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Development Dilemma: Amazon Smile

In our weekly column, consultants with decades of nonprofit experience answer your questions about fundraising, boards, strategy and more. To ask a question and be featured (anonymously!) in the column, email your questions to info@twbfundraising.com.

This week’s question will be answered by Amy Funk.

The Dilemma

One of our board members wants us to promote Amazon Smile as a way to meet our end of year fundraising goals.  What’s the best way to do that?

Amy’s Response

Amazon Smile and other “donation from purchase” are often popular with boards and staff who might be uncomfortable asking for gifts.  It seems so easy – people are already doing their holiday shopping online, and this way your organization benefits, too.

Unfortunately, Amazon Smile is not the best way to meet your end of the year fundraising goals.  While it is fine to have an account set up as a source of passive income, most people who give through Amazon Smile overestimate how much of their purchase actually goes to the charity they’re supporting.

For example, if one of your donors bought a $1,000 necklace through Amazon Smile, that would be a lot of money for your organization, right?  Not at all – your organization only receives 0.05%, or $5.00 from that purchase.   Yet your donor may feel like they’ve given quite a bit – they register the $1,000 as helping you meet your goals, and may give less in other ways as a result.

The second challenge is that your donors have to select Amazon Smile every single time they want their purchase to help your organization, since there is no default setting that allows a portion of their checkout total to be automatically donated.  That means you have to do a lot of work reminding them to select that option every time they visit the website.

Ultimately, the amount of time and work it would take to get every person who supports your organization and uses Amazon to select Amazon Smiles isn’t worth the small donation you’d receive.  At the end of the day, the best way to reach your end of year fundraising goals is to ask people to support you directly.


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