Answer a Question, Help Darfur

Eric Cheung, an aspiring social entrepreneur and a recent graduate of the University of Toronto, has a big question: would you like to help the stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan?

Cheung is answering that question with an intriguing cause-related marketing approach.

He may also have the answer to a lot of urgent if less grave questions that university students in particular have at his new website,

Here’s the premise: students post questions at OneBigU. For instance, “what is the Albedo Effect?” Other students from across the world, give the answers. “The albedo of an object is the extent to which it diffusely reflects light from the sun.”

The site features Google Ads that generates revenue. A small honorarium, split out from the Google Ads revenue is put into a ledger account in the name of the answerer for each accepted response. The person may take the honorarium or donate it to Help Darfur Now, a nonprofit founded in 2005 by high school students to help address the Darfur crisis.

It’s like Yahoo Answers or the recently-retired Google Answers, only with a cause-related marketing twist.

Of course, this concept could work with almost any charity that had sufficient affinity. Cheung, who studied computer engineering and built the site with the help of a contractor, picked Help Darfur Now after coming across it on Facebook.

Right now, OneBigU needs some help. The site currently consists of not many questions and answers. I like Eric’s approach, so to help get the word out, I’ll send a copy of a 30-page report on cause-related marketing that a colleague and I gave at a nonprofit conference in Italy to whoever can identify the question that I asked at OneBigU.

But generating website traffic isn’t Eric’s only challenge. He also needs to make sure that the answers are more reliable, more helpful, more particular to a questioner’s needs than he/she could get at Wikipedia.

I wish Eric and his venture well and I expect to see much more of this social media based cause-related marketing.

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