I run a small charity (the British Dupuytren’s Society). We do not have paid membership, as we do not want to exclude people who can’t afford to pay. So we rely on voluntary donations. We have a few people who fundraise for us and are very grateful for that. But one of our main sources of income over the last few years has been AmazonSmile.
It was simple. I registered the charity at Amazon, filled in the online forms, provided proof of Charity Commission registration and bank account details. As soon as this was accepted, we were added to the list of charities on AmazonSmile. Our supporters could then search for us and nominate our charity as beneficiary for their contributions.
Each time they placed an order at Amazon, Amazon paid us a small percentage of the money people spend (0.5%). And every six months they would get the chance to nominate another charity or keep supporting us.
A lot of small charities joined this scheme, which ran in the UK and the USA.
Until now that is.
Amazon Smile to be stopped
On 19 January, all charities and customers received an email telling them that the scheme would be coming to an end in February. This is what Amazon said:
Ten years ago, we launched AmazonSmile to make it easier for customers to support their favourite charities. However, since launch, the programme has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped.
AmazonSmile represents a very small portion of the total charitable contributions made through our other programmes, which we estimate at more than £100 million in 2021.
We are writing to let you know that we plan to wind down AmazonSmile by February 20, 2023. We will continue to pursue and invest in other programmes that we know will have more impact—from providing support to families in need, to using our logistics infrastructure and technology to assist communities impacted by natural disasters.
We recognise that these are difficult times for everyone, including charities, so we are providing an additional one-time donation to participating charities equivalent to six months of what they earned through the programme in 2022, and they will also be able to accrue additional donations until the program officially closes in February. Once AmazonSmile closes, charities will still be able to seek support from Amazon customers by creating their own wish lists.
Amazon went on to list ways they will be supporting charities from now on, picking a few bigger projects and leaving small charities without their support. The money they are now spending on charities will be concentrated over a few large projects.
Will this also mean fewer staff needed at Amazon to sort out the charitable payments?
Thank you Amazon, not!
Thank you, Amazon. While the charities you will be supporting are worthwhile, we are sure, this means a drop in income for my and many other charities. Of course, there are other sites through which people can donate as they spend. We tried a few in the past, but they never took off. AmazonSmile was easy to use, and many people order through Amazon, especially since the Covid lockdowns.
I suppose that means we will have to come to terms with losing a large chunk of income.
We can, of course, set a ‘wish list’ on Amazon, as per their email. Some charities and schools already do that. They make a wish list of things they need, and supporters can pick an object and pay for it, and Amazon will deliver it to the charity.
But how does that help a charity that does not need Amazon products? Instead, we need money for leaflets, sponsorship for the annual Dupuytren Award, and for organising a charity table at a relevant conference. Setting a wish list is in no way comparable. Some charities need cat food for the cattery they run, or pens and notepads for their school; others need things that cannot be ordered from the Amazon website!
I hope small charities will survive this.
So I say it again: thank you Amazon. For withdrawing support from hundreds, if not thousands, of small charities.
If you would like to sign the petition that’s been launched, to ask Amazon to change its mind, the link is here.