[Note: This post was published in similar form in the Chronicle of Philanthropy December 15, 2015.]
The other day a nonprofit organization I admire sent out a Facebook posting that encouraged its supporters to shop at Amazon and to designate their organization as the charitable beneficiary of “Amazon Smile.” Through Amazon Smile, the charity explained, Amazon would give the organization ½ of 1% of the total purchase price of whatever I buy.
This is not the first pitch I’ve gotten from nonprofits about Amazon Smile, and it surely won’t be the last. I’ve heard many people say, “You’re spending the money anyway. Why not have a portion go to a charity you care about?” But what struck me this time was that the nonprofit suggesting buying from Amazon was an organization whose mission was to promote community economic development – and it seemed to me that Amazon would be more of a natural adversary than a collaborator. I began to think about other nonprofits. Should they also pause before diving into a relationship with Amazon? Should we ask ourselves if we really are “spending that money anyway,” at least at Amazon? Is this arrangement really a cost-free charitable donation? Continue reading