Give to charity just by searching the Web
An Internet search engine aims to make philanthropy as easy as surfing the Web.
NEW YORK (FORTUNE Small Business Magazine) -- Attention, would-be philanthropists: Ken Ramberg knows you're busy. He knows that you mean to write checks to help hurricane victims and you want to raise money for your kid's school. He also knows that those good intentions don't always materialize into cash for worthy causes.
To make charitable giving easier, Ramberg, 41, and his sister, JJ, recently launched GoodSearch.com, an Internet search engine that aims to make philanthropy as easy as surfing the web.
GoodSearch.com is powered by Yahoo! and raises money for charities using a model similar to paid searches on Yahoo or Google: Advertisers pay a fee whenever Internet users click on a given link. Last year search engines generated almost $6 billion through such searches. In the GoodSearch.com version, a sliver of that goes to a nonprofit the computer user designates.
Ramberg estimates that each search sends about one cent to a given charity. That may not seem like much, but if 500 supporters pledge to raise money for, say, a school, and each searches the web five times a day, that comes to $9,125 a year.
GoodSearch is the latest socially minded venture by Ramberg. In 1988 he and his mother, Connie Ramberg, co-founded Jobtrak, a job-listing site and resume database for college students. The company didn't give any of its revenues to charity, but it allowed nonprofits to post their job listings free. In 2000, Ramberg and his mom sold the company to Monster.com for an undisclosed sum.
A year later Ken and JJ lost their mother to cancer, an experience that helped spark the idea for GoodSearch.com. "We dealt with a lot of cancer-research organizations and hospitals and became aware of how desperately they were in need of funding," Ramberg says.
He began looking for ways to combine his passions for the Internet and charity. He got the idea for GoodSearch in 2004 and started hiring programmers soon after. In its first week the company was contacted by some 500 nonprofits; today the GoodSearch.com site lists more than 800,000. Ramberg set the company up as a for-profit, though he takes no salary and donates 50% of annual revenues to charity.
He doesn't doubt that his mom would approve. "She was very proud of what we accomplished at Jobtrak," he says. "And I think she'd be even more proud of what we're doing now."
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