Fundraising for non-profits: a better way to use AmazonSmile

Is AmazonSmile worth it? For many large non-profits, sure, I’m almost CERTAIN it works well. But for many others? No, it doesn’t. Not at all.

First of all, what is AmazonSmile? If you use Amazon to shop in any capacity, you can use the link to complete your purchase and 1% of the total cart proceeds will go to a charity of your choice. You’ll often see this on a donation page for a non-profit. Sounds like a deal, right?

But I genuinely believe that for the most part, this is not the best idea.


A donation page should be optimized for cash donations

Optimizing a unique donation page will help in receiving the most donations. The easiest way to do this is to remove ALL DISTRACTIONS (and that includes telling users about AmazonSmile). Adding in another option to the donate page simply reduces the likelihood that the user will take any action at all.

Let’s take the best case scenario for a small non-profit. Imagine you have 500 extremely committed regular donors, maybe these are your monthly donors. Now if you get them to make every purchase for an entire year on Amazon through (which is the only way the organization will actually receive funds), you have to manually go to this page on Amazon (where the default is set to Let’s also say these 500 people happen to also be Amazon Prime users (best case scenario, remember?), who spend an average of $1300/year on Amazon purchases.

So, 500*1300 is $650,000 and your non-profit will receive half a percent, which is… yep, $3,250. That’s the absolute best case scenario. I can make 10 phone calls over 2 hours and raise that much. Why cause indecision fatigue on your website’s donate page?

A better way to use Amazon

Let’s say you’re a REALLY small non-profit strapped for cash (as many are), and $3,250 sounds pretty good. Here’s a better amazon strategy for you to consider:

Create an Amazon WishList for your organization with items your organization needs for operations and instead push people to purchase those. It works for three reasons:

One, donors like to see exactly where their money goes. It’s why people feel better about giving someone in need lunch than cash (even though cash is likely more useful).

Two, donors who can see where their money goes and the impact it has are likely to donate more. It’s proven!

And three, donors come with a set amount of money they’re going to give. Your goal as an organization isn’t to get them to give double, it’s just to get a small percentage increase. For example, a donor with $50 comes to your Amazon WishList and sees that your school needs a new Microscope, which is $58. If they buy, you just managed a 15% increase in donation amount.

I really hope more non-profits will look at long-term strategy and understand their donor base instead of following current trends.