Pepsi Refresh is the latest venture in a string of high-profile voting based grant giving. It is great to see big corporations getting more involved in the social sector and the more contests we have like this, the better. We are still in the very early stages of these contests and people are still figuring out the kinks in the system. There have been couple of issues in the current Pepsi Refresh campaign – one discussing perceived bias towards celebrity-sponsored nonprofits and another exploring whether it is proxy voting is considered “cheating.” However, we must also credit companies for coming forward and trying out various models.

This month Jolkona Foundation submitted an idea for the May voting period. I thought this was a good opportunity to write a blog post about our experience. This is not meant as a representation of what all non-profits do, rather it is a view of our journey thus far in submitting our idea to the Pepsi Refresh Challenge.

Background info on Pepsi Refresh

For those who are not aware, Pepsi Refresh ( is a contest being put on by Pepsi where it gives away large grants to US-based proposals that earn the most number of votes from the public. It is a monthly contest and so at the beginning of every month they put up a new list of projects for people to vote on.  Organizations are invited to submit a proposal the month before the voting. Submission closes either on the 15th of the month or once 1000 proposals are received for that month. Then a panel of judges review the proposals for objectionable ones and the approved ones make it to the voting stage. The grants are awarded to the top voted ideas breakdown as follows:

  • 10 X $5,000 grants
  • 10 X $25,000 grants
  • 10 X $50,000 grants
  • 2 X $250,0000 grants

That’s a cool $1,300,000 given out by Pepsi every month and Pepsi should be commended for giving out that much to support the community. In the current month, there are 1143 ideas (yes, it is more than the 1000 ideas limit because Pepsi pushes some of the ideas from previous months into the next month). If Pepsi, evenly distributed the purse across all the ideas, each one would get $1137. It is important to remember this figure and I will refer to it again later in the post.

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