I liked the AmazonSmile program, in which Amazon.com would donate a percentage of a customer's purchase to the charity of that customer's choice. In general, I'm suspicious of corporate philanthropy, but at least in the case of AmazonSmile, the customer was assured that his money was going to an organization of which he approved.

No more.

Earlier this month I received an e-mail from Amazon, which announced the demise of the program, as of February 20, for the following reason:

In 2013, we launched AmazonSmile to make it easier for customers to support their favorite charities. However, after almost a decade, the program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped. With so many eligible organizations—more than 1 million globally—our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin.

What does this say? What do they mean by "spread too thin"? On its face, it is nonsense: As Amazon itself states, on my AmazonSmile Impact page, "Every little bit counts. When millions of supporters shop at AmazonSmile, charitable donations quickly add up." Charities are not in the habit of rejecting donations of any size, much less those which are bundled into larger amounts for more efficiency, which I'm sure Amazon did. My own chosen charity, the International Justice Mission, received over $204,000 as of November of last year, and I'm sure they were grateful for it. How rich do you have to be to think of that kind of money as insignificant?

Thus I can only interpret this paragraph as, "Amazon is not getting enough recognition, credit, and power over the programs to justify the expense." Especially the power, I suspect.

But Amazon is not giving up on corporate philanthropy. Instead,

We will continue to pursue and invest in other areas where we’ve seen we can make meaningful change—from building affordable housing to providing access to computer science education for students in underserved communities to using our logistics infrastructure and technology to assist broad communities impacted by natural disasters.

In other words, "instead of directing a portion of the money you spend toward the charity of your choice, we will be sending it to the charities of our choice."

As I've said before, if a corporation wants to use company profits to support causes they believe in, or even to buy the CEO a new yacht, that's their business. But Amazon is fooling itself if it thinks this change shows its virtue. Rather, I would think, the opposite.

On a positive note, "using our logistics infrastructure and technology to assist broad communities impacted by natural disasters" seems to me exactly the kind of help Amazon is well-positioned to give, more than many corporations. Companies should think about how they can use their unique strengths and resources in a socially responsible way, rather than simply doling out dollars. That's much more likely to be helpful in the long run.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 27, 2023 at 10:18 am | Edit
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My data point is this: Medair USA received $86.49 for Q2 through the Amazon Smile program.

Posted by Stephan on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 at 6:11 am
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