Everything You Need to Know About Getting the Most From Amazon Smile During End of Year

September 26, 2019  |  Grace Duginski

If you’ve ever been to a big box store on Black Friday, you know how it feels to wade into the fracas and instantly think, “I can’t believe I left my house at 5:00am for this.” If that’s you, you’ve got plenty of company – millions of other Americans have had this same exact thought, and it’s the reason Cyber Monday has had such staying power. Shoppers spent billions of dollars on Cyber Monday in 2018, including massive spending through Amazon. You might wonder what nonprofits could possibly do on a day dedicated to shopping, but consider this a golden opportunity for kicking off the giving season by harnessing that consumer energy and channeling it into donations via the AmazonSmile giving program. 

 

What is AmazonSmile? 

AmazonSmile, a program named for and run by the online juggernaut, is a way for shoppers to make purchases and support their favorite charities at the same time. However, instead of asking shoppers to round up their purchase total to the nearest round number or otherwise tack on an additional dollar amount, the beauty of AmazonSmile is that it makes no monetary ask of consumers: rather, Amazon donates 0.5% of the price of eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the charitable organization of each shopper’s choice. 

 

Why should your organization care about AmazonSmile on Cyber Monday? 

One of the most visible days of the year for AmazonSmile is Cyber Monday, so take advantage of it! Many organizations kick off their end-of-year giving campaign with GivingTuesday, but by starting a day earlier with Cyber Monday, organizations can reap the financial benefits all year long because the AmazonSmile program has no start or end date. 

 

Consider starting your end-of-year season with AmazonSmile on Cyber Monday and AmazonSmile because: 

 

… It’s a convenient way of bringing in donations all year long. 

Think of AmazonSmile donations as sustaining gifts, but with more variation in the amounts donated each quarter. Once your supporters choose your organization, you’ll keep benefiting from it each time they make a purchase! Although AmazonSmile disbursements lack some of the predictability of a monthly sustaining gift, this is balanced by the lack of monetary ask to the donor. 

… It’s easily set up. 

AmazonSmile makes it fairly straightforward to participate. Full instructions are available, but the three major steps are to gather information about your organization, register with GuideStar, and get set up with AmazonSmile. 

Here’s a broad outline: 

  1. Register your organization with GuideStar (to do this, you’ll need some basic information plus anything extra you’re able to share in order to achieve your desired seal of transparency

  1. On AmazonSmile’s site, search for your charitable organization by Employer Identification Number (EIN). Pro tip: you can search for your organization by name, but because many charitable organizations have similar names, try searching by EIN (and encourage your supporters to do the same) in order to cut down on human error. 

  2. Create an organization administrator account and accept the AmazonSmile Participation Agreement on behalf of your organization. 

  1. Verify your email address. Consider using an email address that is associated with your charitable organization, and consider using a shared department email so multiple team members can monitor your account. 

  1. Submit your organization’s bank account information. 

  1. Upload a copy of a voided check or bank statement to verify your organization’s bank account information. 
     

… It requires practically no Development staff hours to run. 

Nonprofits know this song well: you have Cool Fundraising Project A that you want to take on, but you turn around and there’s Cool Fundraising Project B waiting in the wings. You hate to choose one over the other – especially if it means potentially leaving money on the table – but you’re forced to make a decision simply due to a lack of staff bandwidth. AmazonSmile benefits nonprofits by requiring very few staff hours in order to participate – set up your account, take advantage of the free graphics provided by Amazon to get the word out to your supporters, and you’re on your way. 

… It also requires practically no staff hours outside the Development department. 

You already know the quarter 4 crush isn’t limited to just the Development department. From operations to comms to finance, an entire nonprofit can be swamped with executing the end-of-year campaign from October to January. Because AmazonSmile only disburses donations via ACH transfer, this translates to less staff time processing and entering checks; no worries about checks being lost or stolen in the mail (an annoying problem that any even mildly-controversial nonprofit is well-acquainted with); and more time for nonprofit staff to carry out other responsibilities. 

… It costs your supporters nothing except a few minutes of their time. 

If your supporters are based in the United States, chances are good that they have at some point in their lives been an Amazon customer. Participation in the AmazonSmile program incurs no additional costs to your supporters – they do the Amazon shopping they were already planning to do, and Jeff Bezos foots the bill for their donation. 

… It captures a slow slide away from brick-and-mortar store shopping and the idea of Black Friday, and toward online shopping. 

In recent years, you’ve probably noticed a growing rejection of in-person and Black Friday shopping, branching out in two directions: toward online and mobile shopping instead of in-store shopping, and away from the idea of Black Friday entirely. Taking the opportunity to donate to your organization via AmazonSmile on Cyber Monday may resonate with both groups for different reasons: first, there’s the shift-to-online shoppers. These shoppers are already making purchases over the long Thanksgiving weekend, but they are increasingly making them online instead of braving the November chill at the crack of dawn. This trend may mean that once they are aware of the AmazonSmile program, your supporters will be delighted to have one more reason to do more of their holiday shopping online. 

Second, you’ve probably noticed a small but vocal movement over the past couple of years to avoid shopping sprees on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday entirely, as more and more people question the ethics and wisdom of engaging in a cutthroat shopping competition (and forcing retail workers to be away from their families) mere hours after dedicating a full day to gratitude for what they already have. Some major retailers have taken a stance and refused to open for business on Thanksgiving; REI has gone a step further and has become known for their #OptOutside campaign, which began in 2015 and describes their commitment to closing their stores and giving all employees paid days off on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. On Twitter, individuals have adopted the hashtag and it now enjoys year-round usage. 

If you find your supporters chafe at the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, they may already be receptive to making a charitable donation at some point over the long weekend; and, though Cyber Monday takes place around some of the busiest consumer shopping days of the year, it has the appeal of not falling immediately after Thanksgiving. 

… It gets your supporters excited about the giving season! 

Since donors aren’t fatigued by being asked to donate from their own pocket two days in a row on Cyber Monday and GivingTuesday, you can market it as a fun way to kick off a multi-day giving event. Additionally, asking your supporters to choose you on AmazonSmile is an evergreen appeal since the program runs all year long – feel free to send your supporters reminders a couple times per year around season changes and major shopping holidays! 

 

For even more information on maximizing your fundraising while maintaining your sanity this GivingTuesday, download our Complete 2019 Giving Tuesday guide here.