Google today introduced a new initiative, called Google Earth Outreach, to help charities and other nonprofit groups use maps and satellite images to raise awareness, recruit volunteers and encourage donations.

The personalized version of the application will allow non-profits to tell their stories by adding their own layers to the mapping application. Already, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has been using Google Earth. When users scan over the Darfur region of Sudan, flame icons are displayed representing destroyed villages and tents for refugee camps. Clicking on one opens a window with details and links on how to help.

“Our goal with Google Earth Outreach is to help public service organizations worldwide leverage our mapping technology to further their goals by providing tailored technical guidance and grants,” said John Hanke, director of Google Earth & Maps.
Participating organizations will receive online training in adding layers, video tutorials and case studies of how other organizations have used layers. The California-based search company hopes to make its tools more widely available to nonprofits around the world, however, initially only certain U.S. nonprofits certified by the Internal Revenue Service can apply.