Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Amazon Frown? Not really.

My first reaction when I heard that, later this month, Amazon will be terminating its AmazonSmile charity program, was that those cheapo bastards are out of Jeff Bezos' mind. Through Smile, which has been around since 2013, Amazon shoppers could direct donations representing a half percent of what they're spending to a charity of their choosing.

Nonprofits great and small could register. Any organization with a tax id - from big kahunas like the ASPCA way down to your local pet shelter - could get themselves on the list. The democratization of giving. Yay! (Hate groups need not apply. However, some covid-denier groups managed to slip in and collect $42K to spend on spreading misinformation.)

While it's pretty easy to sign up to receive, I found it was a bit clumsy to sign up to direct my donations. Still, I managed to do so for two local charities I volunteer with. 

I do plenty of shopping on Amazon, so multiply my spending by a kabillion Amazon shoppers, and that 0.5% can add up. And over the 10 years it was around, over $400M went to charity.

Just not to Amazon's satisfaction. And, lets face it, a complete pittance when compared to Amazon's revenue, which for 2022 alone was roughly $500B. (Amazon does direct community philanthropy as well.)

One of Amazon's concerns was that the donations were "spread too thin." With hundreds of thousands of registered charities taking part in Smile, this is true. 

Over the years, the program distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to nonprofit organizations, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the American Cancer Society, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The ASPCA said in February that it had raised $10 million through Amazon’s program. (Source: WaPo)

Them's the winners. On the other hand:
...only four groups — the ASPCA, St. Jude’s, the Nature Conservancy and the American Red Cross — received more than $1 million. Only 24 secured more than $100,000, while about 230 got more than $10,000. Thousands of churches, neighborhood associations, animal shelters and little leagues received just $5.

I can't imagine that, however automated the process is, it doesn't cost more than $5 to process an aggregate donation amount of $5.

Moving forward, to ease the pain, Amazon will give each impacted organization approximately one-quarter of what they received in 2022. Which may translate into $1.25 for your local little league. Sweet!)

I used to know what "my" charities received through this program. More than $5, for sure. But I've forgotten the numbers. Maybe one of them has collected $10K over the years? Maybe not?

All I know that it wasn't a major gain to receive Amazon money, and it won't be a major loss when it's gone. (I did read that a few small charities that received $1K or so do feel that they'll miss it.)

Since its launch, “the program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped,” the company said, adding that it will still “pursue and invest in other areas where we’ve seen we can make meaningful change” such as affordable housing, education and food-assistance programs.

Although I was certainly prepared to be shrilly outraged when I heard AmazonSmile would be no more, it actually does make sense to close it down. 

Except that it was a way to let people do some "feel good" shopping, which seems like a loss for us shoppers - hey, I'm buying something stupid that I don't need, but St. Francis House will get $.50 - and maybe folks did shop a bit more because of it. (Although just not enough to make up for the cost of administering the program.)

Maybe they'll come up with something similar, but just not make it an everyone's invited to play program. Pick a couple of dozen charities that no one can object to - ASPCA, St. Jude's - and let us Amazon-ers send a few bucks their way. It could add up pretty nicely. Just a thought.

I harbor no illusion that Amazon is a benevolent organization, motivated by goodness. I'm sure they had an angle in mind when they set AmazonSmile up. And I'm sure they had an angle in mind when they turned it into AmazonFrown.

Even though I would have preferred entering into a high dudgeon snit when I read the news, I just don't blame them for their decision.

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