For many years, WindAid Institute has been installing wind turbines in rural communities here in Peru that have no grid electricity. We now have over 50 functioning turbines across north-west Peru, clustered in geographical areas with up to 15 (and counting) in each area. We need to ensure all these turbines can be properly maintained and we can install new ones as the communities need them (and subsequently maintain those), while continuing with research and development on improving turbine technology.
These factors, along with the need for the communities to be fully engaged and have autonomy over their energy supply, came together into a new strategy: Community Wind Workshops. These fully outfitted facilities would be built within each cluster area, providing an electronics room, a test turbine for developing technology in real environmental conditions, training facilities for community members, local technicians, and volunteers, and living space for volunteers. After considering the strategy from all angles, WindAid identified the fishing village of Playa Blanca as the first site for a Community Wind Workshop and set about planning it. The community set aside some land for us to use, we worked with a university in the UK to design the building with as many green facilities (grey water reuse, composting toilet, roof garden…) as we could identify, and we were all set to go!
But as a non-profit organisation, funding is always a challenge. We’d never undertaken this kind of project before, and needed an upfront sum to buy the materials to do the build and fit out the workshop. Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way for individuals and small organisations to raise money for projects; we investigated and decided to try it out for the Community Wind Workshop. We chose theKickstarter platform, as although it has a strict rule that you only get the funds if you exceed your target, it has a very structured approach, great support and guidance, and a solid reputation. ‘Backers‘ pledge a certain amount to get a ‘reward‘, so we carefully picked a whole range of items that backers may like, from a keyring up to a trip out to Peru do a program and see the workshop completed in January 2017. We researched how to run a crowdfunding campaign and planned to launch on 8 June – it was all systems go, and we sent out a series of teaser messages to get our supporters excited for the start of our energy revolution!
We started off very strongly, with over $1,000 raised in the first 24 hours. Pledges came in steadily throughout the whole month, as past volunteers and other contacts signed up to back us. Kickstarter chose us as a ‘Project We Love’ which attracted interest from regular Kickstarter backers who support projects that catch their eye, and we had great feedback that our story was inspiring people!
We held auctions and sporting polladas (traditional Peruvian BBQ), sent out press releases and ran a competition for who could bring in the most backers, we posted regular updates on our progress on Kickstarter and across social media. But unfortunately it was not enough… Of our $35,000 target we got $22,000 of pledges, so we ended up with nothing… Except actually we ended up with so much more than we could have imagined!
Not only have we reached out to many new supporters and reconnected with old friends, we had lots of likes and shares on social media – spreading information far and wide about WindAid and our work. We’ve had articles published in renewable energy and sustainability magazines, and linked with a journalist who writes for a major UK newspaper on sustainability; we’ve learnt a lot about fundraising and marketing in general. And most important of all, we’ve ended up with around $8,000 (to date) in donations from our hugely generous backers who still wanted to support us outside of Kickstarter. This is more than we’ve ever raised before, and is enough to continue with the next stage of the build in Playa Blanca! Plus we had a lot of fun!
Will we do crowdfunding again in the future? Maybe; it was a big investment of time and energy and there are things we’d do differently if there is a next time. But given our ambitious plans for future projects like the Community Wind Workshops, we will need dedicated fundraising events. So watch this space for new projects Lighting up Lives here in Peru! A huge thank you to all our Kickstarter backers and our many generous supporters – without you our work would not happen!