How Solar Sister Is Using Salesforce and AppExchange to Bring Clean Energy to Millions of Africans

Photo Credit: Solar Sister

As a social enterprise serving more than 5,000 women entrepreneurs in Nigeria and Tanzania, Solar Sister knows what it’s like to manage an ever-changing, off-the-grid customer base. Since its founding in 2010, the Solar Sister team has been dedicated to customizing their Salesforce solution to meet these unique challenges.

Prior to COVID-19, Solar Sister had distributed more than 400,000 clean energy products and provided clean energy to more than 1.7 million people in Africa through the entrepreneurs they empower. So, when the pandemic swept its way across the nations, the nonprofit knew they were going to need to do everything they could to rally around their entrepreneurs to keep their business thriving.

While many businesses were scrambling just to survive, Solar Sister was able to seamlessly transition to working remotely because of Salesforce and the AppExchange apps they had previously deployed. Here’s how the team was able to continue through change, even in crisis.

Relying on Sales and Inventory Data to Drive Success

According to Founder & CEO Katherine Lucey, one of the key ways Solar Sister uses Salesforce is to track sales and inventory data. As the backbone of their data management system, Salesforce allows the company to see data input in completely remote areas. Though the locations their field agents work in are scattered across two countries, all of the data feeds into a central data system to give them live, real-time insights into what is happening with their business.

“If we didn’t have this kind of insight into the business and how COVID-19 was impacting our entrepreneurs, I don’t think we would have been able to continue to operate and scale in the way that we have,” Katherine says.

In addition to giving Solar Sister real-time insights into sales and inventory data, Salesforce allowed them to focus on the disruption of their entrepreneurs and their businesses, rather than any internal disruption.

Solar Sister Impact Associate Alicia Oberholzer adds, “Without Salesforce I don’t know how we would be tracking our sales, or making informed decisions that empower our entrepreneurs. And I think what sets Salesforce apart is that we can do all of this in one place, whereas if we went with a different software, we might have to have four different software programs to take care of four different processes. So, Salesforce really helps us have one source of truth for all of our business, customer, and donor data.”

Enabling Remote Data Entry

Salesforce might be the backbone of Solar Sister’s data management system, but without AppExchange app TaroWorks, the team would not be able to have access to real-time insights.

Because most areas of Nigeria and Tanzania do not have Internet access, field agents have to collect data remotely, without an Internet connection. TaroWorks saves field agents around two hours per day by allowing them to submit data, information, and reporting straight to Salesforce while working offline in these completely remote areas.

Creating a Better Customer & Donor Experience

In order to support local African women in creating sustainable businesses that spread clean energy to their communities and beyond, Solar Sister is in the process of deploying Mogli SMS, an app that will allow them to communicate with their entrepreneurs from anywhere, anytime. They hope that in addition to sending their entrepreneurs regular encouragement and business tips, they can also send out customer satisfaction surveys to see how they can improve their service experience.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the donor base Solar Sister has been able to build. Recently, the team implemented Classy for Salesforce to assist in their online fundraising campaigns.

“Classy for Salesforce has not only made our online fundraising simple and effective, but it also perfectly integrates with Salesforce,” says Katherine. “With this app, we have been able to execute more online campaigns, expand our donor base and increase the amount of fundraising coming in.”

Together, Salesforce and AppExchange have allowed Solar Sister to accomplish in 10 years what would have taken a lifetime or two to tackle: bringing clean energy to millions in Africa.

Founded in 2010, Solar Sister is a nonprofit who envisions a brighter world with clean energy that’s powered by women entrepreneurs. Their mission is to eradicate energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity. Donate at solarsister.org.

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Lauren Gaskill

Customer Marketing Manager at @salesforce @appexchange. Lover of life, writing, reading, speaking, hiking, cooking and swimming.