I was at a conference wrapping up a session on digital fundraising campaign development and best practices when I glanced at my email and was shocked to see the news: “Amazon is shutting down its charity program AmazonSmile.” Even more stunning was the swift end date: less than a month away.
Some of you might be familiar with my feelings toward the program. While smaller nonprofits may find the steady stream of funding beneficial, overall, there are much better ways to raise revenue with higher average gifts, longer donor retention, and a better investment of marketing dollars. In fact, I wrote about this topic a few years ago when receiving pressure from leadership and partners (once again), to invest heavily in the promotion of the program.
Despite these views, the fact remains that organizations must now remove this giving option from websites, newsletters, and other materials. But rather than quietly deleting these elements and letting the news fade into the sunset, use this opportunity to highlight the loss and convert these shoppers to donors! To help, I’ve created a messaging template and helpful communication strategy, as well as a few notes about looking ahead to the future.
Use this template in a personal letter to donors (via email, for example) or reformat it for posting to a website or blog. Customize it as you see fit!
In 2013, Amazon launched a program in which shoppers could have a portion of their order benefit our organization from the AmazonSmile Foundation. We joined in [xxxx] and many of our supporters were delighted to have this additional way of giving back. However, after nearly 10 years, Amazon has announced that their AmazonSmile nonprofit donation program will come to an end on February 20, 2023.
While we are certainly disappointed about this news, we are so very thankful for the support over the years. With the discontinuation of this program, we’d like to remind you of other creative ways to support our mission to [enter brief impact statement here]. This includes:
- Setting up a monthly, recurring online gift
- Setting up an employee matching gift with your company
- Attending one of our upcoming events
- Volunteering with us
- Giving a gift of stock or donate from an IRA
- Including us in an estate plan or will
- And many more options here [insert link to your giving page or include details of an upcoming campaign]
Thank you again for helping us ensure that [enter community impact here]. We are grateful for your continued partnership.
P.S. Be sure to sign up for our monthly e-newsletter for updates on all the latest [organization] news!
To begin, take an inventory of your marketing tools and platforms where the announcement can be posted. Elements include:
- A unique landing page on your website with the following items: the list from above with links, a donation button, tangible or virtual benefits, an annual report, an educational video, and/or links to social media.
- Alternatively (or additionally), a blog post featuring the items above.
- An email series and/or features in other email newsletters.
- Posts to social media either pointing back to the landing page, your donation form, or a “ways to support” page on your website.
- Features in print newsletters or “buck slips” (small promotional pieces) in acknowledgements.
- Sharing the news with leadership, board members, volunteers or other partners.
Next create a promotional calendar. It might look something like this:
- Week 1: Circulate news to leadership and partners with the promotional schedule.
- Week 2: Landing page/blog post goes live. Email announcement #1. First post to social.
- Week 3: Cross-promotion in other e-newsletters. Second post to social.
- Week 4: Include buck slips in acknowledgements.
- Week 5: Feature in print newsletters. Third post to social.
- Week 6: Send email announcement #2.
- Week 7: Include buck slips in acknowledgements. Fourth post to social.
Plans for the Future
While these kinds of announcements can be unsettling, recognize that there is always an opportunity to bring your constituents in closer alignment with your cause. Charitable supporters value transparency and are willing to deepen their engagement with causes they care about when there is a strong reason to do so. Use these moments to share what’s happening behind the curtains and how your audiences can help.
Additionally, when a revenue stream like this is lost, it’s a good reminder to evaluate the diversification of your development portfolio. I wrote about this back in 2019 before the pandemic and again in 2020, when the world spun off the rails. You can read about them here: The Digital Imperative and Fundraising Success in a Pandemic.
If you’d like to read up on the AmazonSmile issue, check out these resources:
- Official Amazon statement: Amazon closing AmazonSmile to focus its philanthropic giving to programs with greater impact
- NPR Business: Amazon ends its charity donation program AmazonSmile after other cost-cutting efforts
- TechCrunch Commerce: Amazon ends charity donation program AmazonSmile
According to my informal poll on Mastodon, 85% report very little to no impact from the loss of AmazonSmile. No one indicated this will be of great significance. In addition, users had these comments:
- Amazon Smile has existed primarily to benefit Amazon.
- Promoting Smile is an extremely low ROI activity.
- Last year we raised 2.4M. Amazon Smile provided less than $2k of that.