Last week, Amazon announced that it's ending the AmazonSmile program on February 20, 2023.
Since 2013, AmazonSmile has leveraged its fundraising clout to donate over $400 million to U.S. charities and about half a billion dollars globally, according to Amazon. In a letter to customers, the company said, “With so many eligible organizations — more than one million globally — our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin." To put this in perspective, an Amazon spokesperson told NPR that in 2022, the average donation per charity was $230 in the United States.
But nonprofits know that every dollar counts, and the AmazonSmile program had helped many fill fundraising gaps when events and campaigns didn’t hit their goals.
Personally, I love seeing my Amazon purchases benefit causes I care about, and I’m disappointed that Amazon will no longer donate .5% to the charities that its customers choose to support. As such, I want to share seven ideas for nonprofits looking to offset the impact of the AmazonSmile program’s abrupt ending.
1. Update your Amazon Charity List
While Amazon has announced the end of AmazonSmile, they will continue to support their Charity Lists feature. If you haven’t set up a Charity List, now’s a great time to do so. By creating a list of items your charity needs, Amazon shoppers can browse and donate requested items directly to your cause. In the past, Amazon has even “cleared out” some Charity Lists, providing an extra impact for those who need it most.
After you set up your Amazon Charity List, you’ll want your supporters to know of this new way that they can support your organization. Don’t forget to:
- Update your website
- Post on your social media channels
- Send out an email to your donor list
2. Find New Supporters with a Live Stream
Turning a growing list of supporters into donors, advocates, and volunteers is always top-of-mind for any charity, and we know that sharing compelling stories about your impact is an engaging strategy when it comes to making appeals. You’re probably already enacting the obvious methods for adding new supporters to your donor management or CRM, but what about the lesser-known fundraising avenues?
One thing more fundraising professionals should be (but aren’t) using to its fullest potential: Live Streams.
A live stream doesn’t need a lot of careful planning as if it’s a big production. In fact, unscripted, off-the-cuff videos seem more authentic and often garner higher engagement rates than traditional videos across YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and other platforms.
Here are a few ideas for your organization’s first live stream:
- Live stream a conversation with experts in your field or on your team
- Partner with someone on Twitch to turn one of their streams into a donation channel
- Interview someone who has benefited from your cause
- Announce the names or ticket numbers of raffle winners after a fundraising event
3. Re-engage With Your Donors
Re-engaging donors is a challenge for almost every organization, and there’s always room for improvement when it comes to donor retention. How could there not be when 63% of people who donate on GivingTuesday don’t give to charities any other day of the year?
While there was no way for you to directly connect with those who selected your charity for their AmazonSmile contributions, the people participating in the program may start looking for new outlets to give back once February 20, 2023, comes to pass, creating an opportunity for nonprofits those donors might not have previously supported.
There are a variety of easy ways to get back to being top-of-mind and re-engaged with your current and potential donors, even without Amazon Smile. Consider going online and setting up a fun and engaging social media campaign for your followers, or sending out an email with news about the cause you support together. You can also increase donor engagement with virtual events like raffles, trivia contests, and virtual auctions. These types of events are great for bringing people together from all parts of the country (and the world!) no matter where they might be located. Lastly, don't forget to send a physical or digital thank-you letter to your new and returning donors - showing your supporters that you remember them will help them remember you in return!
4. Encourage Supporters to Participate in Your Monthly Giving Program
A monthly giving program will increase the number and size of donations you receive each year. If your nonprofit doesn’t have one in place, now is the time to get started. Here are a few ways to get that membership signup:
- Give Donors Control – For instance, you can offer donors the option to choose the transaction date and the number of monthly installments themselves.
- Accent Flexibility – Let donors know they can “pause” donations if they need (rather than cancel their recurring giving). Flexibility in giving means more monthly donations.
- Highlight Exclusivity – Monthly donors are special. Give them that VIP flair by naming them. Come up with a catchy “club” name that highlights how important monthly contributors are to the cause. This can also give supporters an extra incentive to sign up as recurring donors.
- Target Existing Donors – In addition to those who already give to you ad hoc throughout the year, understanding your donor personas will go a long way in terms of helping you target those who are most likely to sign up.
5. Include a Live Appeal or Paddle-Up at All Events, Big or Small
Live appeals and paddle-ups are common strategies at big events like galas and auctions, but they work just as well at smaller events like fundraising trivia nights.
Perhaps these are such popular fundraising strategies in part because they’re easy to orchestrate: During a natural break during your event, make a live appeal. Tell guests how their donations will further advance your impact, and ask them to pull out their phones right then and there to donate.
Small donations add up. After all, AmazonSmile donated .5% of a purchase to the shopper’s selected charity, and that small amount made a huge impact on innumerable charities.
6. Empower Supporters to Fundraise on Your Behalf
Ultimately, AmazonSmile acted as a grassroots referral source; you could remind supporters to sign up at smile.amazon.com and select your school or charity.
Although the AmazonSmile avenue is going away, you can still empower your donors and supporters to create their own campaigns and raise money on behalf of your organization.
People often think of peer-to-peer fundraising in relation to a specific event like a walkathon or 5k fundraiser, but there are plenty of other angles you can take. Add this option as a fun extension to your Awareness or Impact Day. You could even work with some of your supporters to run a DIY campaign within their companies.
7. Ask Your Donors if Their Companies Match
While we have an employer match search built into our digital fundraising tools, it’s still a good idea to ask supporters if they have exhausted their company’s charitable match program this year. According to Affinaquest (formerly HEPData), $6B – $10B in matching funds go unclaimed every year, in large part because employees don’t know this is a benefit their company offers.
Luckily, this is an easy fix: Simply ask your supporters to find out. You can even provide a script or email template for supporters to use when reaching out to their HR or benefits teams.
FrontStream is Here to Help
If you’re looking for ways to build your monthly giving program after learning about the AmazonSmile program ending, FrontStream is here to help! Check out our free guide filled with great fundraising tips starting today.