Amazon Smile: A boon to your nonprofit?
I'm not a fan of "fundraising sales" like cookie dough, pizza kits, wrapping paper, raffle tickets, or popcorn. I think they do have a place in the realm of fundraising. But while I love asking for money, I don't like doing this type of sale.

So it's probably no surprise that I've never been a fan of the shopping portals that are supposed to give donations to nonprofits. To make them successful, nonprofits need to constantly promote them, reminding their donors to change their buying habits. It really bugs me that each nonprofit turns into a volunteer sales force for that company and promotes the company brand far more than their own. I can see tremendous benefit for the company--lots of sales with little effort--but not a great return for the nonprofit--lots of effort but little donations.

Is AmazonSmile a game changer?

Now Amazon is offering AmazonSmile. Just go to http://smile.amazon.com/ and choose a charity. From then on, any eligible purchase will result in 0.5% going to the charity.

They preloaded some charities, the usual suspects like charity:water and the American Red Cross. But you can also search. I chose a startup near Boston called Amirah. Amazon made it easy to find and choose. So now, presumably, every eligible purchase I make on Amazon will result in helping more woman rescued from human trafficking heal and put their lives back together.

Here is why I think AmazonSmile can be effective: millions already are shopping at Amazon. The other tools require you to go through their link to work. People are already going to Amazon's site. They don't have to change that behavior. They just need to choose your charity and then carry on as they were before.

Still chump change

This is still chump change. I thought I was a heavy Amazon user. But in reviewing my purchases for the year, if all of them were eligible, Amirah would've received a whopping $2.50. Nothing to write home about.

But that still $2.50 more than I've given to date. And if you have thousands of people doing this, you could start seeing real money.

What's in it for Amazon?

So what's in it for Amazon? Marketing. As with any retailer, we give the money but they get the marketing credit. When Walmart says it's given a million dollars to the Children's Miracle Network, they really mean their customers have given that much. They're usually the pass through organization, not the philanthropist.

And their choice of program name is awesome: AmazonSmile and the AmazonSmile Foundation. It reminds us of the boxes we receive. And reinforces the good feeling we get in receiving them.

This type of program also helps train us to shop at their store. No longer will we get a cashier asking if we want to buy a balloon or shamrock. We'll just get the good feeling of having this work for us.

It's worth trying

Having said all that, I definitely think it's worth trying. I get to do something I already do, shop on Amazon, and have a sliver of it go to a charity I care about, Amirah. Easy enough.

If you're looking to sign up, just go to: http://smile.amazon.com/. If you don't know who to support, would you consider supporting Amirah? Just search for it. It's the only Amirah that comes up!

If you want to register your nonprofit, just go to: http://org.amazon.com/. More details of the program are available here.

What about you?

Do you see AmazonSmile as helping your nonprofit or favorite cause?


Updated 10/30/2013 at 12:01 pm: I'd incorrectly reported the percentage as "0.05%." The article has been corrected to reflect the correct amount: 0.5%. The $2.50 was correct.

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