, securities, etc.) should be sufficient to cover its current liabilities (payables, deferred revenue, current year loan, and note payments). Otherwise, the organization may face solvency problems. On the other hand, an organization whose cash and equivalents greatly exceed its current liabilities might not be putting its money to best use.

Fiscal year ending: cloud_download Download Data

Unite to Light

Financial trends analysis Glossary & formula definitions

Fiscal Year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

SOURCE: IRS Form 990 info

This snapshot of Unite to Light’s financial trends applies Nonprofit Finance Fund® analysis to data hosted by GuideStar. While it highlights the data that matter most, remember that context is key – numbers only tell part of any story.

Created in partnership with

Business model indicators

Profitability info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) before depreciation -$15,666 $12,126 $23,063 $49,303 $163,739
As % of expenses -8.5% 6.2% 11.9% 23.3% 44.9%
Unrestricted surplus (deficit) after depreciation -$15,666 $12,126 $23,063 $49,303 $163,739
As % of expenses -8.5% 6.2% 11.9% 23.3% 44.9%
Revenue composition info
Total revenue (unrestricted & restricted) $168,416 $208,985 $216,125 $260,706 $528,714
Total revenue, % change over prior year -4.6% 24.1% 3.4% 20.6% 102.8%
Program services revenue 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Membership dues 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Investment income 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Government grants 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 16.5% 0.0%
All other grants and contributions 79.6% 71.8% 63.7% 64.8% 70.0%
Other revenue 20.4% 28.2% 36.3% 18.7% 30.0%
Expense composition info
Total expenses before depreciation $184,082 $196,859 $193,062 $211,403 $364,975
Total expenses, % change over prior year -8.3% 6.9% -1.9% 9.5% 72.6%
Personnel 61.8% 58.3% 54.3% 44.1% 31.0%
Professional fees 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.1%
Occupancy 0.4% 0.8% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0%
Interest 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Pass-through 21.4% 26.2% 33.1% 43.4% 39.6%
All other expenses 16.4% 14.8% 11.9% 12.5% 29.3%
Full cost components (estimated) info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Total expenses (after depreciation) $184,082 $196,859 $193,062 $211,403 $364,975
One month of savings $15,340 $16,405 $16,089 $17,617 $30,415
Debt principal payment $0 $0 $0 $21,120 $0
Fixed asset additions $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Total full costs (estimated) $199,422 $213,264 $209,151 $250,140 $395,390

Capital structure indicators

Liquidity info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Months of cash 1.2 3.3 0.9 2.0 7.4
Months of cash and investments 1.2 3.3 0.9 2.0 7.4
Months of estimated liquid unrestricted net assets 6.2 6.6 6.9 9.1 10.6
Balance sheet composition info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Cash $18,424 $54,884 $14,577 $35,145 $225,297
Investments $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Receivables $37,026 $494 $22,534 $26,373 $555
Gross land, buildings, equipment (LBE) $23,489 $0 $0 $0 $0
Accumulated depreciation (as a % of LBE) 100.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Liabilities (as a % of assets) 3.8% 13.5% 17.6% 0.9% 0.6%
Unrestricted net assets $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Temporarily restricted net assets $0 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Permanently restricted net assets $0 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Total restricted net assets $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Total net assets $95,565 $107,691 $110,754 $160,057 $323,796

Key data checks

Key data checks info 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Material data errors No No No No No


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

Form 1023/1024 is not available for this organization

President & CEO

Megan Birney

Megan Birney has a long history in the solar energy field. Having run the energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for a California nonprofit for six years, and then leading a team for a commercial solar financing start up. Megan brings an entrepreneurial spirit, but also a strong understanding of nonprofits to Unite to Light.

Number of employees

Source: IRS Form 990

Unite to Light

Officers, directors, trustees, and key employees

SOURCE: IRS Form 990

Show data for fiscal year
Compensation data
Download up to 5 most recent years of officer and director compensation data for this organization

There are no highest paid employees recorded for this organization.

Unite to Light

Board of directors
as of 01/19/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board of directors data
Download the most recent year of board of directors data for this organization
Board chair

John Bowers


Term: 2010 - 2025

John Bowers

Director Energy Efficiency University of California Santa Barbara

Wade Nomura

Rotary International, local businessman

Claude Dorais

Dorais, Polinsky & Reese, Law Corporation

Gisela Voss


Dawn Mitcham


Maggi Alexander

The Philanthropy Initiative

Heather Bennett

Direct Relief

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 1/19/2024

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 01/19/2024

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.