Amazon Smile: Are Charities Smiling Back?

Amazon is the superstore of all online retailers, and to add to its never-ending repertoire of merchandise and services, Amazon launched AmazonSmile in 2013. AmazonSmile is a means for consumers to shop and donate to their favorite charities at the same time. AmazonSmile offers the same selection as Amazon—except the company will donate a 0.5 percent of the eligible purchase price to a charity of the consumer’s choosing. To date, there are over 1 million charitable organizations registered on AmazonSmile. In 2014, AmazonSmile made over $9.2 million, $5.1 million of which was donated to charitable organizations, according to GuideStar.

Requirements to Participate in AmazonSmile

Is your nonprofit organization interested in participating in AmazonSmile? Here’s what you need to know. In order for an organization to be eligible to participate, Amazon states that the organization must be registered and in good standing as a 501(c)(3) organization; the organization must be a public (not private) charitable organization;  and the organization must be located within the U.S. Organizations that participate, engage, support, encourage, promote intolerance, hate, terrorism, violence or any other illegal activities are not eligible for participation. For more details and full disclosure of all eligibility requirements, please see the Amazon Smile Participation Agreement.

Are there fees to register your organization? Nope! According to AmazonSmile’s website, there is no cost to participating organizations and there is no administrative fee or deductions from the donation amount.

What’s the catch?

There is none, but there is a downside to donors giving through AmazonSmile: it’s not the most impactful way of donating to a cause. Remember, Amazon is only donating 0.5 percent of the purchase price. The numbers translate to $100 for a $0.50 donation, $1,000 for $5 donation and $10,000 for a $50 donation. While it doesn’t hurt to have your organization listed on AmazonSmile, you don’t want that to be the sole way your donors are engaging with your organization.

“If you’re looking to make a big impact, using Smile probably isn’t your best bet. Unless you are a huge shopper, these types of giving scenarios shouldn’t be a substitute for donating directly to a charity that you’ve vetted and trust.” — Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing for Charity Navigator

Amazon isn’t the first to think of this idea of shopping while supporting charitable organizations, though. iGive, a shopping platform that gives a portion of each purchase to a charitable organization, made its first appearance in 1997. Since then, the organization has over 350,000 members, supports over 50,000 causes and has raised over $9 million. The average member gives over $100 a year.

So, is your organization smiling back at AmazonSmile? What do you think: are these types of campaigns benefitting our sector, or are they taking away from the donor’s incentive to give?

Nhu Te is editor-in-chief for NonProfit PRO. Reach her at nhute@napco.com .

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