The Save to Give Challenge — brought to residents by Focus on Energy with program support from CEE — focuses on empowering communities to save energy while investing in local organizations. By changing a few daily habits and making some cheap to low-cost updates, participating residents could reduce their own energy bills and contribute toward the energy challenge goal of raising up to $25,000 in support of local nonprofits.
The simple energy challenge framework and community award approach had tremendous potential to foster enthusiasm and motivate energy-saving behaviors. When the pilot program launched in 2020, however, the pandemic posed a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. How could Save to Give engage communities when it wasn’t safe to go out into those communities? With some creativity and trust in the pilot’s possibilities, the Save to Give team went forward with its phase I campaigns in Bayfield County and the City of Lodi and made impressive headway despite the initial challenges.
In Lodi, the Save to Give Challenge raised $10,018 across the two eight-week campaigns that ran during the pilot’s first phase. By the end of the challenge, the program had 138 participating households, an impressive 12% of the community that program staff were able to engage mostly via virtual events and online promotions. The City’s Mayor, Ann Groves-Lloyd, thought the program was exactly what was needed to incentivize and inspire change in the community. “This has been a win-win,” she said. “Our residents learned about energy savings in their own homes and, by changing their behaviors, have generated donations to three important Lodi nonprofits.”
“Our residents learned about energy savings in their own homes and, by changing their behaviors, have generated donations to three important Lodi nonprofits.”
Once pandemic restrictions loosened and vaccines were available to ensure the safety of community interactions, in-person events and networking gave phase II of the pilot even greater momentum. In Mount Horeb and New Richmond, Save to Give staff knocked on a combined total of over 250 homes to give a face and personalized connection to the campaigns that had previously been communicated only on yard signs and online.
The Focus on Energy program was also able to table at and even sponsor vital community events, from fairs that featured local artists to a St. Patrick’s Day parade to frozen turkey bowling! Residents’ curiosity about and interest in the program has boomed with this expanded reach. In just one campaign, Mount Horeb community members raise $4,110; New Richmond residents were able to generate $9,528 in the two campaigns they’ve participated in to date.
The City Administrator of New Richmond, Noah Wiedenfeld, explained that the Save to Give Challenge was able to tap into the community’s history of generosity and interdependence. “Local businesses and individuals support one another — whether it’s raising thousands of dollars in support of its local homeless shelter, volunteering to improve the parks and trails system, or making meals for a family in need. New Richmond is a community that cares.”
Becoming a part of that community spirit in-person has invigorated the Save to Give Challenge and given the program renewed promise for its remaining pilot campaigns to come in New Richmond and Mount Horeb. Through 2022 as Focus on Energy establishes its priorities for the next four years, results of this pilot may influence future community programs.