Non-Governmental Imagination


SearchKindly Has A Different Model Than Goodsearch or Goodtree
February 23, 2007, 12:44 am
Filed under: Donations, GoodTree, Imagination, social responsibility, Web 2.0

A few months ago, I compared the business models and apparent legitimacy of GoodSearch and GoodTree. Recently, thanks to an email from one of the founders, I became aware of SearchKindly.

To recap previous posts about GoodSearch and GoodTree (the comments are a great read and have lots of interesting perspectives, including a response from GoodTree’s founder), GoodSearch lets you pick a charity and search either in your browser’s searchbar or on their site. Your search donates one cent to your charity of choice and you get Yahoo search results. GoodTree gives you the same search functionality, except that your choice of charity is limited to 50 or so large NGOs and instead of Yahoo seach results you get that of Infospace, a public company with an ugly history that creates private label search engines. While those are big negatives, you can create your own personalized homepage, which you can’t with GoodSearch. Both are for-profit companies that donate 50% of their revenue to the charities specified.

SearchKindly is similar to the other two in that it allows you to direct someone else’s money to charities via searching. Unlike the others, however, SearchKindly is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that says it donates 100% of its revenue to charity. Instead of Yahoo or Infospace results, you get Google search results, which I regard as top notch.

The catch is that their money comes from banner ads on the cluttered SearchKindly site. The charity of the month (picked by the founders from user suggestions) gets about 1/3 of a cent from each page view of the SearchKindly site, and nothing from the search results themselves. When you search through the downloadable SearchKindly browser searchbar and press enter, it takes you to the SearchKindly site, where you have to wait for the ads to load and press enter again to get to your search results.

They certainly have an interesting idea. Google search is the best, and the fact that GoodSearch and GoodTree didn’t have Google search powering their sites is a big downside for them. And you certainly can’t argue with 100% of revenues going to the charities, even if it seems a little too good to be true (who pays for hosting/bandwidth/coffee?).

I’m not terribly bothered by the theoretical annoyingness of the SearchKindly ads. The more advertisers they can draw there to give money to charities, the better.

But waiting for the Flash ads to load so I can press enter the second time to get to the results is surprisingly bothersome. It’s just a couple of seconds, but it seems much longer. I’ve gotten spoiled on instantaneous search, and by making me wait until the ads load, the site reminds me of The Hunger Site.

I like The Hunger Site, and I should go there every day, but I don’t. I like to feel that I’m helping the world by my actions, not by my patience, and while searching seems to be an active part of my life, visiting websites for the express purpose of being advertised to does not sound appealing.

I want SearchKindly to thrive. It has the best search results and zero overhead. I want them to keep striving and innovating. If their ads loaded as automatically as lower-paying text ads, I’d be a humongous SearchKindly supporter. As it stands now I’m pretty ambivalent about all three offerings. I have SearchKindly’s searchbar in my browser right now, and I’m going to give it a few weeks to see if I get used to the waiting and clicking twice. Although GoodTree and (especially) Goodsearch have built up name recognition by going live earlier, there is little barrier to changing search providers, so maybe SearchKindly will gain a footing.

From a business perspective, it will be interesting to see how SearchKindly does in comparison to GoodSearch and GoodTree. Per use, SearchKindly generates only 1/3 as much money to charity as the other two. So for it to become a major player in the charity search field, people have to find their service three times as useful as the others. And by “their service” I mean Google. So are Google search results worh three times as much to people as Yahoo’s or Infospace’s? Or do people even notice a difference? I do, and I’m going with SearchKindly, at least for now.

From a philosophical perspective, these are similar groups doing similar things. One is a nonprofit, the other two are for-profit, social entrepreneurial activities. Both have their pros and cons, and it will be interesting to see if one of the two revenue-distribution models gives a clear advantage to any party.

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8 Comments so far
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Hi Seth,

That was a really honest review of SearchKindly, and I appreciate it. You made some great points there, but there are a couple things I wanted to clarify so that your readers don’t get the wrong idea.

Most importantly, we do in fact donate all of the advertising revenue to charity–which means that all of the costs needed to run the site come out of the pockets of the directors. The idea that we’re running with is that Ramadev (he handles all the coding) and I donate a lot of our time in order to allow others to donate just a little of theirs.

About the lag-time with the flash ads. I’m hoping that’s just a growing pain that we have to only temporarily deal with. We were actually using Google text ads (zero lag-time) when we first started, but some overzealous users went a little click happy, which is why we had to switch over to the banners (Google shut down our AdSense account and denied our appeals to reinstate). Until we gain enough traffic to attract decent bids on the ad-market place, we’re stuck with having to use ad networks (which is the source of the lag-time). Our goal is to one day sell static ad-space directly to advertisers–and have that sale really be a donation to the site so that’s it’s cheaper for them to purchase from us in the long run.

About search results: you’re totally right about the garbage that Infospace serves, as well as the unreliability of Yahoo.

Well, I think that’s about it for now. Thanks again for your time.

Syed Karim
Founder
SearchKindly.org

Comment by Syed

Thanks for clearing things up, Syed. I really appreciate your responsiveness, and I hope others do as well.

Comment by Seth

Hi Seth,
Thank you for sharing your discovery and review about SearchKindly.org. I will check it out.

Comment by Roger Carr

Seth, thanks for the interesting overview. As an academic exercise you may also want to look at the UK’s equivalent: Everyclick: http://www.everyclick.com. Possibly because it has no competition, but also because it seems well run, it is doing very well and is apparently on target to raise $1+m for non-porfits by the end of this year.

Comment by Dave Pitchford

I read elsewhere that GoodTree is actually owned by “Ooga Labs”. Here is their website: http://www.oogalabs.com/. Ooga Labs is a $100 million company.

I like SearchKindly since they are a non-profit. GoodTree and Good Search are simply companies trying to earn a profit off of your legitimate wish to be charitable. They keep half and send the other half, supposedly, to charity.

What I don’t like is that no where on the GoodTree website do they mention that they are backed by a $100 million company. They make it sound like they got GoodTree started on a shoe-string budget, etc. but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Everyone is a suspect on the web until proven innocent. They should be more honest… honesty always pays off…

Comment by Lew Mahen

Lew, This is Eddie from GoodTree. We believe honesty always pays off, too, and we believe in transparency. The honest truth is that 1) we’re not hiding that we’re owned by Ooga Labs. it says so on the site, in our financial details section, where it is important because 2) we have been developing the site with our own money (no venture capital) and on a small budget for Silicon Valley standards, and 3) Ooga Labs is not a $100 million company.

Here are the details. You can find them again in our audited financial review, published at: http://goodtree.com/lautze/report.pdf Also in that audit, you can see that we have been developing the site on what is considered a small budget, especially for doing it in the San Francisco area: $246,366 in 2006. We have spent additional money in 2007, of course. And that amount has only been possible because everyone working on the project is taking a below market wage, and because a big legal firm named Orrick believes in us and is doing their work pro-bono. More financial information is available at http://goodtree.com/charities/financial_info . We are continuing to add to this and other sections of the site; financial transparency is a project (which will eventually become just a process), and it continues abreast of the rest of our development tasks.

As for Ooga Labs, please look carefully at the language on the official website. What it says is that we sold companies for $100 million in the past. The unfortunate fact is that venture capitalists owned a lot of it. Ooga Labs is actually about 15 people working for below market wages developing several online businesses we hope will improve the world in the areas of charity, medicine, family, local communities, and education. GoodTree is one of those ideas. We are evangelists of small, talented teams trying to solve the major challenges in the world with technology. We’re trying to do that in a sustainable and rewarding way – by trying to turn a profit at the same time. We believe it can be done.

Comment by Eddie

It doesn’t make sense to complain that GoodSearch is for profit while SearchKindly donates 100% of revenue when SearchKindly donates 1/3 of the amount of money (per search). Unless one really dislikes for profit companies on principle, the end result is that the for profit is giving more to charity that the the non-profit.

I’m not criticizing SearchKindly for not giving more, they are doing the best they can. I’m merely pointing out the end result of using either site.

Comment by Alan Swift

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