Thank you for 10 Amazing Years of Impact
By Andreas Karelas
Ten years ago today, February 4th 2011, I boarded a train in Jack London Square in Oakland bound for Sacramento with a copy of “How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation in California” from the library in hand. A few hours later I filed the articles of incorporation for RE-volv. Our mission: to “empower people and communities to invest collectively in renewable energy.”
Ten years later, I’m proud to say that not only did we make it to this far, but our impact has been real - we’ve really impacted people’s lives- and we’ve really helped to fight climate change and promote clean energy. For that I’m very grateful and feel very blessed.
We have now helped 43 amazing nonprofitsgo solar in 10 states across the country - from Maine to New Mexico, Wisconsin to Pennsylvania, Ohio to South Carolina and more. And the missions of these nonprofits vary from poverty alleviation to low-income housing, from veterans' halls to youth centers, from those that feed the hungry, to those that offer people a place to pray, to learn, to paint, or to dance.
Our mission to invest collectively in renewable energy has succeeded in investing $8.3 million, resulting in 2.8 megawatts of solar capacity, creating over $15 Million of lifetime savings for these amazing nonprofits, with over 50,000 people directly benefiting from clean energy in their community. And honestly, if you ask anyone on the RE-volv team, they’d tell you we’re just getting started.
Our Evolving Climate Justice Mission
Over the past 10 years a lot has changed. The price of solar for one, has dropped by 70%, so that’s pretty cool.
Other things have not changed like the systemic racism, classism, inequality, injustice, discrimination, and poverty that plague our country.
If anything, inequality has only gotten worse, racism more overt, and the apathy of so many, more apparent.
The RE-volv Board of Directors, staff, and I, are now undergoing the process of revising our mission to guide us for the next 10 years. In doing so we will solidify and quantify our commitment not just to the planet, but to the people on it. Not just to creating a more sustainable world, but a more equitable one.
We know that by taking back our power in our communities and on our rooftops we can create real wealth, real opportunity, and real services for the least fortunate among us, the marginalized, disenfranchised, and forgotten, and that by doing so we can create real change. The metrics we track, our ways of measuring our impact, and the way we design our programs, needs to reflect this commitment even more than they do today. Not just to alleviate climate change risks of the future. But to alleviate the poverty, inequality, and injustice that have plagued us throughout our past and still haunt us today.
After ten years of doing this, I’ve probably learned a few lessons along the way in spite of myself. Here’s a crack at trying to distill a few.
Embrace the Suck
No one starts out good at anything. As a novice, more often than not, you're going to be pretty bad at whatever you're doing. As Brene Brown put it “I believe that you have to walk through vulnerability to get to courage, therefore . . . embrace the suck.” In other words, whether it’s starting an organization, or showing up for anything in your life that’s important to you, accept that it’s going to be hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But it’s the hard things that have the biggest pay off, that give you the greatest reward. So show up, do your best to hang on during the tough moments, and see what comes of it. The worst that can happen is you learn from your missteps and are better informed for your next move.
Ask for Support
No one accomplishes anything challenging by themselves. I’m so grateful for all the support I received from day one and continue to receive. In fact, I'm often blown away by how generous people have been over the years whenever I've asked for help. From Mathias Craig agreeing to fiscally sponsor RE-volv through blueEnergy and giving me a desk in his office and invaluable nonprofit leadership advice, to Danny Kennedy inviting us to move into the New Energy Nexus office and introducing us to whatever funder or partner walked through the door. From Andy Revkin covering us in the NY Times before we had even finished our first project, to Bill McKibben and Leonardo DiCaprio tweeting about our crowdfunding campaigns. From Erica Mackie picking up the phone to chat with me about how GRID Alternatives handled whatever problem I was facing, to Matt Flannery sharing wisdom with me from Kiva's experience, while simultaneously challenging me to go harder and think bigger. From Francesca Vietor at the San Francisco Foundation taking a chance on us, giving us our first grant, to Michael Ferrante’s firm Trisolaris becoming our most significant partner in scaling our work.
Most of all, I'm blown away by the RE-volv staff, volunteers, Solar Ambassadors, supporters, and Board of Directors, some of whom have been on the board since day one, and who have poured their passion and dedication into this work for a decade.
What I've learned is that the climate movement is a supportive one and the people who helped RE-volv make it this far have known that we're only going to achieve our goals by working together.
Creativity is King
The big thing that stands out to me, that I’m always so impressed by, is the creativity of the people we’ve been blessed to work with. The people who’ve worked or volunteered for RE-volv always knew what we were trying to accomplish... but that doesn’t mean we knew how .
Thankfully when smart, passionate, creative people come together with the right attitude, they figure it out. Volunteers, board members, fellows, interns, and staff that were passionate about clean energy, rolled up their sleeves and made something happen out of nothing. From stumbling our way through our first crowdfunding campaigns on Indiegogo, to building our own crowdfunding platform, to creating our Solar Ambassador program to train college students across the country how to pitch solar, to structuring mutli-million dollar tax equity partnerships. As long as you’ve got enough passion and allow for creativity to take you where it leads you, you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.
An Investment Opportunity
RE-volv is going through an exciting, transformative moment. With a proven model, and more demand for our services than ever, we’re now seeking to raise $10 Million of recoverable grants from foundations and Donor Advised Funds to help us continue deploying solar as fast as we can. If you’re interested, take a look at this investment overview document and let me know if you’d like to chat about it.
We’re now looking for an important new staff member: our first Director of Operations . This person will be working hand in hand with me on setting the strategy for the organization, managing our finances, HR, and many of the internal operations of the organization to help us scale so that when we’re celebrating 20 years, we’ve reached greater heights than we can imagine today.
For those of you that would like to help us ratchet up our efforts to achieve even greater impact over the next ten years, I encourage you to join our monthly donor program . How about joining at the $10 per month level in honor of this auspicious occasion? For an added motivation we’re starting a book club to read Climate Courage exclusively for monthly donors. Sign up here!
At the end of the day, I hope all of you who have supported RE-volv over the years feel very honored to have helped RE-volv play the small role that it has in this much larger environmental, climate and energy justice movement that has preceded our time on this planet, and haschanged the world during our lifetime, and will continue to do so, faster and with greater impact than we can imagine.
When you hear the latest news about climate change being worse than scientists thought, or learn about a speed bump on our road to 100% renewable energy, don’t fret. Just remember that together, we can figure this out. We really can. And that when we apply our creativity to these problems collectively, we’ll not only solve climate change, and create a prosperous clean energy future for ourselves and future generations, but we’ll be able to do so in a way that creates equity, equality, and justice for everyone. Pretty exciting huh?
Thanks for all the support over these incredible 10 years. We look forward to continuing to work with you over the next 10.