AmazonSmile Not So Smiley For NonProfits

It’s Amazon Prime Day! Has your non-profit been strategizing how to best cash-in on it’s Smile account?

Amazon Prime Day, an occasion to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the retail behemoth, while promoting the subscription to it’s Prime service, is THE summer “holiday” for some. Last year alone, Prime Day brought in $2.41 billion for Amazon – almost half of what is spent on the long-standing king of consumerism, Black Friday.

Whether cashing in on sales is a more practical spend of time and money than barbecue and fireworks with the family is not a debate I care to pick-up…

The concerning part of Prime Day for me, is the push by non-profits for their supporters to “give” through the online retailers give-back program, AmazonSmile. The program allows supporters to visit smile.amazon.com, shop as usual, and have 0.5% of their purchase cost donated back to their charity of choice.

With Prime Day bringing in close to $2.5 billion, why shouldn’t your non-profit look for it’s piece of the pie?

Here are three reasons why a Prime Day campaign by your non-profit may actually hurt your fundraising efforts:

  1. It really doesn’t add up to much. The return is 0.5%. That’s all. A supporter would have to spend $2,000 for you to receive $10 from Amazon. Sure, $10 is better than $0, but you’ll see in my next points how you could be shooting yourself in the foot by putting too much emphasis on this kind of “giving.”
  2. You’re wasting your attaboys. AmazonSmile gives supporters a false sense of philanthropic impact according to social exchange theory. If your donors think they are doing their part by designating your non-profit as their charity of choice when shopping, they may not feel as compelled to give directly to your organization. Don’t you think you could effectively move a $2,000 shopper to give more than $10 to a cause he cares about? It becomes a lot more difficult if the donor feels he has already sufficiently shown his support through that $10 donation on AmazonSmile.
  3. It takes work (despite hype to the contrary). AmazonSmile¬†does take effort on the part of your supporters and staff. Using AmazonSmile involves behavior change. It’s minor, but nonetheless significant. Shoppers must actively use smile.amazon.com rather than the more familiar amazon.com in order to have the option of participating in the program. While this is a small change, it is still a change – and an ask. You are asking supporters to take action. As such, campaigning to drive supporters to smile.amazon.com competes with your annual giving, volunteer recruitment, social media engagement, capital campaign and all other donor campaigns.

Before you schedule your hourly social media posts, emails and live videos to promote AmazonSmile, be sure to ask yourself: what are we hoping to achieve and what are the opportunity costs? AmazonSmile may not be as much of a no-brainer as it is billed.

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