More companies seem to be realizing these days that they can use their power in the marketplace to aim for goals bigger than just bottom-line-related ones. That may be because more consumers, when buying similar products, are opting to choose ones that "give back" to a charitable cause. It's an easy way to help others while doing what you normally do anyway. And, happily, people are showing they naturally want to help!

Understanding that, Pepsi has launched The Pepsi Refresh Project, a gigantic effort to help fund user-generated and grassroots efforts to improve communities—or the whole darned world, for that matter. (The company claims it'll give out a total of $1,300,000 per month!)

Best part is, this campaign is totally in the hands of the crowd. Users submit their ideas to help make something better somewhere in the world, and they get dedicated sub-sites that are shareable across Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Other users vote for the ideas they like best. For just a little bit of Pepsi's own money, you could, say, help an inspiring project get funding or provide food to critical-needs children.

This campaign isn't just refreshing from a philanthropic perspective; it happens to be refreshing for Pepsi, too. Alterian recently released a report showing that the pop/soda brand ranked first in social engagement around Super-Bowl time.

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