Oblatoo & Google: a New Twist on Search and Charity

Well, some folks from my high school, Atlantic College in Wales, have developed an interesting concept. Oblatoo, a non-profit, uses Google search results and for every search you make one penny is pledged to a charity of your choice. Because of the Atlantic College connection, I had to select RNLI as my charity of choice.

I like it. Get GOOG search results–good. Help charity–good. What I don’t understand is the model behind the business. When I searched I saw no ads. I clicked no ads. Yet the pledge amount of charitable giving to RNLI went up by a penny. What’s going on? I’ll have to ask the team.

Update: revenue (as expected) comes from CPC ads. Unfortunately, it seems like they are now moving to 1c per search because the penny pledge didn’t cover the search revenue. As for why I would see some ads on google.com for a given search query but not see them on oblatoo.com for the same query, the answer is not clear but boils down to something with the GOOG AdSense algorithms.

The site has been in existence since January but only recently did they do the deal with Google. So far, their traffic has been minuscule and less than £1,000 has been raised. Personally, I cannot imagine many people remembering to go to this site instead of their favorite major search engine. Therefore, the best chance for Oblatoo is to find a way to insinuate itself into the search starting spot, either by driving a campaign for people to set it as their home page or as the default search engine in IE (this is easy to do in IE7) or Firefox. (I’m sorry Mac users, but Safari doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of charitable giving.) I’m surprised that Oblatoo hasn’t built search extensions already.

What Oblatoo is doing is similar to what many other non-profits such as Boston’s WBUR radio station are doing–finding ways to insert themselves into the e-commerce or advertising value chain. WBUR does it as an Amazon affiliate. I sometimes shop through them but more often than not I forget and go straight to Amazon.com or use the Amazon search in my browser.

About Simeon Simeonov

I'm an entrepreneur, hacker, angel investor and reformed VC. I am currently Founder & CTO of Swoop, a search advertising platform. Through FastIgnite I invest in and work with a few great startups to get more done with less. Learn more, follow @simeons on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.
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3 Responses to Oblatoo & Google: a New Twist on Search and Charity

  1. Andy D says:

    Hi Simeon,

    Thanks for the great article, glad you like the idea, you raise some very pertinent points that we are trying to address. It takes time though as this is a not for profit idea and we both have full time jobs!

    The idea is very simple really, we get paid a share of the advertising revenue from Google each time someone clicks on a sponsored link and we use this to cover the pledged donations of 1p per search.

    At the moment the revenue is not quite covering the donations so we are considering switching to 1cent/search (also as our revenue is in $) but either way we expect to give over 90% of our revenue to charity given our low running costs.

    If you have any other queries please contact me on the email address provided.

    Thanks again and happy searching!

    Andy

  2. heidi says:

    Goodsearch.com has been around a while, has a huge list of npo’s, and claims 100 a day register. I’ve seen the search bar on many organizations’ web sites. This one is powered by yahoo.

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