Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact

Amazon-Smile-LogoAmazonSmile brings to mind the observation of late great media critic A.J. Liebling about The New York Times’ fundraising campaigns on behalf of its Neediest Cases.  “Readers are invited to send in money,” Liebling wrote, “while the newspaper generously agrees to accept the thanks of the beneficiaries.”

AmazonSmile is bit like that. The website, created by in 2013, offers

the same products, prices, and shopping features as The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.

Nice, right? Well, yes, but not nearly as a nice as it could be.

Two questions need to be asked about AmazonSmile.

First, what has it done to increase the quantity of charitable giving?

Second, what has it done to increase the quality of charitable giving?

The answer to both: Not much.

Let’s begin with the numbers, starting with that 0.5 percent figure. If you spend $20 at, that’s 10 cents. Spend $2,000 and $10 goes to charity–provided, that is, that you remember to bookmark or navigate over to before making a purchase. Predictably, most shoppers don’t. It’s hardly worth the bother to surf over to a new URL to give away a dime.

The results reflect that friction: In 2015, the AmazonSmile Foundation, which administers the program, donated $12,867,013 to charity, according to the foundation’s latest Form 990-PF filed with the IRS. That’s less than 0.5 percent of’s retail sales.

How much less? In 2015, Amazon generated about $99.1 billion in U.S. and international retail sales, its annual report says. (See p. 68). If my math is correct, that means that the $12,867,013 in charitable giving amounts to 0.00012 percent of sales. That’s $1.20 in donations for every $10,000 of sales.

Now, you could argue that this is the fault of shoppers (and, admittedly, I’m one of them) who are less than rigorous about finding their way to the AmazonSmile portal every time they make a purchase. Instead, I want to make the case that the low numbers are the product of a deliberate effort by to depress, rather than increase, giving.

After all, it would be a trivial matter for’s software designers to allow shoppers to make a one-time request to have 0.5 percent of their purchases go to charity, and make that the default option every time a customer visits the site.

As one perceptive Amazon shopper wrote on the company website back in 2014:

This is a wonderful program with a big BUT! Here’s the ‘BUT’: Why do shoppers have to go to the smile link in order for donations to kick in? Why can’t the contributions simply be linked to the shopper’s account? I want to support a nonprofit, but i frequently forget to go to smile. Is Amazon trying to get organizations to encourage their members to use Amazon, but secretly hoping they will forget to go to the smile link so Amazon doesn’t really have to make a donation? A truly noble approach would be to make it automatically link to the shopper’s account.


Further evidence of’s intentions come from the the fact that there are no cell phone or tablet apps for AmazonSmile. Users have asked for AmazonSmile apps, which is no surprise, given the growing share of e-commerce purchases made by phone. One survey found that about 40 percent of all e-commerce was conducted on phones or tablets last Thanksgiving, ReCode reported.  It’s not impossible to buy from AmazonSmile over the phone, by using the phone’s browser to reach the website, but it’s clunky so few people bother.

It’s sure looks as if wants to make it hard, not easy, to use AmazonSmile.

To put the $12.9 million donated by the AmazonSmile Foundation in a broader context: The Walmart Foundation made $166 million in donations in 2015. Microsoft, its Seattle neighbor, donated about $500 million last year. Amazon makes other donations as well, but they don’t add up to much and the company won’t release numbers, GeekWire reports.

Laziness, stupidity, indifference or caution?

What about AmazonSmile’s influence over the quality of giving? By that, I mean the potential for AmazonSmile to recommend charities  that do the most good, or at least those that are more transparent than their peers about their performance. As it happens, there’s an easy and useful metric to identify such charities–the Platinum designation awarded by GuideStar, which I blogged about last year. Alternatively, AmazonSmile could boldly turn to trusted evaluators such as The Life You Can Save, a nonprofit that recommends charities, based on evidence, that help the world’s poorest people. The Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania also does a fine job of identifying effective nonprofits.

This wouldn’t limit consumer choice. AmazonSmile permits shoppers to choose from nearly 1 million charities, it says, and it could continue to do so. But, since its early days, AmazonSmile also has nudged shoppers to give to what it calls Spotlight Charities. The company says:

We do this to make it easier for customers to choose an organization to support from the almost one million available, but we do not endorse any particular organization or the causes they support.

The five current Spotlight Charities are the ASPCA, charity: water, Doctors without Borders, The Nature Conservancy and the American Red Cross. A less interesting list is hard to imagine. These choices can be explained only by some blend of laziness, stupidity, indifference or an abundance of caution. Since the people who work at are neither lazy or stupid, we can chalk this up to indifference or caution.

Of AmazonSmile’s five spotlight charities, only one, the American Red Cross, has a Platinum Rating from Guidestar. If you believe Pro Publica (here) or Senator Charles Grassley (here), the Red Cross is a disaster charity in every sense. Giving to The Nature Conservancy, for all of its good work, is like giving to Harvard: It had nearly $6 billion in net assets and brought in $786 million in revenue last year. The ASPCA has never been ranked among the most effective advocates for animals by Animal Charity Evaluators. As for charity: water, it is at core a fundraising platform, and a very good one, but most of the work it funds is carried out by partners, some better than others.

These recommendations have enormous impact. In 2014, which is the latest year for which grantee data is available, Spotlight Charities outpaced the rest by huge margins. AmazonSmile gave $602,495 to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital–more than 10 percent of all the money that passed through the foundation that year. It also gave $436,338 to the Wounded Warrior Project (!), $265,557 to the American Red Cross and $167,316 to The Nature Conservancy. All were Spotlight Charities. The vast majority of charities brought in less than $100 apiece. (I pulled these numbers from AmazonSmile’s 575-page Form 990, and might have overlooked a big recipient or two. The document isn’t searchable.)

Finally, consider the possibility that AmazonSmile could ultimately lead to less, not more, charitable giving. If it leaves shoppers feeling that they have done their part, they may be less likely to respond to a direct appeal from a nonprofit, as Brady Josephson, a fundraising consultant, wrote on Huffington Post back in 2013.

What, then, is AmazonSmile? It’s marketing, dressed up as altruism. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of charities put the AmazonSmile logo on their websites (here, herehere and countless other places). They’re promoting It’s revealing that the president of the AmazonSmile Foundation, according to its latest Form 990, is Steven Shure, who is vice president of worldwide marketing at Shure doesn’t mention the AmazonSmile Foundation on his LinkedIn profile. His only visible nonprofit experience is as a board member of US Rowing.

In the end, though, to understand the purpose of AmazonSmile, all we need to do is the math. Imagine that you spend $1,000 this year on AmazonSmile. Amazon gets $995. Your favorite charity gets $5. Someone’s doing well, and it isn’t the charity.

No wonder Jeff Bezos is smiling.

A note on sourcing: I tried every which way to get’s response to all this. I emailed two people in the company’s communications department, asked a DC-based Amazon exec to refer my request to its PR department and left a message on the AmazonSmile website. I’m aware that the company can’t respond to all media requests. If I do hear from, I will post a response below.

176 thoughts on “Why Amazon Smile doesn’t make me smile

  1. Miss says:

    I’ve noticed in prices are higher and there are less choices compared to regular Amazon’s site. That really pisses me off. Now the non-profit organization that I try to donate said they never got my donation. Got to investigate this. Also agree why can’t Amazon just automatically connect to the regular Amazon’s site. Talk about sneaky.


  2. Lee says:

    Money to charities is still money to charities. If it helps Amazon in the marketing area, great for Amazon. There is a complaint about the lack of options (or at least spotlighted ones) for charities. Very likely because, to the vast majority of people, these are the ones they know and care about. If you show them ones they don’t know or make it hard to find the ones they know, they will just move on and not chose any at all. There is an off-balancing affect going on here between who is lazy: Amazon for not making it across all sites, users for not typing “smile”, or the list of what charities there are… Someone (Amazon) is helping and users are expected to set it up and use it…or not. It is their choice to do it or not.

    Companies are in the business of making money; that they help at all is a good thing and should be lauded not ridiculed.

    As to typing “smile”…my system knows I go there and I barely have to type “smi” before I am there. Also even if you go to and are signed in and signed up for smile, it very blatantly reminds you and helps you go there (it does not force you to).


  3. Lynn McNamara says:

    I may have missed this elsewhere in this string of posts, but is the donation 5% (0.05) or one-half of 1% (0.005)? My contribution report on Amazon looks ridiculously small if it’s really 5%!


  4. What never gets mentioned, is that whenever a transaction is made online, the payment gateway the transaction goes through takes a commission
    Charities feed these commissions. Its a scam in more ways than i am able to explain here in this comment, but all i will say is that i believe most non profit organisations as well as ‘fundraiser charity events’ (like help Haiti earthquake disaster victims etc), are all moneyskimming scams. I prefer to donate helping real people in the world i come across who need help, and help people directly, instead of letting my well intended money go through some ‘middle man’ intermediary who is just using the ‘politician holding a baby’ charity angle to market and promote its own business as a ‘charitable and good company’ or ‘this government is helping people in disaster areas please send an sms to 1800-999-haiti (and pay 3$ sms fee which gets split with telecom and the government) to donate 10 $to help Haiti… screw charity organisations.. charity begins at home


  5. John McAdams says:

    My problem is that when I use the website to enable Smile, it almost always asks me to verify my Amazon Store Card #. As it isn’t usable anywhere but Amazon, I don’t carry it with me and have to resort to either a different card (no cashback) or ordering from the app. (yes, I suppose I could wait until I get home but sometimes a few hours makes a big difference in delivery dates. I love that they do it but the APP should work.


  6. Cesie Delve Scheuermann says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting into words my annoyance with Amazon Smile. Nothing makes my blood boil more than seeing them get free advertising from a small nonprofit who thinks “Smile” could be the answer to their fundraising woes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alida Near says:

      In all fairness, I admit I use Amazon a lot. I switched over to Amazon Smile a couple of years ago to support a little-known charity that I think is very important. This charity does not use the Amazon logo or advertise Amazon in any way. I did not choose one of the ‘big charities’ Amazon tends to spotlight. On my computer I only have the link, so all my shopping via computer goes through Amazon Smile with no effort on my part. And while there is no App for the cell phone, it takes two seconds to add one yourself. On your phone open your browser (mine is Safari), go to Then scroll to the very bottom of the screen and hit the little ‘forward’ symbol – looks like a square with and arrow pointing up. Scroll along bottom and hit ‘add to home screen’ . Then on your phone’s homes screen there will be a little logo for Amazon Smile which will take you directly to the site and it behaves exactly like Amazon. Finally, erase the original Amazon App (with the blue shopping cart) so you don’t use it accidentally. I agree that Amazon should definitely be much more charitable on it’s own, But for shoppers who use Amazon anyway, its an easy way to get money to the charity of your choice…


    2. Parish Lijero says:

      “Since the people who work at are neither lazy or stupid,” you’re not stating what they are… if educated, therefore smart, mistakes are still made and left to be made for response. My thing was about how fluid is If my charity, Amnesty International, gets is $5, well that’s something and not nothing. What Amazon makes is none of my business. The fact that it is dropping a dime is something. Users should not let themselves be the lazy or stupid ones. Or ignorant ones. It’s not difficult to create a link on your devices. I just left you one. Great article and I agree on the lack of hard core charities not mentioned. There are a lot of lazy users out here. But maybe it’s their lack of time leverage.


  7. Pat Riot says:

    Spot on! Amazon and Mr. Jeff B aren’t really concerned about giving. It’s marketing disguised as goodness. Bo reason why by default a user choosing to use “smile” does not see each and every order she or he places going through smile.


  8. Leona says:

    Another possible reason people are not linking through Amazon smile is because they themselves can earn back a small percentage by linking through Ebates (depending on the categories) and other tools like these that pay back the purchaser (and track their spending behaviors).


    1. Ronny Sage says:

      Check out ShoppingGives. They turn online shopping into fundraising by quickly and easily allowing organizations to create an online fundraiser and use custom marketing materials to share it with their supporters. By visiting your fundraiser, your supporters save with top deals and coupons while they shop from over 750 popular stores. Every supporter purchase results in a donation to your cause – up to 40% – which you can track using your personalize dashboard


    2. eddie1261 says:

      Leona, is Ebates on the level? I have read many stories of people who never got their rebates.

      As far as the failure to link through smile… seriously? People are too stupid to change their Amazon link to the smile account? I go directly to smile when I click my Amazon shortcut. Anybody who hasn’t done that is likely too stupid to have a computer. Donate it to a kid who knows how to use it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cathy says:

        Ebates is definitely legitimate. I have made well over $1,000 in the last six years. A couple of times they have not credited me but a quick e-mail to customer service has corrected the oversight. I also got their VISA which gives me an additional 3% back on most purchases. I LOVE Ebates!


      2. I also have an Amazon Smile Bookmark, but not everyone uses bookmarks. Many people are not organized and just google ama. You do not even have to finish writing the word, google does it for you. And then 40% of customers use the app. You cannot shop at Smile with the app.


  9. eddie1261 says:

    The only part of this that I have any issue with is that it’s up to the users to do something as simple as change their Amazon bookmark. Your data is skewed if you have no way to separate Smile purchases from direct Amazon purchases. Since I set my charity up (Villalobos Rescue Center) I have made 68 purchases for a total donation of a paltry $14.65. (The however there is this.) However, the pit bull got money that they would not have gotten if it would have taken my sending them a donation directly. The low amount of the donation is more because I am inherently cheap and don’t spend a lot of money on Amazon. (Or anywhere else.) But in total, that pit bull rescue has received over $125,000 from this program that they did not require them to do any fundraising on their own.


  10. Kim Berry says:

    Great article with very cogent points.


  11. Mitchell Stitchman says:

    Isn’t $5 donated out of $1000 better than $0 donated out of $1000 especially for those who may not donate otherwise? It costs the consumer nothing yet they are helping. Look on the bright side, millions are being donated that might not otherwise be donated. You will get used to making sure you’re on the Smile link after a few purchases.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ManW says:

    I don’t generally use Amazon Smile, but use a referral link (for non-profit orgs that use such) instead because Amazon apparently gives a lot more (in commission) to referrers than the 0.5% thru Amazon Smile.

    Someone earlier posted (at following link) w/ more details about using referral programs instead:

    Alternatively, people might consider using sites like to receive similarly higher cashback rates (on top of credit card cashback)… and then just donate that cashback amount themselves instead… although I’m not aware of any that works well for Amazon itself. That would probably be more useful for shopping at other online retailers, if one doesn’t only shop at Amazon.



    1. ManW says:

      Correction about for Amazon. Apparently, they do work for Amazon nowadays (for somewhere between 2-4% back).



    2. Ronny Sage says:

      Check out they work with the retailers to give back more than ebates and provide a sweet dashboard to track your supporters giving.


  13. J.watts says:

    The charity I give to through Amazon Smiles has received $733 from Amazon between a 6 month period in 2017.

    The charity posted a copy of the letter sent from Amazon.

    To many people $733 is a good deal of money.

    And it doesn’t hurt me at all.

    I think it’s great. It’s really not hard to go to the Amazon Smiles website either. Your argument on that is really weak.

    Try being positive…you just might like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Darci says:

      Well said! Really, how hard is it ? Can we please start to look on the good side of things!


  14. Liam Monroe says:

    What a seriously stupid and pathetic article. Amazon is NOT a charity, they are a for PROFIT company. You honestly think if you spend $1000 that Amazon gets $995 of it!? How much have you donated this year? You act like Amazon is required to do this when they are not. People like you are the reason I hate donating places, because all you get are ungrateful idiots like yourself trying to ruin it for everyone else and make US feel bad for donating somewhere. Donate to whoever you want, but don’t shit on anyone else for who they donate to. We don’t even have AmazonSmiles in Canada, so I’m sure that will make you feel better.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. J.watts says:


      Liked by 1 person

  15. Peter Todd says:

    I don’t want to defend Amazon particularly (and admittedly only skimmed the post), but “Imagine that you spend $1,000 this year on AmazonSmile. Amazon gets $995. Your favorite charity gets $5. Someone’s doing well, and it isn’t the charity.” seems disingenuous. Presumably Amazon get to be as competitive as they are largely by reducing their margins. I’ve no idea how the numbers do pan out but clearly it’s far far far from the case that “Amazon gets $995” of each $1000 spent.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Cindy says:

    We want to get OFF Amazon Smile and it is impossible….. have you ever searched how to make them stop? There’s not an easy way – in fact, it really is next to impossible. If someone has found the way to get off, please post it and let the world know. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. agamemnon says:

      I don’t understand. To get off Amazon smile DON’T go to the URL.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. cindy says:

        Yes, I do that.
        I should have explained that when I get any emails from Amazon about ebooks or specials of some kind, the links are attached to Amazon Smile and you are automatically sent through them. And because I do not want to switch to another charity since the one I had chosen is no longer accepted by Amazon, I am directed to choose another. I don’t want to do that, and there is NO choice to say I’d rather just be off now; it insists on making me choose another or I have to sign out to go to – but when I do that, the place I wanted to go to with that link is not what shows up, instead I am on Amazon’s home page.
        I have worked around it by starting a “forwarding” email and just getting the link and taking out the “smile” in (which is in the link twice), but it’s just a stupid pain …….. the point is, why do they not just let people say they no longer want to be a part of the smile charity? So I’m letting people know this is how it goes so they may think twice before signing up for something they may later want out of.


      2. Hi Cindy – saw your explanation and it sounds like the sort of thing I am constantly dealing with – going round and round trying to accomplish something that I want to change, delete, whatever. My suggestion (and since you’re angry with Amazon you not want to) would be to call Amazon. I have on several occasions called them about “stuff” and have been surprised at how helpful they are. I always expect huge corporations to dismiss queries, complaints, etc., but that doesn’t actually happen too often. If you can’t find their number on their site (and I seem to recall not having much success with that), Google “phone number for Amazon”. I have a similar situation with something like that where I don’t want to do whatever the only option is and it infuriates me whenever I run into it (can’t remember what it is right now) so good luck to you.


      3. ancyker says:

        Cindy, that makes no sense. Why don’t you just pick another charity and donate to them? There are plenty of excellent charities. Someone is basically coming up to you and going “Do you want me to donate to charity A or B?” and you are saying “C” and they are saying “That’s not a choice” so you are saying “Don’t donate to either then.” That’s just dumb. It’s not your money that you are donating, it’s Amazon’s money. Choose a charity and help give them free money.

        Liked by 4 people

  17. Cecilia Morris says:

    Amazon gave $12 million to charity through it’s Amazon Smiles program. That’s $12 million charities would not have had without Amazon Smiles. In addition, Amazon also donates an additional undisclosed amount. Amazon, being a for profit company, doesn’t have to donate any money of any kind to charity but it does. And because you believe they’re not donating as much as Microsoft or Walmart – even though you can’t be sure because they don’t disclose all their charitable donations – you consider Amazon greedy. On top of that, even though Amazon has a website where people can donate and a reminder box to donate, Amazon is not doing enough to ensure people use the Smile website. This is the craziest article I’ve read in a long time and I’m about as liberal as they come. Amazon does not have to give to charity. No US company has to give to charity. Amazon could have kept that $12 million and bought lunches for it’s employees every day, they could have invested in new printers, they could have given people larger raises, instead, they gave $12 million to charity. A better use of your time would have been an article that helped people remember to use Amazon Smile; maybe how to create a bookmark in the browser bar across their computer scream or add a link to the home page of their phone. Because other than making people not want to bother with with going to Amazon Smile, which ensures that $12 million won’t be paid to those charities next year, for which I’m sure they will thank you, you haven’t done absolutely nothing to help charities and possibly something to hurt them. Your 6% of income is not going to replace the $12 million Amazon gave. PS Maybe consider editing your article to include information about the Amazon Smile browser extension.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. sandy vought says:

      I don’t see how it is a tax deductible donation for Amazon when it is actually the customer who has donated….the entire thing looks slippery to me…The other issue is there are still many purchasers who are not savvy about technology and have enough trouble just placing an order…I think that if Amazon really wanted to make a statement they would just automatically give the .5% and at the end of the year you could see how much was given to your preferred charity..and both the customer and Amazon could feel good about it..What I don’t like about it…is that they appear to be getting good PR for something that they are doing when in effect it is the customer who has to make the effort and not get credit for it….the entire things looks self serving…It is using charities to look like good guys and frankly having 1000’s of charities makes it really a NOTHING BURGER to the MAJORITY of the charities. It would be far more impressed if they automatically gave .5% on every sale and not made a big marketing deal over it…Slick!!!..Self Serving… also something that really bothered me during the recent US Hurricanes is that I know for a fact that Amazon increased prices on items that were the types of products people in the paths of Hurricanes would need.. So happened that I was in the process of putting together a “bug out’ bag..which is essentially a bag of things you need in case of disaster so you can get your hands on need things quickly in the face of a disaster. I had the items sitting in my Amazon basket as I was sorting and researching what I wanted to purchase and they were there for a couple of weeks. It so happens that I was about to narrow my purchases down when I saw all of a sudden many of the items took a jump in price…not a few cents but as much as $10…Of course I wondered why so many of those items .I realized it was right at and during the Florida hurricane which was forecasted to be huge. I called Amazon Customer Service and told them what I saw and explained it is against Federal and State law to gouge customers on disaster necessary products. I believe their customer service is over seas as there was an asian accent to the English…He acted totally clueless…I then told him that I wanted to get an email telling me why this happened…never got one…I have had a couple of issues with quality problems and returns with Amazon (I am a pretty big customer as I live part of the year out of the US and need things I can’t get locally) and every call made to their customer service has been someone with an asian accent…So without doing further research..I am concerned that they are giving jobs to asians for customer service and obviously taking thousands of jobs away from people who work for retailers big and small who are going out of business due to Amazon sales…So I have several issues with Amazon that smell and that makes me think the Smile program is just another stinker…


      1. John Davis says:

        “sandy vought says:
        November 19, 2017 at 4:34 pm
        I don’t see how it is a tax deductible donation for Amazon when it is actually the customer who has donated….the entire thing looks slippery to me…”

        Actually, it is Amazon that is donating. All the customer is doing is identifying where they want Amazon to give the donation to.

        Liked by 3 people

  18. Is it possible your article had an impact on Amazon and their Smile program? The last two or three times I placed an order with Amazon I had Googled to find what I wanted to buy and, of course up popped Amazon. I clicked the link and, again, of course, I got to a regular Amazon page. And there towards the upper left of the page was a little tab that said something on the order of you can see this page in Amazon Smile by clicking here so I did and there I was on the page I wanted and in AmazonSmile. Since one of the points in your article addressed the fact that you (and obviously many others – myself included) don’t remember to switch to AmazonSmile when they place an order and since a lot of the comments you’ve received have been about not remembering or making your own link, etc., it could be it got through to them and they’ve provided this handy reminder. I had even linked the AmazonSmile in my Favorites bar but often times didn’t think to use it. So, for me, their new link on their “regular” site is a real help.

    Liked by 1 person

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  20. Coleman Hutcfhins says:

    Wouldn’t it be more effective for a non-profit to create an affiliate relationship with Amazon and promote those kinds of links? I think affiliate deals pay out at much higher rates than 0.5% (see table 1 – ). The linking challenges are slightly harder, but for more focused outreach efforts and more motivated givers – like with local schools, churches, etc – it could bring in more money. I found this article looking for ways to effectively share and get people to use an affiliate link for my kids’ school – especially on mobile devices. Short of a tutorial via email I can’t think of anything yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Coleman says:

      There’s another way to look at this… charities are basically giving amazon free advertising – cloaked in a feel good message – to get the word out about SMILE. Even if no one bought anything, Amazon gets that association with the charity for free. Now, if a charity is effective in getting people to use SMILE they get a paltry 0.5%. While on the other hand, Amazon recognizes the power of that type of promotion and rewards affiliate marketers with up to 6% back. It’s not that Amazon is cheap, they just are taking advantage of charitities, compared to their other channel partners.


  21. ancyker says:

    I use a Chrome extension called Smile Always. I would get sent links and forget to switch, the extension fixes that. There’s probably something for other browsers too. While you can’t shop on Amazon Smile with the app, you can use the app to shop, add things to your cart and then use a browser to actually check out.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Marc,

    I’ve developed a solution similar to AmazonSmile that addresses at least some of the issues you’ve written about. I’ve made a browser extension,, so that when user shops in one of 1000+ portion of the money goes to GiveWell recommended charities. It’s usually between 1-6%, so at least 2x the Smile amount and sometimes as much as 12x. It works with Ebay, Aliexpress, Etsy, Barnes&Noble and others. Also, user doesn’t have to remember to navigate to some other website before purchasing an item – with the extension installed, if the user is on partner’s shop a reminder will show up with a button to start raising money.

    In short:
    – higher percentage goes to charities
    – charities are recommended by a reputable evaluator (
    – easy to use

    Here’s the URL:

    Would love to know what you think,
    Daniel Wyrzykowski


    1. Danica Cordell-Reeh says:

      Hi Daniel

      Your site looks interesting. Is Y not save a Sam and Jindo love Rescues for adoption or Humane Society International or Paws Rescue Qatar on your list? All are there to help and several target saving ani,Mali from the dog meat trade.


  23. Allen Pagent says:

    Is it really a burden to save a link to on one’s bookmark bar or favorites? Is it more burdensome than picking weeds or cleaning out gutters? I simply created a new link (which took all of maybe 10 seconds) and replaced it with my old one. I did this on my desktop, phone, and tablet. I am now automatically signed in to Amazon allows for a default charitable organization, too. They have a huge list to pick from. I picked one for rescued dogs.

    “Finally, consider the possibility that AmazonSmile could ultimately lead to less, not more, charitable giving. If it leaves shoppers feeling that they have done their part, they may be less likely to respond to a direct appeal from a nonprofit, as Brady Josephson, a fundraising consultant, wrote on Huffington Post back in 2013.”

    Conversely, one could say, “AmazonSmile could ultimately encourage those that do not have a history of giving, to increase their participation with other charity organizations”. The important word being “could”, which basically means “no one knows but I’ll just speculate anyway (and in the case of this article, on the negative side of things)”.

    Now for nitpicking the .05 that Amazon donates. Amazon doesn’t have to donate a dime. Really, at the end of they day they don’t. Still, as of this writing, Amazon reportedly has given over $62M through Smile.Amazon. Is that such a bad thing? Is it just awful? No, not really. Could they give more? Yeah, I guess they could, but they don’t have to give at all in the first place.

    May of this year Amazon donated 47K Sqft of office space to Mary’s Place, a Seattle, WA, organization that provides shelter for homeless women and children. This space will provide shelter for approximately 200 people. Amazon didn’t have to donate that either.

    Is Amazon perfect? No, but then one can find flaws with any multi-national organization if one looks hard enough. Still, this article was incredibly nit-picky and served as just another vehicle that promotes a jaded view of the act of giving.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marc Gunther says:

      Thanks for this thoughtful comment. No, it’s not much of a burden to create links for Amazon smile on desktop, pad and phone, but it takes some tech knowledge to do it. Nor would be it a burden for Amazon to create an app for Amazon Smile. I think the fact that so few people take advantage of Amazon Smile — that $62m is a teeny, tiny percentage of revenues — is an indicator that (1) many people are lazy, uninterested or unable to take advantage of it and that (2) Amazon hasn’t promoted it or made it easy. Its biggest competitor, Walmart, is both more generous and more strategic about its philanthropy.

      That said, Amazon in the past couple of years has ramped up its efforts in corporate responsibility and public policy and appears to be working hard to become a more responsible company.


      1. noah m hubbard says:

        I agree with most of this article. I had the same initial reaction, Regarding Who is getting the most benefit from this Program ( answer: Clearly Amazon)., However I do like the ability to choose my charity. I was surprised to see a relatively small local charity available. Now my couple dollars a year goes to preserving local rivers and streams in my area.Side note: I would give my dollar at the grocery store checkout regularly, if I had my choice of local charities.


    2. Grace says:

      Agree! Too nit picky!


    3. I privately donate on a monthly, sustaining basis to three charities and switch my little pennies Smile donation back and forth periodically when I think of it. I may be the exception to the idea of “if they use Smile, then maybe they feel that takes care of their donating” and I was satisfied for a number of years with my 3 monthly donations. But this year when the 2 (and almost a third) hurricanes hit in rapid succession, for the first time (that I can recall) I made what was for me a sizable donation. So I can’t say I did that because I’ve been donating through Smile, but I do think using Smile to order what I’m going to order Smile or not, has made me more aware of the whole donation mindset. I’ll continue to use it and think what a silly little amount it is, but if I remember correctly, I think I saw that NPR had received $29 thousand some in Smile donations. It was nice to know that my very modest pennies were included in that.

      It sounds like Amazon probably IS much more mercenary than a lot of other major corporations but at some point, I imagine that they will take a deep breath, decided they’ve conquered as much of the retail market as they can, and hopefully begin to figure out what to do with some of the gazillions!


  24. David Sillik says:

    Greetings everyone. For reasons which totally evade me, so many of you seemingly intelligent folks that replied to this article totally missed the numerous points. In my humble opinion, this article was designed to: 1) Make people aware of the fact that smile could be much more effective than it is. 2) To bring to light the fact that its designers are aware of the so-called flaws and may have built the flaws into it deliberately. 3) Some people may not donate as much in other ways due to the fact that they already have the feeling that they donated (they get that “I already donated” feeling). 4) To make you aware of how small your donation actually is.
    For me the overall effect of this article will help me be more careful when logging in as I often forget to go to smile, this is especially true when I click on an link within an email from or any of the millions of links found all over the web. From now on I will try to pay more attention to the way I login. Making that change 100% of the time will be challenging for me after logging on to for 15 years.
    I don’t think will take anything away from this article except that maybe smile is working as intended and we know it. After all, what do you think amazon stock holders would do if they found out amazon was giving away more than they already are? Perhaps the founders of smile are more cleaver than they are being given credit for. It seems to me that amazon has found a great way to keep smile alive and well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marc Gunther says:

      Thank you so much for this comment! You got exactly what I was trying to say. The fact that others did not is probably my fault, not theirs. Mostly I want to encourage people to use Amazon Smile when they can. But also to put the size of it in perspective (it’s small!) and to suggest that Amazon would prefer to keep it that way. I’ve a fairly frequent Amazon shopper, mostly for books, and I think I have donated less than $3 this year. That’s hardly sufficient for someone fortunate enough to earn a good income.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Alisha says:

        I don’t think it’s your fault. Thank you for this article. It is very well written and helpful. I shop amazonsmile and will continue to. And, I will write a letter to Amazon asking them to up the percent from 0.5 to 1.0. Really, even credit card companies give you that much in cash back. I will also request that they link it directly to the Amazon account instead of requiring the separate URL. I encourage everyone who agrees to write their own letter/email to Amazon. Who knows? If enough of us do it, maybe they will listen.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. David Sillik says:

        Marc, thank you for the kind and thoughtful response.



      3. David Sillik says:

        Marc, here is something i wish i mentioned in my first post.
        How does one know how much to to give? there is actually a formula for giving the perfect amount. i believe that it is quite possible that anything just isn’t enough. i have come to believe that being charitable requires giving up something that has real value to you as well as the entity you are giving to. people will know when they have given enough simply by following the old adage “give until it hurts”. somehow i don’t think amazon is feeling the pain.


      4. erick says:

        also keep at mind amazon smile is only available in the us… or at least, i can’t access it from any “.ca” amazon links that i can find… so adding all it’s world wide sales to calculate the amount of the donations is unfair, or should i say ridicoulus? anyways, i think even though they don’t give away as much as some of us would like to (I, for example, would like to be able to register my local souting association), theydo give away a portion of the sales. add to that you can decide to what organization they do with your money? it’s incredible! you actually can donate to about or over 200 american scouts associations… i’d like to be able to register a single one over here!!! the american red cross? great! even though they do not perform as much as you would like it to. buying from amazon wont prevent me to donate to MSF (i think you call it docs without boreders or something like that), to local scouts associations,and to any causes that would appeal me… it’s just a way to decide where the donation made with your money will go appreciate it for what it is!

        by the way i do not intend to shock anyone with my post. i’ts my humble opinon that everyone is free to say whatever he wants as long as it stays in a “respect zone”… and for those who would like to correct my grammatical or ?orthographc? mistakes, please keep in mind that english is not my primary language and i didn’t practice it much in the latest years…


      5. Terry says:

        To be clear, you didn’t donate anything.


      6. Jeff says:

        I just saw an item on Amazon for approximately $266. Went to Amazon Smile and it was over $290. Amazon is profiting rather than being charitable.


  25. Trudy says:

    I’ve always had an “app” on my android. You just go to and then from the menu button where you normally find refresh or share click on “add to Home screen”. Easy!


  26. Chelsie says:

    Everyone had to be mad about something these days….

    Amazon doesn’t HAVE to donate anything so if you think it’s not enough, maybe you should donate on your own instead of getting mad at Amazon for the money you were already going to spend.

    I wonder if you would still be mad amount how much is donated if it were coming out of your paycheck versus your purchase.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PamSmed says:

      Yes, very true. I had no issue their donation percentage of your purchases……just the way they don’t let you know if all the 501c3’s have actually set up (on their own) a EFT so the donated funds actually go to them. (versus sitting somewhere ) We wasted a year of purchases only to find out the charity first must contact Amazon directly to get the funds directed to them.


  27. Joyce Finch says:

    My favorite charity I’d Feed the Children”. I did not depend on Amazon to help me make a choice. I also write out a check to “Feed the Children” about every month.


  28. Robert Joseph says:



    1. D Carr says:

      Mr Joseph, as President of a nonprofit, you may want to know that it’s rude to message in caps. However, I notice that the “A” in Amazon and “S” in Smile are in small case which happens when you press the Shift key when Caps Lock is on, so it seems you didn’t intend the caps case. I point this out because cautious and informed donors are unlikely to donate to a nonprofit whose president doesn’t look at his typed text before sending. I wish you the best.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. G Youngkin says:

    I have bookmarked
    and it is fairly simple for anyone willing to use it, if you are going to shop Amazon, shop, how difficult is that to remember!?

    I place in my chosen charity into search line w/o prompts to select another & was easily done.

    I think your article gives Amazon Smile a raw deal & humans not enough consideration in that you believe Amazon is cheap & humans are too stupid to remember that if you shop Amazon, shop Smile. Nope, there isn’t an app for Smile but that’s a great thing for my mobile, why do we need apps for everything? I don’t.

    Granted that 0.5% isn’t a boon however, it is more than nothing which is what they’d get if no one could remember to use Smile every time they shopped Amazon.


    1. Connie Senn says:

      I have an android and it lets me put the link as a web app on my screen

      Liked by 1 person

  30. sharon says:

    “Well, yes, but not nearly as a nice as it could be.”


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Linda says:

      Not 5%. .05% Lots of Amazon apologists on here. I used to work there, there’s absolutely nothing good to defend unless you are staunchly pro-greed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. planettaco says:

        Actually, not .05% — rather it is 0.5%, Linda.


      2. ScootGaloot says:

        If you are going to slam them for being charitable, at least get your facts straight. It’s .5%. Certainly more than YOU contribute.


      3. Marc Gunther says:

        First, I wrote that it is 0.5 percent of each purchase, which is the same as .5%. My facts are correct.

        Second, as a percentage of Amazon’s total sales, fyi, its contributions are much less:0.00012

        Third, my wife and I give about 6 percent of our pretax income away. That’s nothing to brag about but I want to set the record straight. See this:


    2. Flo Stockton says:


      For crying out loud. Amazon doesn’t HAVE to do anything. If you (the author) are so concerned about QUANTITY give more on your own. If you’re so concerned about QUALITY do some research on your own. I like Charity Navigator, but there are other charity rating sites as well. In a fraction of the time it took to write the article you could have found a dozen highly-rated charities.

      Can’t help you if you are unable to remember the correct shopping site. Um, bookmark? Sheesh! This article was a waste of time and space.


  31. Melissa Theodore says:

    I appreciate your article. It appears most of the respondents don’t use the Amazon app to shop. The rare times I’m actually shopping on my computer, I appreciate the reminder to login to AmazonSmile. I do 99% of my Amazon shopping via the app though, so not having an option to shop via Smile there effectively negates the potential good the program can do.

    To those who say that at least the charities get an extra $X they wouldn’t otherwise get, you’re missing the point. Why not let the charities get $XXX instead? Simple enough if there was an app option.


    1. Jane Heinrich says:

      Great. I manage to use smile Amazon with every purchase. Also Wal-Mart underpays their employees and tries not to give them health insurance. BFDeal. Anyone know how much paperwork goes into a big company giving to my little food bank down the street?

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Lisa Pagano says:

    five dollars is better than nothing. It is a business, and businesses are started in order to make money.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Kate Herman says:

    When I login to Amazon, it “reminds” me to go to, and in fact, links me to it. I don’t understand the criticism that not enough goes to charities. There is no right or wrong percentage. At the volume of business Amazon does, charities are receiving an enormous amount. If you don’t agree, don’t partici[ate in the program and, instead, give directly. But it costs you nothing extra to participate so why would you not?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Henry Spindler says:

      As of today, July 29, 2017, one can no longer sign onto the Amazon smile website. It seems to have been disconnected by Amazon. I wonder if it is because of the multiple complaints.


      1. Swnd says:

        I have used Smile the last 3 days on my tablet, no problem. I log on directly, don’t use apps. For logging in directly being ‘clunky’, that translates to LAZY, in my opinion. The fewer apps, on my devices, the better they work and the longer they last. I’m good with a phone for about 5 years. My last tablet lasted about 2years, which disappointed me. I don’t need the ‘latest’. But yes, no trouble using Smile. I wholeheartedly agree about Amazon’s greed overall. I really don’t like Amazon for a lot of reasons, but I guess some donation is better than none.


      2. Patricia says:

        Today is August 7th, 2017, and I continue to shop, and place all my orders, through my AmazonSmile Prime account. I have never experienced a problem signing into it, or placing an order via it.

        Liked by 1 person

  34. Rachelle says:

    I would have to agree with this article. Amazon does not make it as easy as they could. Even I missed out on some purchases to be donated to my charity. I recently got a new mobile and with the recent prime day, went straight to the amazon shop app without remembering that I had to set up my amazon smile link. And believe it or not there are some users out there that do not understand the meaning of how to bookmark the link and add it to your screen on a mobile phone.


    1. Swnd says:

      Re: your ‘believe it or not’ remark…I am over 60, I never have figured out how to bookmark. Doesn’t make me stupid. Just not that important to my use of my tablet. And believe it or not , I don’t forget to login to Smile when I login. Just because all those apps and links are out there, doesn’t make you a bad person for NOT using them, and SIMPLY LOGGING IN….Try it, you might be surprised how simple it is. I guess we all agree about Amazon though. Very greedy and not nearly as user friendly as they’d like you to believe. I avoid them like the plague. I shop other places as much as possible. Very often at better prices. Walmart is getting better all the time. Free 2 day shipping… and No Prime!


  35. Dante Lanzetta says:

    The only useful thing in your screed is to remind customers how little they may be giving. Well, maybe also to remind them how little Amazon is giving. I view this “donation” as what the business types call “value added.” It adds marginally to the other donations I make — VERY marginally at 0.5%! Still, that’s $10 more than my designated charity would get otherwise. It’s not wise for me to think it’s a big deal, and better for me to give what I can to that charity among my normal hundreds of pitiable checks.

    As for Bezos not being enlisted in your “Please save me from my terminal laziness (or ENABLE me in it!) by making the choice automatic,” do you also want Prime pedicures?

    Liked by 1 person

  36. PamSmed says:

    Yes, Amazon will almost always ask me if I want to go to the Smile site if I am browsing. SO that’s the good thing. I also have that specific site saved as a bookmark so I go to it directly. The author of this article missed an important part of researching where the monies actually go, however. My husband is on a charitible foundation board and so when I saw it on the list for Amazon Smile, I selected it as did several of my friends. I kept asking him if the foundation received monies from Amazon after every meeting. No money received. So I contacted AMazon by email and chat. Found out that they pull their list of 501C3 charities from a national list. Then they just post it. BUT….until someone on the board of that charity calls Amazon to set up EFT’s to the charitiable foundation’s account, it never goes ANYWHERE. Interesting for sure. Anyway, we are finally receiving money from Amazon Smile for our purchase percentages. And, yes, it’s a small amount but we are finally getting it.


    1. Tammy Cummings says:

      Hi, what number do you call to set up an EFT? I can never find a phone number ( just email) to even contact Amazon. I would love any assistance with this. Thanks for posting.


      1. PamSmed says:

        I will see if I can find it for you. It wasn’t easy to get the email address etc but I will look for you. Just got back from vacation so it might take me a few days to get back to the real world!


      2. Thresa Johnson says:

        You go here to start setup of your charity:
        You also have to go to Guide Star to complete your charity’s profile.


  37. Donna Clark says:

    What? No cat to kick today? Instead, you pick on an opportunity offered millions of buyers to share purchasing power with organizations in need.

    Quantity of giving? Quality of giving. Last I checked my cyphering anything is more than nothing. And perhaps most ludicrous of all is the expectation that Amazon could navigate the path of donating ‘on behalf’ of buyers who had no designated beneficiary and no desire to have monies used for any purpose other than payment for product. Quite the Amazonian task!

    None of your ‘frowny faces’ hold much water…but then that’s what upside down smiles do! Get over yourself and find a real a cause that is truly worthless to criticize.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. DeAnn Feeman says:

    Many times I have found that Amazon reminds me that ‘I usually use smile and do I want to order through smile”
    If I do forget I just leave it in my cart and log back in in smile. It is in my cart wIting for me

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sylvia Gartner says:

      Well, I certainly understand the article. However, I DO use Amazon Smile and donate to the World Wildlife Fund. Of course I understand that a tiny portion of my purchase goes to WWF, but I am assuming that there are a decent number of other people using Amazon Smile and, cumulatively, WWF is getting at least better than a stick in the eye! And I also donate $12 per month as an automatic deduction to WWF.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. PamSmed says:

      Yes, I do the same. It does stay in your cart.


  39. I always wondered if Amazon was sending a message to its users … if you can’t even be bothered to bookmark or click that button to go there, then maybe you aren’t even willing to pay the lowest cost to help someone?

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Drew says:

    LMFAO what bullshit!


  41. DigitalDawg01 says:

    Now that I’ve installed “Always Smile” in chrome (thanks to those who replied) it may be different. But till now, I notice that when I approach the steps to the final checkout authorization, it is not possible, or at least easy, to get my order over to the mode. I think that the option to use smile instead of the regular url should be available at any time during the process, including the final step.


    1. laziegler says:

      Does this work on Android? I make all my purchases from my phone. I like the app, but I find it disappointing to say the least that users have been requesting smile donations through the app for at least three years and Amazon has had no response. It just seems dishonest.


  42. Dan Schiff says:

    Thanks for this, Mark. Amazon leaves all sorts of bad tastes in my mouth. I personally don’t order from Amazon unless it’s something that I literally cannot buy anywhere locally. I believe they are gradually hollowing out communities by rewarding consumer laziness and undercutting all kinds of retail businesses. Is it any surprise they’d be less than genuine when it comes to charitable giving?

    Liked by 2 people

  43. Jeremy says:

    Good points, but if we’re going to take shots at Amazon Smile, we should also take on those ridiculous “give a $1.00 to charity” things we’re confronted with at pretty well every checkout (including on eBay). If you want to support Sick Kids Foundation X, give to Sick Kids Foundation X. And do it for more than a buck, at least sufficient to merit a tax receipt for yourself.

    But please, do NOT hand over $1.00 to Walmart or eBay or Whole Foods so that they can donate “on your behalf”, then reap the benefits of “supporting charity” even though, factually, they are not.

    Liked by 2 people

  44. You can install a browser extension that will always redirect you to Amazon Smile. I use “Always Smile” for Chrome. Granted this only solves one small problem, and let’s face it 99% of people are savvy or motivated enough to do this. Still, for your readers and those who care, it is a way to maximize the program as it exists today.

    And perhaps a better way for a charity to earn money from Amazon is to set itself up as an affiliate marketer. Then have links to Amazon pages and products, and when people buy after following those links, you get between 4–8% as a “finders fee”. Sure beats ½%

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Laura Routh says:

      I use Chrome also and didn’t have to install anything. I’m not sure if Amazon reminds when I clear my browsing data, though,


    2. Marc Gunther says:

      Thanks, Dave, that’s terrific. For those who want to install “Always Smile” — I just did — you can find Chrome extensions under the Windows tab. Then just search for and install “Always Smile.” It worked easily for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  45. Daniel Coombes says:

    Nicely written article that confirms many of the opinions I had about the program. It’s more like the “Need a Penny” jar at the convenience store cash register than a real charitable powerhouse.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Laura Routh says:

    The only reason why I remember to use AmazonSmiles is that there’s a local special needs school that I support. Sometimes, if I forget, Amazon asks me if I want to use my AmazonSmiles account, instead. But I don’t think they remind you unless you use AmazonSmiles a lot. I don’t buy much on Amazon anymore, though. For books, I buy from Better World Books and other smaller vendors that have social responsibility built into their business model. Target is a good option for some items, and they’re even phasing out toxic chemicals. Although I’ve experienced excellent service from Amazon and appreciate the opportunity to make charitable contributions, for personal reasons, I mostly buy from other companies. I agree with you, Marc. Amazon could choose to be a leader–be on the cutting edge of philanthropy in addition to forging ahead in retail technology and innovation.

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Thanks, Marc. I have shared this criticism of the program and it’s very interesting to know the amounts that actually end up in the hands of charities. While not the size of Amazon, MiiR is another Seattle-based company that is making a big impact through charitable giving. MiiR gives 5% of their revenues to charities. They also devote a lot of effort into vetting the organizations they support.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marc Gunther says:

      Thanks, Marla. I think there’s a real opportunity here for Amazon to play a role in both increasing the quantity and quality of philanthropy. They are beefing up their corporate responsibility team, and I hope they will soon assign someone to pay attention to AmazonSmiles.

      Liked by 3 people

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