AmazonSmile was first introduced a few months ago, and it has been getting some significant traction. Launched just before the Christmas shoppers began taking to the Internet to find the best deals for the upcoming holiday, the program has given online shoppers a great way to mix shopping with philanthropy.
Up until just recently Amazon has allowed consumers to click through from nonprofit websites to donate a portion of your spending to the organization. But with the introduction of AmazonSmile, a person can now do that right on the retail site itself, and the move could encourage shoppers to use the website more often when doing his or her business online.
When one visits AmazonSmile, there is almost no difference from the Amazon home page. A person can sign up using his or her regular Amazon account and it gives him or her the chance to choose a charitable organization that they support. When making eligible purchases, 0.5 percent of the subtotal is donated to that organization. Not all products are eligible, but there is a symbol next to the product that will tell a shopper if it is or not.
According to Amazon, there are over one million 501(c)(3) organizations a person can choose from, so if a person can’t find your favorite, it could be either because it’s not a 501(c)(3) organization, or it is otherwise ineligible.
If a person's favorite charity is eligible, but not yet registered with AmazonSmile, he or she can select it and Amazon will contact the charity to register to receive donations. Users can also change their organization at any time. If someone is not sure which organization to choose, here are some ideas.
And if a person is worried he or she will never remember to log in to the AmazonSmile page when shopping, there’s a Google Chrome plugin and a Mozilla Firefox add-on that can make sure he or she gets there every time automatically.
What’s in it for the average person? For those people who love the charitable donation tax deduction, unfortunately they won’t be able to deduct these since donations are made by the AmazonSmile Foundation from part of their purchase, rather than one making a donation in addition to your purchase. At this point, the platform also isn’t mobile-friendly, which is a turn-off to people who do most of their online shopping on their phones and tablets.
Then why do it? Shoppers get the opportunity to help donate to a charitable organization without changing their behavior. There’s also the added bonus of it being an organization of their choice. It takes just a couple of minutes to sign up and choose your organization, and after that there’s really no extra time a shopper has to spend.
At first glance, 0.5 percent may seem minuscule, but Amazon sells millions of dollars in merchandise every single day. Some people have even begun to buy toiletries, household goods, and even food on Amazon just to have the convenience of it. And if there are enough people who sign up, a lot of good can be done.
Ben Luthi is a personal finance blogger and banker who blogs regularly at The Wealth Gospel. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and currently resides in Arkansas with his wife, Kilee.