A little giving by the search advertising company has gone a long way for several charities, as Google waives its usual ad fees for non-profits that qualify for its program.
By searching for various terms related to charitable work, a Google user might see an ad displayed for a charity like AdoptADoctor.org and click through to see what it's about. The important difference is unlike commercial advertisers, AdoptADoctor does not have to pay for those clicks.
USAToday reported how Google's Grants program has made this possible. The program provides free advertising for 501(c)(3) organizations.
The article cited Google VP of global online sales, Sheryl Sandburg, in stating Google has given away $33 million in advertising over the past two years. It's a trend they want to see increase. "We don't see any limit to this. We want it to continue growing," she said in the story.
There is a caveat that has snared a few applicants: they must disclose any ties they have with political advocacy groups. Those groups must be non-religious as well as non-political.
For those that do get approved, the conversion rates can be very effective. The story noted how direct mail works very well for Make-A-Wish, but percentage-wise Google has been effective at bringing donors to the site. Two to three percent of direct mail gets a response, while the Google response has been 6 percent.
Other causes like Doctors Without Borders and the Grameen Foundation USA participate in the AdWords program along with Make-A-Wish and AdoptADoctor. But the philanthropic efforts by Google go beyond the AdWords generosity.
In October 2005, Google disclosed its philanthropic arm, the Google Foundation, would be funded with 3 million shares of stock plus 1 percent of each year's profits.
The Foundation has provided $2 million toward MIT's "One Laptop Per Child" initiative, in addition to investments in Acumen Fund, TechnoServe, and Planet Read.
On the Foundation's site, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are quoted as saying they "hope that someday this institution will eclipse Google itself in overall world impact by ambitiously applying innovation and significant resources to the largest of the world's problems."