AmazonSmile Nonprofit Support Program Cancelled
The days of “feel-good shopping,” as online shopping service Amazon described its automatic nonprofit donation program, are coming to an end. The Seattle-based corporation is pulling the plug on AmazonSmile on February 20, according to a “Dear Customer” note published on the company’s website. AmazonSmile is a program that donates 0.5% of the sale price of selected merchandise to a variety of charities.
“After almost a decade, the program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped,” company officials wrote on the note. “With so many eligible organizations — more than 1 million globally — our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin.”
As part of the wind-down process, Amazon will be making a one-time donation equal to three months of what each nonprofit received during 2022 through the program. An Amazon spokesperson clarified this as meaning 25% of total donations made during 2022, as opposed to cherry picking a three-month period which might or might not include the run-up to the December holidays.
AmazonSmile had generated more than $400 million for more than 1 million United States nonprofits, according to the AmazonSmile homepage. Published reports put worldwide donations, including the U.S. figures, at more than $449 million. Donations were usually transferred to individual nonprofits 45 days after the end of each calendar quarter. Sales of items which were later returned were not included in the donations. Amazon did not share any customer data with any of the organizations benefitting from purchases, even if a customer had designated a specific nonprofit to receive funds from a purchase.
The donations were made through the AmazonSmile Foundation, which was set up in 2013. Individuals making purchases did not receive tax benefits from the donations made by the AmazonSmile Foundation. According to the organization’s 2019 Form 990-PF, the most recent on record, the organization reported $45.7 million in revenue, had $246,074 in expenses and made just under $49 million in disbursements. Employees did not draw any salary or compensation from the foundation.
The program also allowed nonprofits to create wish lists of items individuals could purchase for the nonprofits through its Charity List program. That program will continue, although not under the AmazonSmile heading, according to the note on Amazon’s website.
The program shutdown comes amid an expense review process Amazon is conducting. Earlier this month, the company announced it would be eliminating more than 18,000 jobs, partly reflecting a swift ramp-up of headcount during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it increased staffing at its warehouses. Cuts are also expected within the company’s books, devices, and retail units, as well as its people, experience and technology operations.
According to website Statista, the company employed a highwater mark of 1.622 million people during first-quarter 2022, and 1.544 million people during third-quarter 2022, the most recent quarter for which statistics are available.