if you could use a search engine to spread the word about your
nonprofit or rally your constituents to raise money for your
cause — all without spending a cent?
Within the past few years,
search engines have devised new systems and programs to help
nonprofits, schools, and charities benefit from the advertisements that
appear whenever anyone enters a search term.
Two search engines offering such services are GoodSearch
, which funnels 50 percent of its ad-generated revenue to various
nonprofits each time one of their supporters types in a new search
term, and Google,
whose Grants program allows nonprofits to spread their messages to a
wider audience by providing them with free advertisements that show up
alongside Google search results.
These two programs are helping
thousands of nonprofits raise funds and generate awareness, all without
requiring existing and potential supporters to expend any extra effort.
if your nonprofit's constituents and supporters could donate money to
your organization each time they conducted a simple Web search. That's
the idea behind GoodSearch, a Los Angeles-based search engine that
diverts nearly 50 percent of its ad-generated revenue to various
charities, nonprofits, and educational institutions throughout the
Launched in November 2005 through a partnership
with Yahoo, GoodSearch is powered by Yahoo's search engine and
therefore returns the exact same results as its better-known partner.
But unlike Yahoo, GoodSearch features a field where visitors can enter
their favorite nonprofit or educational institution, essentially naming
that organization as the beneficiary of the money their searches earn.
search engines make money primarily by hosting advertisements that
appear based on keywords in a user's query; for instance, typing
"donation software" might return ads from commercial software vendors
and organizations that accept donated cars. Whenever a user clicks one
of these sponsored links the advertiser pays the search engine a
certain amount of money for the referral.
links, also served up by Yahoo, generate revenue in the same manner as
ads featured on other search engines, only the service donates half of
this money to user-specified nonprofits.
"When I read that
Internet search engines generated close to $6 billion in advertising,"
said GoodSearch co-founder Ken Ramberg, "I thought to myself, 'What if
even a fraction of that money could go toward good causes?'"
GoodSearch only makes money when someone clicks an ad, it will disperse
funds to a user's charity of choice every time they conduct a Web
search — regardless of whether they have clicked a sponsored link.
"It's really an effortless way for people to support their favorite
charity or school," said Ramberg.
GoodSearch estimates that each
time a nonprofit's supporter conducts a unique Web search, an
organization will receive approximately one cent. And while this might
not sound like a substantial amount of money, organizations that
persuade the majority of their constituents to regularly use GoodSearch
will find that the pennies can add up quickly. A nonprofit with 1,000
supporters who each perform two GoodSearch queries per day, for
example, would earn more than $7,000 in just one year.
Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy
(FSMA) — an organization dedicating to fighting spinal muscular atrophy
and supporting the families of those suffering from the disease — has
raised nearly $800 in just a few months by encouraging its supporters
to regularly use GoodSearch.
"It is a terrific passive fundraiser
from our perspective," said FSMA Communications Coordinator Lenna
Scott, "one that does not require a lot of extra effort to gain a
Ironically, Scott didn't even realize someone
had registered FSMA with GoodSearch in December 2005. But after
learning about GoodSearch in a magazine and checking its database,
Scott found that one of FSMA's supporters had already added the
organization to its charity listsing. Once FSMA realized it could
benefit from GoodSearch, it began a full campaign in April 2006, using
email and newsletter requests to rally supporters.
to regularly remind members and supporters to use GoodSearch in hopes
of keeping its fundraising momentum going. Though the organization
still relies on more traditional fundraising methods such as
letter-writing campaigns and garage sales, Scott does not downplay the
value of using GoodSearch. "Next year FSMA will fund over $5 million in
research," she said, "and every cent we raise makes a difference."
estimates that approximately 15,000 nonprofits are actively using
GoodSearch to raise money, and that about 100 new organizations are
added to the site each day. U.S.-based nonprofits that don't already
appear in GoodSearch's charity listings can fill out a form to be added
to its database. In the future, GoodSearch hopes to expand its free service internationally.
attributes GoodSearch's growing popularity in part to word-of-mouth
referrals, which have helped it reach Web surfers and nonprofits alike.
GoodSearch's site provides a prewritten "Tell A Friend" email form,
which individuals and organizations can use to alert others about the
service. GoodSearch enthusiasts can also promote the search engine by
attaching a message to their email signatures or by adding a GoodSearch link and logo to their Web sites or blogs.
The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network
(FAAN), a nonprofit formed to raise awareness about food allergies and
help increase research about them, promoted GoodSearch to 30,000 of its
members via its newsletter; staffers also promote the service by
attaching a blurb about GoodSearch to their outgoing email signatures,
according to Anne Munoz-Furlong, FAAN's founder and CEO.
FAAN's efforts have yielded promising results; at publication time, the
organization had raised nearly $500 in about eight months.
believes that FAAN's supporters have fully embraced the search engine,
thanks in part to its low-maintenance approach. "This program takes
little time to set up," she said, "and supporters know each time they
search on the Internet, they are doing something to help FAAN."
Munoz-Furlong also praised GoodSearch for providing helpful
instructions, as well as for its overall impact on the nonprofit sector.
a world where funding for nonprofits is becoming more difficult to
secure," said Munoz-Furlong, "programs like GoodSearch are helping make
a difference across a broad range of organizations who are trying to
GoodSearch, search giant Google is also leveraging sponsored listings
to help nonprofit organizations. But rather than channeling revenue
earned by ad clicks to organizations, the Google Grants program offers
nonprofits publicity by providing them with free Sponsored Links, ads
that appear to the right of the search-results page whenever a user
submits a Google query containing certain keywords.
Although the Google Foundation — the
search engine's philanthropic division — forms partnerships and donates
money to a select group of nonprofits, it doesn't accept unsolicited
funding requests. On the other hand, any United States-based
organization with 501(c)3 status or qualifying organizations in a dozen
other nations are eligible to apply for a Google Grant by completing an
online form. (To see application guidelines and details for individual countries, visit the Google Grants Program Details page).
its inception in 2003, the Google Grants program has provided free
advertising to than more than 1,500 nonprofits around the world. All
told, the search engine accepts about 80 percent of the organizations
that apply for the program. To maximize the number of nonprofits it can
work with, Google Grants are set to expire after three months, though
many organizations remain in the program for much longer.
Sandberg, Google's Vice President of Global Online Sales and
Operations, suggests that nonprofits wishing to be awarded a Google
Grant familiarize themselves with the basics of the program, as well as
with AdWords, the search engine's proprietary online client-managed
Google Grants applicants are asked to provide
a list of suggested keywords and ad copy, as well as a personal
statement explaining how participating in the program will help their
organization. To help nonprofits increase their chances of submitting a
successful application, Google's AdWords Information
page offers a fair amount of advice on choosing the most relevant
keywords for your organization's audience and crafting compelling ad
"Google Grants recipients use their award of free AdWords
advertising on Google to achieve various goals, whether it's to raise
awareness about an issue, increase Web traffic, or reach new donors or
potential volunteers," Sandberg said.
Nonprofits that are awarded
a Google Grant are responsible for managing their ad during its run,
but Google helps nonprofits get their campaigns off the ground. "We
provide grantees with a model for a successful campaign upon their
start in the program," Sandberg said, "and provide grantees with the
tools to monitor and evaluate their campaign performance so they can
make ongoing adjustments and updates."
notes that the Google Grants support team is available to answer
grantees' questions and offer general advice about choosing keywords
and writing ad text.
The Literary Center Education Network
(LCEN), an organization that provides free online literacy lessons to
help parents and teachers educate their children, has seen a marked
increase in traffic since it received a free Google ad in May 2005.
According to Linda Hahner, LCEN's founder and CEO, more 125,000 people
have clicked the organization's Google ad, helping LCEN to increase its
"Since our primary users are children with the greatest
needs, this grant has proven to be invaluable in that it has helped
many more parents and teachers find us," said Hahner. She notes that
since the ad has been running, LCEN has seen a traffic spike in its two
traditionally busiest months (January and September), and sometimes
serves as many as 1.8 million literacy lessons per day.
found the Google Grants application process painless and was notified
of its acceptance within a month, according to Hahner. "The process was
surprisingly efficient and extremely egalitarian," she stated. "Google
seems to measure results more than anything else, so a small grassroots
organization can compete with larger, better-funded efforts."
also praised the Google Grants support staff for helping LCEN find the
keywords that would best attract its target audience. "Their team
actually must have played with our lessons before suggesting words for
our Ad Campaign," she said, "because the keywords they
suggested — 'Learn to Read,' and so on — were spot on."
attracting more visitors to its site, LCEN's Google ad has allowed it
to better retain visibility after a commercial vendor of
literacy-instruction materials purchased the dot-com version of its
LCEN's Google Grant has played a role in helping the
small organization hold its ground against a deep-pocketed corporation,
says Hahner, who thinks the search engine's program is a "wonderful
gift to the nonprofit community."
No matter what kind of good
deeds your nonprofit does or which community it serves, GoodSearch and
Google Grants can help it earn much-needed funds or attract new supporters and volunteers , even if its budget is nearly nonexistent. And after all, it's not every day that your nonprofit gets something for free.
About the Author:
Brian Satterfield is Staff Writer at TechSoup.
Copyright ©2006 CompuMentor. This work is published under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.