CollectiveSun has been helping nonprofits fund solar projects since 2011. We believe all nonprofits should have access to clean renewable energy. Our team of experts understands the financing challenges faced by nonprofits better than anyone else. Our proprietary funding models were designed to minimize your nonprofit’s time and effort while providing the least expensive funding options available. IRS rules unfairly dictate that nonprofits are excluded from utilizing tax benefits because of their tax-exempt status. However, CollectiveSun’s innovative financing model applies tax credits that reduce the cost of nonprofit solar projects by 12%!

There Are 5 Options to Fund a Solar Project

  • Loans: A loan can come from a variety of sources including:
    Existing Bank Relationships: nonprofits can approach their current mortgage holder or any other bank they wish with assistance from CollectiveSun.
    Program Related Investment Loans (PRIs): allow foundations to make socially aligned investments as loans that offer favorable rates of return when compared to stock market investments.
    Nonprofit Specialty Lender Loans: if the project loan amount is over $250,000 CollectiveSun works with several nonprofit specialty lenders who are nonprofits themselves. These lenders like our solar financing structure and offer low-interest rates because of their mission-alignment with helping other nonprofits. We are happy to provide no-obligation introductions to our nonprofit specialty lenders upon request.
  • Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE): loans are repaid as an assessment on the nonprofit’s property tax bill. A lien is placed on the property to secure the loan.
  • Reserves: money in the bank, cash in hand, is the simplest option, if available.
  • Donations: nonprofit leaders can go to their supporters asking for another round of donations.
  • CrowdLending: a direct loan from the supporters of the nonprofit to the nonprofit itself with principal and interest repaid annually using the saving from the solar project. Because it’s a direct loan between the nonprofit and its supporters (investors), the interest rate can be set at the discretion of the nonprofit, anything between 0%-8%.

Solar Power Agreement (SPA)

Under traditional “full cost” PPAs, a large bank, a Wall Street Investor or another unaffiliated entity is profiting from the financing of your nonprofit or tax-exempt organization’s solar project. CollectiveSun’s SPAs differ because they are funded by community members who profit from the transaction, thereby keeping dollars in the community.

Regardless of who is funding your project, someone’s making money on the transaction. CollectiveSun believes the community members should be that ``someone`` because…

  • The community will evaluate the default risk of their nonprofit or the tax-exempt organization lower than a traditional financing company and will accept a lower interest rate.
  • Keeping dollars local and having supporters of the nonprofit or tax-exempt organization benefit is better than sending profits to a large bank or a Wall Street investor.

Another way of looking at it

Getting financing from a large bank or traditional solar financing company means your nonprofit or tax-exempt organization is going to be paying a lot more in the long run because banks categorize nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations as “risky” investments and to mitigate the perceived risk, they attach exceptionally high interest rates to the transaction. Going to your community and using the CollectiveSun CrowdLending platform means your nonprofit or tax-exempt organization will pay substantially less and your community members are the ones that will benefit.


CollectiveSun believes the time to ask for donations is when your investors are receiving their loan repayments. During the annual loan repayment notification process, when CollectiveSun informs community members their loan repayments are arriving and how much principal and interest they’ve earned during the year, we offer them an opportunity to donate all or a portion of their repayments back to the nonprofit or tax-exempt organization they love and support. This unique component of CollectiveSun’s CrowdLending campaign provides nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations with an opportunity to “double dip” from a singular investment. The nonprofit or tax-exempt organization receives the initial loan amount to fund the solar project and then charitable donations are received when these same funds are paid back annually to the investors.

Sample Project

A church in New York wanted to reduce their energy bills with clean, renewable energy. They also wanted to demonstrate their commitment to Creation Care Theology by supporting environmental causes. They decided to use an installer who gave them a bid of $200,000 for a 60kW system that will reduce their energy bill by 75%. The pastor looked at all available funding options. He didn’t have enough money in reserves to pay for the system outright. Two banks told him his loan request was too risky with a third bank offering an 11% loan. The pastor didn’t want to go to his supporters asking for another round of donations. Instead, he decided to utilize CollectiveSun’s CrowdLending campaign which allowed the pastor to ask his supporters for a loan to fund the solar project. Projects like these could help raise money for inexpensive medicines. He informed his supporters the loan would be paid back annually over 10 years with a 5% return on their investment, the church would take possession of the system at no additional cost in just 6 years, the SPA would allow the church to lock in a discounted energy rate 75% less than what they were currently paying for 25+ years which protects them against any utility rate increases. Best of all, the church only needed to raise $170,000 because CollectiveSun was able to apply tax credits to reduce the cost by 15% (a $30,000 saving). That’s money they could use to build a new playground. At the end of the 25+ year life of the solar system, this church will end up saving $500,000 or more!

When asked for his opinion at a Board a meeting CollectiveSun attended a very excited Pastor responded: “You mean to tell me CollectiveSun allows my Church to utilize the tax credits I otherwise couldn’t, I don’t have to once again go to my flock and ask them for more donations, any money given is a loan they’ll get back with interest, and the annual repayments on that loan are sometimes donated back to the church?” Answer: YES

If you too would like to learn how much money CollectiveSun can save your nonprofit or tax exempt organization, click here.

Team Members


Dr. Philipp Herzog, Chief Executive Officer at CollectiveSun®, LLC, is an experienced management consultant to leading international clients in areas such as strategy, finance, and development of emerging PV technologies. His prior clients include Bayer AG, Škoda Auto a.s., and Evonik Industries. Philipp holds a PhD and Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Münster, Germany, and has developed Sunforce’s unique multi-layer software tool that can analyze renewable energy projects from various perspectives to provide different investor types and stakeholders (e.g. tax equity investors or sponsor equity investor) with specific information (return, payback, risk etc.) relating to their investment.


Matthew Brennan is the VP of Sales at CollectiveSun®, LLC where he manages all aspects of installer and customer relationships, sales and project development. Matt has extensive experience in commercial solar sales, nonprofit solar financing and project management. Prior to CollectiveSun, he worked as an industrial engineer for a network equipment manufacturer, a sales engineer for electronic equipment manufacturers and an operations manager for an industry-leading mechanical engineering magazine. Matt enjoys working with nonprofit executives and solar professionals alike to help bring clean energy to the nation’s nonprofits and forward the decarbonization of the grid. Matt holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of New Hampshire.


Jens Herzog, Chief Operating Officer at CollectiveSun®, LLC, is a former leading sales executive at SunTechnics Energy Systems Inc. (Conergy AG) who has sold many MWs of PV systems in California. He built the Sales Department for Conergy in the U.S. and sold the first residential and commercial solar systems for them. Among his clients were national grocery chain, a non-profit food bank, and other commercial entities in the U.S. Jens was instrumental in establishing the German American Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco and consulted and advised leading German solar companies on the renewable energy markets in the U.S. He is a German lawyer.


Nicole Withrow is Account Manager for CollectiveSun, and she brings with her over 25 years in the tertiary sector from Los Angeles, California to the rural Midwest. She is an experienced sales manager, contract administrator, and fulfillment coordinator. Nicole is dedicated to developing strong relationships with contractors and nonprofits in her role as Account Manager at CollectiveSun by empowering them with resources and providing the support they require as they navigate their journey to solar. She  believes passionately that: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors – we borrow it from our children.” A proud mother of two, Nicole resides on an organic farm in the rural Midwest in the heart of amish country.


Lee Barken, CPA, LEED-AP is the Chief Community Officer at CollectiveSun, LLC. He has broad industry experience in renewable energy project finance, environmental commodities consulting and public policy analysis. He is dedicated to helping nonprofits and social ventures develop economically viable energy projects. Lee writes and speaks on the topics of renewable energy project finance, social entrepreneurship, and community financing. Lee plays an active role on the board of directors of Cleantech San Diego and the Impact Investment committee at San Diego Grantmakers. Lee received a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from San Diego State University where he graduated with honors and academic distinction.


Lindsay Harmon, Marketing Manager at CollectiveSun, LLC, has spent her career in the nonprofit sector connecting individuals to opportunities for community impact, whether through art, public radio, or urban revitalization. She has worked as a marketing professional for nonprofit organizations including the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and Minnesota Public Radio. Lindsay is an active volunteer, Marketing Committee Chair, and Advisory Board Member with the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of San Diego where she assists the organization by designing creative programming and strengthening her relationships with Nonprofit leaders in San Diego. Lindsay served two years with AmeriCorps as a Volunteer Coordinator for a rebuilding organization in post-Katrina New Orleans and then worked in St. Paul, MN as a Tutor Coordinator for St. Paul Public Schools. Lindsay holds a B.A. in Graphic Design and Marketing from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.


Cheyenne Huffor is the Project Manager at CollectiveSun, LLC. She brings several years of financing experience in both residential and consumer lending. Although she started her finance journey on the East Coast, she has come to love everything San Diego has to offer. In her spare time, she likes to paint, hike and try new restaurants. She graduated from the University of Maine with a Bachelor’s in Social Work and now pursues her dreams of being able to help better the lives of others financially. Cheyenne collects and analyzes all required documents throughout the whole timeline of the project process and creates solutions to enhance the client experience.

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Emery Zaleski is the Project Coordinator at CollectiveSun, LLC. She is experienced in the solar industry and is driven by her passion for renewable energy. She takes great pride in providing excellent customer service and is dedicated to supporting nonprofits. Emery’s role at CollectiveSun includes collecting and analyzing all required documents throughout the project timelines, ensuring an efficient process and client satisfaction.

Emery has a Bachelor of Science in Alternative Energy Engineering from Penn State University and is happy to share in CollectiveSun’s commitment to contributing to a sustainable future.

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Taichi Koga is the Marketing Specialist at CollectiveSun, LLC with several years of experience in both traditional & digital marketing, consumer research & analysis, and PPC management. He graduated from the University of California, Berkley with a B.A. in Economics and has constructed on-brand content while analyzing marketing metrics for companies, both domestic and international, such as Microsoft and Panasonic.

Taichi was born in Japan, but was raised right here in San Diego. In his spare time, Taichi enjoys brewing his own coffee and listening to live music (pre-pandemic).


Sara Carbone is the Content Marketing Manager at CollectiveSun®, LLC. She has worked in the alternative energy industry as a marketer, copywriter, blogger, and software developer for the past five years. Sara has written for companies such as Aurora Solar, A&R Solar, naak, inc. and her work has been published by Solar Power World. She researches and writes about issues and trends relevant to professionals in the renewable energy field and has worked with companies to develop marketing materials that increase web traffic, educate, and generate brand awareness. Sara helps spread awareness about solar and CollectiveSun’s unique benefits for  nonprofit organizations. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University.


Craig Hunt, Board Chair at CollectiveSun®, LLC, brings over 40 years of experience in oil & gas, wind and solar projects. As a co-founder of Solar Power Partners Inc. and advisor on the founding of SunLink Corp., he has pioneered the development and utilization of PPAs as a primary financing instrument for the solar PV industry, having negotiated many dozen PPAs, including a master PPA with Safeway, a leading national grocery chain. Craig also utilized the sale and leaseback structure for one of the first solar PV project funds in the US. He worked as Senior CPA Manager at Arthur Anderson overseeing numerous leasing transactions, each requiring IRS letter rulings, and as Adjunct Professor of Tax at Golden Gate University. He was also a Navy Jag officer attached to the naval base at Treasure Island and retired there as a Commander.

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