Startup Directory


Donnel Baird ‘13BUS is the founder of BlocPower, a startup that markets and finances the installation of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies in religious institutions, small businesses, and non-profits in under-served communities. Individual and institutional impact investors are connected to solar and energy efficiency project finance opportunities via BlocPower’s online platform.

BlocPower’s mission is to connect churches and organizations in a community to use their collective power to bargain for discounts on energy-efficient products, from insulation to solar panels, which are then installed for lower electricity bills. A nonprofit arm of BlocPower trains community workers to do the construction work.  See the PBS video.

Baird based his model on a project he helped coordinate in Washington, D.C. in 2010 in partnership with the Washington Interfaith Network and a local builder’s union. Using about $2.5 million from the city’s federal stimulus funds, the group weatherized 400 houses, while training 20 formerly unemployed workers to do the work. He said the trainees received health benefits and were paid a wage high enough to sustain a family of four.

Donnel spent three years as a community organizer in Brooklyn and one year as a voter contact director for Obama For America. Donnel managed a national Change to Win campaign to leverage Dept. of Energy energy efficiency stimulus financing to create green construction jobs for out of work populations. He partnered with the Washington Interfaith Network to generate a $100m government energy efficiency investment in under-served communities in the District of Columbia. Donnel’s team negotiated similarly successful agreements in Portland, Milwaukee, and New York.

Donnel is an Open Society Foundation/ Echoing Green Fellow and a recent graduate of Columbia Business School, where he was a Board of Overseers Fellow, a member of the Sanford Bernstein Board for Leadership and Ethics, and a recipient of investment from the Eugene F. Lang Fund for Entrepreneurial Initiative. Donnel is a long suffering fan of the bitterly disappointing New York Knicks.

Read more about BlockPower in this Wall Street Journal February 2013 article or better yet, find out how you can help BlocPower make a difference at