What the End of AmazonSmile Means for Donors
The end of the philanthropic site gives donors the opportunity to support their favorite charities in more impactful ways.
After almost a decade, Amazon announced that it will shut down its philanthropic website AmazonSmile by February 20, 2023. AmazonSmile - a website separate from but owned by Amazon.com - allowed online shoppers to direct a small portion of their eligible purchases to a charitable organization. For shoppers who were happy to find a place to make their purchases while doing good, the loss of Smile may be disappointing. By the end of 2022, Amazon reported that AmazonSmile had directed $449 million to various charities, leaving some organizations concerned about what the end of this revenue stream means for their financial future. The program was an easy win for consumers and charities, but AmazonSmile had drawbacks.
What Was AmazonSmile?
AmazonSmile drew in consumers with the promise of free funds for their favorite charities - just 0.5% on eligible purchases. Consumers were allowed to choose from any registered public charity, directing the funds donated by Amazon as they chose. Undoubtedly, the shoppers who chose (and remembered) to use AmazonSmile meant well, and some charities certainly benefited from the program. However, it is essential to remember that Amazon was the real winner in the equation.
Given the small and diluted nature of the program’s donations - shoppers were free to choose any registered 501(c)(3) to receive their 0.5% donation - most charities received low total dollar amounts. Worse, AmazonSmile tended to replace rather than augment personal giving, resulting in decreased funding for the charities selected. Smile also provided reputation-washing services for Amazon. $449 million may seem like a lot of money to donate, but it is barely a rounding error in the finances of the tech giant.
The company claims that the shift away from AmazonSmile is to move toward more impactful efforts. No detailed plans have been released, so only time will tell.
How Donors Can Move Forward
If you are concerned about the financial future of a charity you supported through AmazonSmile, consider creating a recurring donation for the organization. A recurring donation that arrives monthly or quarterly provides an organization with stability that facilitates impact. Some charities allow you to set up monthly donations directly. Charity Navigator’s Giving Basket allows you to make single or recurring contributions to charities and keep track of your giving in a centralized location.
There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of corporate programs to direct your consumer dollars to charitable organizations. However, this approach to charitable support should augment not replace your annual giving strategy.