By Collin Lessing, JVA marketing/communications coordinator

Every time I see a commercial for the Pepsi Refresh Project running in a primetime slot I can’t help but get excited. If you haven’t heard about the program, Pepsi is awarding grants ranging from $5,000–$250,000 that will fund the community-building visions of individuals, nonprofits and businesses. Each month throughout the year, online voters will choose which projects receive grant funding.

The idea of the Pepsi Refresh Project resonates along Nonprofit Street for several reasons. The concept motivates people to think creatively about how they can improve their communities. By rewarding the best ideas as determined by the populace, Pepsi  is using the desires of its current and future customers to direct its corporate philanthropy. Hopefully other corporations will be inspired to do the same.

The Pepsi Refresh Project also represents a high-profile example of an increasingly common trend in fundraising. On Nonprofit Street, we talk a lot about social media being a valuable tool for nonprofits. The Pepsi Refresh Project is another example of how a nonprofit can put its social media to work for fundraising. Through social media networks, nonprofits have pools of people who can be quickly mobilized to vote for their causes in contests like Pepsi’s. But that’s really just where it begins. Each person in a nonprofit’s network is a potential “evangelist” for the cause and can go on to spread the word through their own networks.

As discussed in the book, Forces for Good (a popular book with noteworthy findings about high impact nonprofits), nonprofit evangelists are people who comfortably cheer about the causes in which they are involved.

A quick search showed that several of the current frontrunners in Pepsi’s grant competition are using Facebook to promote their missions. Pink Daisy Project, an organization in Bellevue, Washington that helps young women cope with breast cancer, is currently the leader in the $25,000 grant category. Interestingly enough, not only is this organization calling its Facebook fans to vote for them in the Pepsi Refresh Project, they’re also asking for votes to receive a $20,000 grant in a similar contest called Show us your Goodness sponsored by riceworks.

Successful fundraising in today’s economy may require you to change your game plan. On April 8, JVA Consulting will offer How to Engage Donors, Ask for Money and Secure a Sustainable Future, a three-hour interactive workshop that will give you proven, effective methods that any person—even someone without fundraising training—can use to engage people in your cause. If you’ve ever thought, “I could never ask for money,” this workshop is guaranteed to change your mind. Click here for more information and to register for the workshop.