Disappointingly to the broader nonprofit community, including many arts organizations, Amazon announced on January 18 that effective February 20, 2023, it is closing its AmazonSmile program. Established in 2013, the program had allowed Amazon users to designate a charity to receive 0.5% of the cost of their purchases. It had been a case study in establishing a “set it and forget it” ancillary revenue stream for charitable organizations. Supporters had only to pick their chosen charity and then bookmark the AmazonSmile landing page and without any further effort needed, the charity would receive quarterly payouts of those accumulated half percentages.
Amazon’s announcement explained that “the program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped. With so many eligible organizations—more than 1 million globally—our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin.”
Depending on the online shopping habits of your constituency, that impact to your organization may have been a meaningful amount of extra revenue. Here are three things your organization can do now in light of this news.
- Send a note to your email list reflecting on the news, and encourage your supporters to use AmazonSmile for any Amazon purchases they will make before February 20 (Amazon’s announcement specifies that donations will continue to accrue). And be sure to thank your supporters for choosing your charity as their AmazonSmile donation recipient in the past!
- If your organization has regular needs for general merchandise (for example, office supplies), consider creating an Amazon Wish List you can share with your supporters (this idea was directly suggested by Amazon in their announcement).
- Mention the impact the AmazonSmile donations have had on your organization, and invite your supporters to become monthly donors at amounts that offset the anticipated loss. This is the gold standard for “set it and forget it” ways for supporters to contribute financially. But be sure any monthly donors receive all the same acknowledgments and recognition as any other donor would, if not more in light of their regular loyalty.
The announcement also explained that to help charities through the transition, Amazon will issue a final “one-time donation equivalent to three months of what they earned in 2022 through the program.” Since payouts had been quarterly, it’s likely this payout will be the average of your calendar year 2022 disbursements, though we don’t have any further details about how amounts will be calculated. It wasn’t mentioned in the public announcement, but email communications sent to AmazonSmile charities indicated this final payout would be 60 to 90 days after February 20.
The closure of the AmazonSmile program is a disappointment, but do take the opportunity to engage your supporters and point them to other ways to support your organization financially.