November 6, 2017

Startup brings funding transparency to global philanthropy

Successful Sunlight Payments tests in Africa help ensure funds reach local communities

SEATTLE, WA -- Sunlight Payments has successfully tested a new platform to enhance controls and accountability for philanthropic funding and grants. Pathfinder International, a women’s reproductive health non-governmental organization (NGO) working in 19 countries, was selected as the pilot customer for the test because of their existing strong accounting systems. Sunlight Payments is backed by an investment from Bill Gates, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch is its financial services provider.

Sunlight Payments and Pathfinder International used the new platform to move monies from the NGO’s U.S. office in Watertown, MA to country offices in Tanzania and Uganda. Unlike traditional paper payment methods, the pilot electronically tracked the follow-on payments down the distribution chain to vendors and partners in local communities in each country. This approach allowed Pathfinder staff to have visibility into payments across all parties. Those participating in the pilot moved monies between the Sunlight platform and their bank accounts, in the currency of their choice.

“The successful test of Sunlight Payments means organizations can now have greater confidence as they distribute donor funds to fulfill their missions,” said Aaron Sparks, Sunlight Payments' CEO. “Pathfinder has been a thought leader in payments and controls, including a number of mobile wallet initiatives. This experience made them an ideal partner for our initial pilot.”

“We were thrilled to partner with Sunlight on an innovative approach to enhance financial transparency” said Pathfinder CFO Linda DeNicola. “We are always looking for ways to ensure we’re managing and controlling our donors’ funds in the most efficient way possible. We were excited to see the enhanced controls and cost savings delivered by Sunlight’s platform.”

Pathfinder’s use of the new platform allowed it to reduce the total burden of processing the payments for the grant program while increasing visibility into the transaction process. These savings were achieved through the platform’s unique approach to payment transfers and through the cross-currency payments products delivered by the Global Transaction Services business at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The bank has been a strong supporter of Sunlight Payments since its inception, providing banking services to assist Sunlight in sending the much-needed funds to the end recipients.

“We are proud to support Sunlight Payments in their mission to transform how charitable payments can be made,” said Bank of America Chief Operating Officer Thomas Montag. “We look forward to continuing to work with them and NGOs on transacting essential payments to people living in some of the most challenging places in the world.”

Sunlight Payments assembled a team of payment, fraud detection and distributed systems experts from KPMG, Deloitte, and Amazon to deliver upon this first test platform. “Over the past two years this world-class team developed a solution that will revolutionize the way payments are distributed to provide essential services in the field,” said Sunlight Payments CTO Eric Merritt.

The Sunlight Payments system provides:

  • Transparency tracking and attribution across payment distribution chains;

  • Prevention and detection of fraud across an extensive library of over 40 procurement fraud schemes and attributes;

  • Tools for identifying trusted, reliable vendors; and

  • Cost reductions achieved through an optimization of bank and foreign exchange fees.

The successful completion of the pilot allows Sunlight Payments to begin fully marketing the system to philanthropic organizations worldwide. For more information on Sunlight Payments, visit: www.sunlightpayments.com. For Tanzania photos and b-roll taken by Pathfinder International and Sunlight Payments crews, visit: www.sunlightpayments.com/media

 

 

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