Amazon ends its charitable donation program after other cost-cutting efforts

Amazon is ending its charitable donation program by February 20, the company announced on Wednesday. The move to close AmazonSmile comes after a number of other cost-cutting measures.

As part of the program, which has been in place since 2013, Amazon donates 0.5% of eligible purchases to a charity of the buyer’s choice. According to Amazon, the program has donated over $400 million to US charities and over $449 million worldwide.

“With so many eligible organizations — over a million worldwide — our ability to make an impact was often too thin,” Amazon said in a letter to customers.

In 2022, the average AmazonSmile donation to a U.S. charity was $230, an Amazon spokesperson told NPR in an email.

However, some organizations, especially smaller ones, say the donations have been incredibly helpful to them. And many shoppers using AmazonSmile have expressed their concerns on social media and talked about the program’s impact on the charities they support.

Squirrelwood Equine Sanctuary, New York City’s Hudson River Valley Animal Sanctuary with over 40 horses and other farm animals. tweeted that the nearly $9,400 received from Amazon Smile “made a huge difference to us.”

Beth Hyman, the shelter’s chief executive, says the organization has been reliably making a couple of thousand dollars a quarter. While this is a relatively small amount of the overall budget, “it can feed an animal for a year,” Hyman says. “This is life hanging in the balance,” she adds, and the sanctuary may not be able to keep moving forward.

Hyman says Amazon gave little to no notice that AmazonSmile would be ending soon, and that Amazon made it difficult for the program to succeed because they “hid it behind a different URL and never integrated it into their mobile apps.”

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Central Texas, an organization that trains volunteers to advocate for children in the child protection system in four counties between Austin and San Antonio, was another non-profit organization that AmazonSmile shoppers could support.

Eloise Hudson, the group’s public relations manager, says that while CASA is a national organization, it is broken up into separate local nonprofits that operate and seek funding from the grassroots. AmazonSmile provided an opportunity for people to support a small charity, she said, and “that won’t happen again.”

Amazon said it will help charities transition by “giving them a one-time donation equivalent to three months of what they earned in 2022 through the program” and allowing them to continue receiving donations until the program officially ends in February.

After that, shoppers can still support charities by purchasing items from their wishlists, the company said, adding that it will continue to support other programs such as affordable housing programs, food banks and disaster relief.

Amazon previously announced a Housing Capital Fund to invest in affordable housing that focuses on neighborhoods where its headquarters has disrupted housing markets. Some of the programs listed in the announcement are internal to Amazon.

In early January, Amazon CEO Andy Jassi announced 18,000 layoffs, the largest in the company’s history and the largest number of job cuts at a tech company since the industry’s downturn began last year.

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